Krunoslav Draganović Collection on World War II and Post-war Victims
The Krunoslav Draganović Collection on World War II and Post-war Victims is an archive collection whose original collector was the priest Krunoslav Draganović, who, relying primarily on the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses, planned to publish a book on the crimes of the Yugoslav communists.
Zagreb Trg Marka Marulića 21, Croatia 10000
Krunoslav Draganović Collection on World War II and Post-war Victims
Originea colecției și activitățile culturale reprezentate
The original collector of the collection was a priest, Krunoslav Draganović, who collected testimonies of witnesses and other documents on mass murders and repression by the Yugoslav Army, at the behest of the top officials of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, during World War II and in the first months after the war. He planned to publish a book based on these documents. The killings perpetrated by the Yugoslav Army are known in historiography as the Bleiburg tragedy. The term includes the encirclement and capture of German and Croatian troops who were withdrawing through Slovenia toward Austria (Bleiburg) at the end of World War II, the extradition of prisoners from the Viktring POW camp, and the ‘death marches’ that followed (Grahek Ravančić, 2007, p. 27). Most of the victims were Croatian soldiers and civilians, but many Slovenes, Serbs, Montenegrins, Italians, Austrians and Germans also died in these events. For years, the Bleiburg tragedy had been a taboo subject in Yugoslav historiography and among the general public as well. On the other hand, consideration of the Bleiburg tragedy in socialist Yugoslavia was mostly written from the standpoint of the "winning side" and interpreted as "a struggle against the enemy of the people," and thus any question of moral culpability for the numerous crimes which had happened was pointless.
Draganović himself was not involved in the Bleiberg tragedy nor the “death marches” that followed, but from 1945 he met many witnesses and survivors and had begun to collect data, reports, and testimonies. He collected data in direct talks with witnesses and survivors, or from his friends, acquaintances and other persons who were then in POW camps, refugee camps or elsewhere in exile. Many priests, bishops, and intellectuals encouraged Draganović to write a book on the Bleiburg tragedy because they were convinced that he was, as a prominent historian, the best person to handle such an undertaking.
The collection also includes copies of newspaper articles from the domestic and foreign post-war press dealing with these issues.
Draganović’s personal archive had a turbulent history (see Lukinović 2014, pp. 38-42). Draganović consciously created his archive. Today his archive is scattered across multiple locations (Rome, Zagreb, Sarajevo). The part pertaining to the Bleiburg tragedy was copied several times and provided to four institutions: the Croatian State Archives (CSA) in Zagreb, the Archdiocesan Archives in Zagreb, the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome in Rome and to the Archdiocesan Archives in Sarajevo (Lukinović, 2014, 37).
Krunoslav Draganović, the creator of the original collection, did not deliver this collection to the CSA, rather individuals who possessed certain parts of it made copies which were provided to the CSA. Draganović, before he mysteriously returned to Yugoslavia in 1967, stored his Bleiburg tragedy collection in two suitcases, hidden in a secret location, and then he gave it to Mr. Drago Kniffer from Vienna. He authorised Kniffer to take the suitcases and store them at a different site if something were to happen to him. In 1967, Kniffer took the materials and stored them at his home until his death. After Kniffer’s death, his son contacted Mr. Ante Beljo via Marijan Brajnović to take possession of the suitcases. Beljo was a Croatian emigrant in Canada who was interested in publishing these data. Beljo travelled to Vienna in the spring of 1986 and took two bags full of material, which he then put into one suitcase weighing approx. 70 kg. He flew back to Canada and made ten copies of the collection and sent them to ten different people on five continents. He published an account of these activities in the journal Hrvatska revija (Croatian Review). He wanted to insure himself against potential reprisals by the Yugoslav secret police. The originals of the collections are still in Beljo’s possession. He did not change its structure – it remained the same. It consists of three parts: 1) documentation on the Bleiburg tragedy; 2) documentation of the Croatian Democratic Committee (Hrvatski demokratski odbor, an emigrant organisation in which Draganović served as secretary); 3) papers on the older history of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Ottoman and Habsburg periods).
The CSA received the material in two acquisitions. The first acquisition occurred on 2 July 1999 (aq. 30/1999) when the Commission on Establishment of Wartime and Post-war Victims turned it over to the Croatian State Archives. The Commission submitted one of the copies previously made by Ante Beljo. On 21 November 2001, the Croatian State Archives received almost identical materials (duplicate) in two packing boxes from Mr. Ante Beljo. Beljo voluntarily donated the material to the Croatian State Archives.
The Draganović’s original collection was important to the Croatian political and cultural emigrant communities because the material served as testimony to the crimes committed by the communist government in Yugoslavia. The collection and Draganović’s book, which was supposed to be based on its contents, was intended to inform the international public and demonstrate the criminal character of the communist regime in Yugoslavia. Other authors in exile published various books and volumes based on the material Draganović had collected. Moreover, some of the most valuable works on the Bleiburg tragedy were based partially or almost entirely on the testimonies collected and partially analyzed by Draganović (e.g. Hećimović 1961, Prcela & Guldescu 1970, Nevistić & Nikolić 1976, Prcela & Živić 2001).
