Letter: Crimes against people and culture in former Yugoslavia

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his article 'Waging war on history' (20 June) on the destruction of cultural monuments in the present Yugoslav conflict, Robert Fisk points to the devastating effect of these losses on the historical evidence concerning all three warring factions. He also recalls precedents, ranging from the times of Henry VIII to the bombing of some European cities in the Second World War.

Mr Fisk underlines the difference that, in his view, exists between the disappearance of monuments as 'a cultural catastrophe for Europe' and actions that are directed against 'the identity of a population' and 'its survival in the future'. One is surprised that Mr Fisk does not mention an example whose relevance is paramount: the systematic destruction of Serbian Orthodox heritage in Ante Pavelic's state of Croatia (1941-1945), which comprised Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dalmatia, and parts of Serbia. With unprecedented zeal, Pavelic's administration went as far as establishing a department for the demolition of Serbian churches in Zagreb. In addition to the burning down of Serbian ecclesiastic monuments, libraries and archives by the Croat Ustashe and their Muslim helpers, some churches and monasteries were dismantled piecemeal, with Serbian inmates from Jasenovac and other camps forcibly employed as labour.

These acts were intended as a mortal blow to the Serbs, in which all trace of their history would be wiped out. They should head the list of inexcusable crimes in Mr Fisk's recollections.

Yours sincerely,



21 June