When Courage Pre­vailed: The Res­cue and Sur­vival of Jews in the Inde­pen­dent State of Croa­t­ia 1941 – 1945

Esther Git­man
  • Review
By – November 1, 2011

The Jews in Ser­bia suf­fered great­ly dur­ing the Shoah at the hands of the Nazis, but they were also active in the Par­ti­san move­ment, along with oth­er Serbs. Croa­t­ia, on the oth­er hand, offi­cial­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis. The Ustase adopt­ed Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and were, if pos­si­ble, even more ardent in their per­se­cu­tion and cru­el­ty toward Jews. When Courage Pre­vailed exam­ines the ways in which Jews were res­cued by Croa­t­ians, and how they sur­vived. One of the things that made res­cue pos­si­ble was the des­ig­na­tion by Pavel­ic, the leader of the Ustase, that Jews whose pro­fes­sions were vital to Croatia’s nation­al inter­est, and their fam­i­lies — about five hun­dred per­sons — were termed Hon­orary Aryans;” mem­bers of mixed mar­riages — about one thou­sand — were also sub­sumed under this title. Until 1943, Aryan Rights” was anoth­er term under which Jews could apply and a few thou­sand obtained, if they were impor­tant to the Croa­t­ian soci­ety and were the only ones with the cre­den­tials for cer­tain occu­pa­tions, since the larg­er Croa­t­ian pop­u­la­tion was illiterate.

There were many among the Croa­t­ian pop­u­lace who helped Jews. For a Jew to sur­vive, he or she had to be brave, resource­ful, and will­ing to seize every oppor­tu­ni­ty for escape and would then owe a debt of grat­i­tude to as many as twen­ty helpers. Entire vil­lages hid Jew­ish chil­dren. The Par­ti­sans helped at least fif­teen hun­dred Jew­ish non-com­bat­ants and also aid­ed Jews escap­ing over the moun­tains. Many efforts entailed great risk. Even though the Croats were known as Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionists, this book reveals the prac­ti­cal and eth­i­cal motives ani­mat­ing rescue.

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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