On the other hand, the publication of these data was impossible in socialist Yugoslavia, whose government sought to conceal these crimes. Moreover, the communist government tried very hard to reach Draganović’s collections and prevent any disclosure of information it contained. The history of the collections shows how important scholarly historiographic work was in the struggle against the communist regime, and how the communist government itself accorded considerable attention to these matters. The communist government in Yugoslavia considered Draganović a radical rightist, although Draganović never perceived himself as such. He considered himself opposition to the both totalitarian regimes: the Ustasha and the communists. One part of the collection illuminates Draganović’s work in the humanitarian field – he had helped refugees from Yugoslavia during and after the WWII.
It is a thematic collection which fills ten binders (0.65 linear meters of documents) divided and numbered into 56 units and also six boxes (0.6 linear meters) of records. It contains approximately 1,320 documents (photocopies of typed and handwritten testimonies by witnesses; photocopies of letters, newspapers, journal articles, etc.) and a high number of duplicates.
The collection consists of three versions: the first is the complete one, the other two are duplicates (acquisitions in 1999 and 2001). The full version was created by consolidating the two acquisitions. Namely, when processing the material, it became apparent that the second acquisition (from 2001) was a duplicate of the first acquisition with some inconsistencies. The second acquisition did not obtain some of the documents from the first acquisition, and vice versa. Therefore, both acquisitions were supplemented with the missing copies, and ultimately, the consolidated (full) version of the collection was made.
The collection contains photocopies from the original archival collection collected by Krunoslav Draganović which is kept in the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome in Rome. It includes numerous testimonies about the situation in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) before its collapse in 1945. There are also testimonies on the withdrawal from the NDH to Slovenia and Austria, testimonies by survivors of the Bleiburg tragedy and recollections of those who survived the death marches and those who were detained and imprisoned in the POW and refugee camps in 1945 and later. There are documents about mass graves, as well as the perpetrators of massacres, lists of casualties, Draganović’s correspondence and his notes and manuscripts related to the Bleiburg tragedy.
Draganović’s analysis and reports on the witness statements about the crimes committed by the Yugoslav Army have been rated in recent historiography as very solid historiographic work (Grahek Ravančić, 2014, 279-280). By the mid-1960s, he had collected more than 600 testimonies based on a very well structured questionnaire (Grahek Ravančić, 2014, 274). The testimonies were usually signed, but there are also anonymous ones and those signed only with initials, because some of the witnesses were afraid to give their names for fear of the potential harm that could befall their relatives who still lived in Yugoslavia. According to John Ivan Prcela, approximately 50% of the eyewitnesses did not sign their statements with their full names (Prcela, Živić, 2001, xix). Although there are some handwritten reports, the vast majority were typewritten. The language is mostly Croatian, but there are also some testimonies in German, Italian and English (Jelić, 2014, 258).
Martina Grahek Ravančić believes Draganović made a high-quality analysis of the Kočevski Rog massacre – probably the largest mass grave in Slovenia. She finds particularly valuable Draganović’s materials relating to the location of the grave sites and camps in Slovenia and Croatia. Moreover, the first information on the Barbara Pit mass grave in Slovenia was provided in the testimonies gathered by Krunoslav Draganović (Grahek Ravančić, 2014, 278).
Unlike many other Croatian emigrants, Draganović attempted and to some extent managed to keep pace with Yugoslav historiography. That is why this collection includes books, articles, and newspaper clips published in Yugoslavia.
The collection is important to society today as it bears witness to the events that were once taboo, and which often lead to polarisation in the society. The collection shows how free historical research into World War II and the post-war period was almost impossible in socialist Yugoslavia. Moreover, the history of this collection indicates that this kind of endeavour was difficult to conduct even for people who lived in exile, like Krunoslav Draganović. Draganović did not get to finish his work because after he returned to Yugoslavia in 1967, he had to cease his research.
- manuscrise (memorii, jurnale, note, scrisori, ciorne, etc ): 1000-
- publicații: unknown quantity
Părți interesate din cadrul colecțiilor
Zagreb, Marulić Square 21, Croatia
Evenimente importante în istoria colecției
Tipul de acces
- parțial inaccesibil publicului
Autorul(ii) acestui articol
- Mihaljević, Josip
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- Tadin, Ornata. „Revers“ o sređivanju Zbirke preslika Krunoslava Draganovića ('Revers' on the assortment of the Krunoslav Draganović's collection). HR-HDA-1803, Croatian State Archives, 30 January 2003.
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Šarić, Tatjana , interview by Mihaljević, Josip, May 13, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection