by Elise Coop­er

A con­ver­sa­tion with Slavko Gold­stein about recent­ly pub­lished book, 1941: The Year That Keeps Return­ing (New York Review of Books).

Elise Coop­er: Do you think that in 1941 an eth­nic war was being fought in Croa­t­ia, as in the 1990s?

Slavko Gold­stein: I would not describe it as an eth­nic war but a war where there was a fas­cist side and an anti-fas­cist side. I think the major­i­ty of the Croa­t­ians were on the anti-fas­cist side against the pup­pet gov­ern­ment. The resis­tance was the anti-fas­cists, led by the Com­mu­nists. On the oth­er side were the occu­piers: the Ger­mans, the col­lab­o­ra­tors, and the fas­cist pup­pet government. 

EC: Can you describe the treat­ment of the Jews in 1941?

SG: In the begin­ning the Ustasha, the pro-fas­cist nation­al­ists, were only a small group, maybe ten to fif­teen per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. In April, men began to be arrest­ed. The régime was not as bru­tal in the begin­ning. The first month after my father’s arrest we were able to vis­it him twice a week. Lat­er we were allowed to vis­it only once a week. For the first three or four months Jews were not killed. In July, women were then arrest­ed. After six or sev­en months, in autumn, whole fam­i­lies were arrest­ed. There were 39,000 Jews liv­ing in the ter­ri­to­ry at the begin­ning of 1941. Only 9,000 sur­vived, main­ly because of the Par­ti­sans or because they went to the Ital­ian zone.

EC: Why didn’t your father try to escape?

SG: No one expect­ed it here, that it would come so fast. It took five years from when the Nazis came to pow­er in Ger­many until they start­ed the per­se­cu­tions. My father thought there was time to orga­nize, but unfor­tu­nate­ly he was arrest­ed the morn­ing after the pup­pet gov­ern­ment was estab­lished. Some of the Jews in our town real­ized almost imme­di­ate­ly what was hap­pen­ing and left, sav­ing their lives.

EC: Can you describe your escape?

SG: I escaped to a town in Croa­t­ia, which had a small vil­lage. I was hid­den with my broth­er for sev­en days and no one in the vil­lage report­ed us. A Croa­t­ian fam­i­ly paid for false papers for us to use, includ­ing my moth­er, who by then was out of prison. This shows that we should not make gen­er­al­iza­tions about the feel­ings of any par­tic­u­lar peo­ple. In the North there were anti-Semi­tes but not so much in the South. It was in the South where the resis­tance grew. 

EC: Why did you write your book?

SG: I wrote the book to tell my per­son­al sto­ry. I did a lot of research on what hap­pened. I want peo­ple to under­stand how the Ital­ians con­trolled the South­ern part of my coun­try and did not kill the Jews. I wrote it for the next gen­er­a­tion so they will have a descrip­tion of what hap­pened. I want­ed to show that 1941 was the year where the roots of the per­se­cu­tion began.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

Relat­ed Con­tent: Read more author inter­views here

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.