The first part of the first volume of this lavish, but at the same time sad and tedious multidisciplinary study, presents the theoretical background of genocide, a historical account of the development of the norms of new international criminal law, and the drafting and adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The second part of the first volume is dedicated to the genocide against the Serbian people in World War II, from the occupation and division of Yugoslavia to liberation. Particularly, crimes in the German, Hungarian, Bulgarian occupied areas, as well as the genocide in Kosovo and Metohija are shown, while most of it is dedicated to genocide against Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia. The second volume is dedicated to the post-war period, the genesis of separatism, new forms of genocide, as well as the continuation of genocide against the Serbian people in areas where it was carried out during the Second World War. At the very beginning of the book, the professor talks about the specifics of the situation regarding the study of genocide against Serbs, which until recently in Serbia itself was a taboo topic:
“The genocide against Serbs was not only erased from world history, but until recently, it was also erased from our national history. In our textbooks, this phenomenon is simply omitted, it has not been found in footnotes. However, it should be said that the lack of scientifically based discussions on genocide in the former Yugoslavia is a much more complex problem than could be deduced at first glance. Academics remained silent in the face of the delicacy of the situation they faced in a skillfully revolutionary time. It is evident that without empirical research, no theoretical generalizations can be made, and in an atmosphere of false enthusiasm for the ‘brotherhood and unity of all our peoples’ there was no room for descriptions of crimes, horrific and incomprehensible to the common man. How to approach genocide beyond the possibility of its logical location in any plane of relationship: man to man, man to God and vice versa. How to explain Jasenovac and other concentration camps, and modern factories of death, Jadovno and other karst pits filled with Serbian corpses, whose existence meant the collapse of all moral rules, including metaphysical norms. It did not fit into one virtual Brozso-Kardelian world. Mention of genocide, even on the sidelines, provoked unexpectedly sharp reactions, both individual and collective. The delicacy of the situation also stemmed from the fact that a very small number of Croats, indeed very few, were in solidarity with the victims of the genocide, either as prisoners of war who refused to return home, although offered, or as guerrillas in the same ranks with Serbs and Jews. It doesn’t matter in this case; moral values cannot be the subject of mathematical calculations.”
Professor Avramov ‘s large space in the book deals with the difference between war and genocide, genocide and massacre, genocide and crimes against humanity, war crimes and the Holocaust. Genocide is a unilateral mass and legal killing by the state, or its bureaucratic apparatus. Isolated massacres therefore cannot be classified as genocide. The difference is that genocide is a pre-planned and well-prepared action with a specific intent, while a massacre is a spontaneous act, a momentary operation that arises from a given moment and whose goals are limited. In this light, it should be said that the mass killings of Serbs in the NDH meet all the criteria to qualify as genocide. In her thesis, Professor Avramov categorically cites the restrictive laws enforced by the NDH on Serbs, as well as decisions and solutions that clearly were aimed at the ultimate extermination of all Serbs in territory under Croatian control.
The Collective Categorical Imperative
“Genocide is always a conscious commitment and a policy; it is never a historical coincidence,” as Irving Luis Horovic concludes, “and the establishment of a genocidal system is conditioned by the culture of one environment.” According to Professor Avramov, the culture of a nation is not determined by individual achievements in particular fields, but represents an integral phenomenon in which all segments of society are in balance. Criminal types can be found in every society, but it is not possible to develop genocidal potentials of society as a whole in societies at a higher level of political culture. The Roman Catholic Church in Croatia has a special responsibility, because religion is not only a theological system that explains man’s relationship to God, but also a moral code that regulates man’s relationship with man. Closing her eyes to this fact, as well as the direct involvement of clergy representatives in massacres, the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia transformed itself into a powerful machine of spiritual aggression through propaganda and giving “forgiveness” to Ustasha slaughterers, but also through the action of baptizing the Serbian people. Smilja Avramov states that the baptism was intended only for Serbs, but not for everyone. The principal position of the government was to translate into Roman Catholicism the poor. Commoners were considered to have a low educational level, so it was assumed that they would be ready to follow the Ustasha policy for small concessions. “Teachers, popes, merchants, wealthy craftsmen and peasants, and the intelligentsia in general, should be rejected except in cases where their personal integrity is truly demonstrated” was published as official guidance in Catholic Gazette No. 31, 8 August 1941.