Speech to Serbian Unity Congress 11th Annual Convention, October 6th, 2000, Toronto, Canada
I want to thank you for inviting me to speak today it is an honor. I am attorney Jonathan Levy and I am here today to share with you some news about lawsuits effecting Serbs. As you all know more than sixty years ago, a tragedy began unfolding in Yugoslavia that has resulted in untold suffering that continues until the present day. I am referring of course to the Ustashe perpetrated genocide against the Serbs. I am one of the attorneys working on the class action lawsuit called Alperin v. Vatican Bank.
Serbian babies were not spared
The plaintiffs, those individuals bringing the lawsuit, number 28 people and organizations, Serbs, Jews, and Ukrainians. The plaintiffs are concentration camp survivors, people who lost their parents and grandparents to the Ustashe terror, and four organizations. The subject matter is the immense amount of property, money, gold, land, factories, and other loot stolen by the Ustashe and their Independent State of Croatia between 1941 and 1945 and unaccounted for until now. We are suing the Vatican Bank, Franciscan order, Croatian Liberation Movement, and the Swiss National bank. In a related action we are suing the CIA and American Army for access to their records about this affair.
Only in 1998, did the full story of how the Vatican and several banks conspired to keep the Ustashe movement and its leaders safe and alive after WWII become public knowledge. Incredibly the source of the information was the US State department. Permit me to explain:
The Ustashe movement stole immense wealth from its victims. The genocide in Croatia and Bosnia against Serbs was not only the most barbaric of the century but had a profit motive. The war criminals Pavelic, Artukovic, and many others made sure that Serb property was seized right down to the gold teeth and wedding rings of concentration camp victims at Jasneovac. As the war was winding down, the Ustashe financial apparatus was gearing up. Top Ustashe were positioned in Rome and Switzerland, bank accounts were opened with the Swiss National Bank.
Catholic Croatian clergy were some of the most sadistic exterminators of Orthodox Serbs
As Zagreb was liberated, Pavelic and his retinue fled to Austria with an immense treasure, gold, silver, jewels, and currency worth tens of millions. Other Ustashe reached Italy where help from the Franciscan order was waiting in the form of safe houses, forged papers, and money. Pavelic struck a deal with the British, money changed hands, and the killer of 700,000 Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies became an honored guest at the Vatican, was chauffeured around Rome in a car with Vatican diplomatic license plates and lived safely in his own compound with Ustashe guards attending to his personal security.
The Ustashe were masters of smuggling, secret codes, and financial dealings, experience gained from their terrorist activities in the 1930’s and the assassination of King Alexander. Almost immediately, the Ustashe with the help of their Franciscan and Vatican sponsors, were reconstituted. While bands of Krizari took to the hills of Yugoslavia and continued to kill Serbs, a bold plan was formulated to make a move to South America to avoid the justice of the war crimes tribunals.
To fuel this mass migration of war criminals, the Ustasha loot was banked and laundered by the Vatican bank and cooperative Swiss banks. The banks were only too willing to profit in cash poor Europe and soon Pavelic was the toast of Buenos Aires and confidant of Juan Peron, the Argentine president, Artukovic was living openly in California with the help of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Knights of Columbus, and other Ustashe killers were enjoying villas in Spain and safe houses in Rome.
We know all this because American intelligence records in our possession document this travesty, including transfers of gold from Switzerland to Argentina. But as I said earlier, there are other records still hidden from public view supposedly for reasons of national security and these records we believe tell why the Ustashe went unpunished for their crimes and the services they provided for British, American, and Vatican intelligence agencies in exchange for their freedom of movement.
Pavelic and his Ustashe grew so bold that the greatest unpunished war criminal openly declared the reestablishment of the Ustashe. An organization called HOP was founded in 1956 in Buenos Aires with Pavelic at its head and chapters throughout South America, Canada, America, and Western Europe, and sympathizers as far away as Beirut, Lebanon. The HOP and its terrorist cells launched a new wave of genocide, bombings, hijackings, and murders all bought and paid for with Serb victim money. Documents obtained from FBI indicate the Ustashe terror reached the United States and Canada with HOP world headquarters being for a time here in Toronto.
Since World War II, the genocide of Serbs has been covered up; the conspiracy of the Vatican and Croatia against the Serbs has gone unexposed for political reasons. We want to reverse the process, the world must know that not only Jews and Gypsies were massacred on account of their religion during the Holocaust, 700,000 Serbs also perished, other Serbs were forcibly deported and despoiled and hundreds of thousands converted to Roman Catholicism at gunpoint. And this was just the beginning, postwar the HOP kept up the terror, the Franciscans continued to nurture anti Serbian hate, at their strongholds, and used religious fanaticism at Medjugorje to reignite the old hatreds. The net result was more genocide in Bosnia and Kraijina in the 1990’s. As for the HOP, they crept back to Croatia from Toronto and South America, assuming positions of power in the Croatian bureaucracy; it was no surprise that Pavelic’s son-in-law was their recent leader and enjoyed a diplomatic post at the Croatian embassy in Rome.
We seek justice and truth through the legal system. Why has this tragedy gone unpunished and unaddressed for so long? Why has justice been delayed and the world so unaware the Serbs’ plight? Politics of course is responsible for some of this and a previously uncooperative court system that took over 30 years to extradite the war criminal Artukovic criminal to Yugoslavia from the USA accounts for the lack of legal remedy. But now there has been a change.
Recent court rulings against the Swiss, Austrian, and French banks and German corporations have resulted in billions of dollars being made available for some Holocaust survivors. The powerful Jewish organizations and their political allies have changed the laws; the banks and corporations that profited at the expense of genocide must finally pay the victims and their heirs.
You may note, I said some Holocaust survivors. Sadly, Serbs were again left out, perhaps omitted purposely or forgotten by such “honest brokers” as the US State Department and World Jewish organizations. Nonetheless, the court precedents have been established, those organizations that profited from genocide may be punished financially, their assets taken, and the victims compensated. This is what we hope to do to the mighty Vatican and Swiss Banks, the Franciscans order, and the Ustashe, make them pay the victims of their crimes.
I am pleased to report to you that the Vatican Bank, Franciscan Order, and HOP have all been served court papers. The Franciscans and Vatican Bank attorneys have filed preliminary responses with an all-important court hearing set for later this year on whether the court may assume jurisdiction over these entities. We think the Vatican and Franciscans will be surprised at the outcome, an American court may finally sit in judgment over the bloody misdeeds of the Ustashe and the Franciscans. HOP has already defaulted by filing no response; we are investigating their assets and will begin procedures to confiscate their property for victim compensation when it is located. We are in the process of serving the Swiss National Bank through a complex international judicial proceeding and have expanded that action to include Serbs who had property looted by the Germans also.
There are yet other potential sources of restitution that Serbs must be made aware of. The German Slave settlement includes Serbs but there will be no payment unless individual claims are filed. I challenge the SUC to get involved in this process, Serbs need a firm hand lobbying on their behalf, otherwise they will be virtually excluded as they were from the original Swiss Bank settlement.
There is another matter of urgent importance to all war victims from Novi Sad and its environs. The Hungarians occupied Vojvodina during the second World War and atrocities were committed against Serbs. As with all the Nazi allies, property was looted. After the war, the American Army captured a Hungarian treasure train. The Americans expropriated some of the property for their own use, much disappeared, and the rightful owners were never contacted. A preliminary report by the American government confirms this. Some of the property on this train obviously originated in Vojvodina.
Serbs must organize and make a claim to their portion of this loot. It is unrealistic to expect the American government, which so recently has dropped bombs on Novi Sad, will put itself out to help Serb victims. A report is due out later this year and the period to file claims will be short. It is time to begin addressing past wrongs and seeking recompense before it is too late.
We are not just talking to ourselves here. The world is listening. The Vatican bank case has been featured in Swiss, Canadian, Australian, South African and Yugoslav newspapers, I have been contacted by reporters from CBS, Business Week, the London Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Reuters to name a few. None of these journalists knew the full extent of the Ustashe genocide until I told them about it. Even those reporters who have worked in Bosnia had only a vague idea about what happened at Jasenovac until I provided the facts. We have a webpage www.vaticanbankclaims.com, it averages a fifty to a hundred visitors per day, many of these people are learning about the Ustashe genocide for the first time.
There is a chance now not only to help the elderly survivors who desperately want closure of this case within their lifetimes but together we can reverse false impressions about Serbs in general.
The questions we seek answers to will help to exonerate the Serbs in the arena of public opinion. We are seeking not only restitution but also answers. Why did Ante Pavelic go unpunished? Why did the Usatshe keep their wealth? What was the role of the Vatican, the Swiss banks, the Franciscans, and even American and British intelligence agencies? If these questions are answered and the truth publicized by the media, intelligent people everywhere will soon understand the tragedies in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kraijina were part of scenario of genocide in which the Serbs were not the aggressors but the victims.
Lastly, I ask for your help. The Vatican bank lawsuit cannot succeed without the support of the Serb community. These 28 plaintiffs have risked more than their names in taking on the Ustashe who today are still a force to be reckoned with. Accusing the Vatican of genocide is not an insubstantial act. Think of these plaintiffs some of whom are in their eighties who have done this, the least you can do is show solidarity. For example, Milosh Milenkovic, when he heard of this case, contacted me and asked to help in anyway he could, we of course were delighted to add him to the legal team where he has been invaluable asset.
Of course not everyone is a lawyer like Milosh but we need help:
We need to hear from anyone who has information about these atrocities or has relevant documents; We need to hear from anyone who is a potential claimant, that is someone who suffered a loss or is a descendent of someone who suffered a loss of property, freedom or life due to the actions the Ustashe, Germans, Hungarians or their allies;
And we need to hear from those who want to show moral or financial support.
Please contact Milosh Milenkovich or myself. Above all tell everyone about this lawsuit and our web page www.vaticanbankclaims.com.
I also hope the Serbian Unity Congress will join these efforts as one of the foremost plaintiffs. Do not underestimate your voice; you speak for Serbs everywhere and especially in North America, with your support and participation, representation of Serbs in these matters will be assured.
The battle against the Vatican, Franciscans and Swiss banks with assets of billions of dollars will be by no means easy but we have assets of our own, worth more than money, tenacity and a desire for the truth. We have been fighting the defendants for close to a year and with your support hope to win soon.
About the author
Jonathan Levy is a California attorney who has represented organizations and individuals in a variety of Holocaust related lawsuits including banking, insurance, and slave labor matters. He can be contacted at:
The Law Office of Thomas Dewey Easton and Jonathan H. Levy, PO Box 6080, Cincinnati OH 45206, USA Tel: (513) 528-0586