Aristides de Sousa Mendes: small tribute on Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2005, the day was declared Holocaust Memorial Day by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/60/7, 1 November 2005, adopted by consensus).

I take this day as an opportunity to pay my tribute to Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, who, in 1940, saved the lives of more than 10 000 Jews, who were fleeing the Nazi invasion of France.


On 16 July 1940, he decided to disobey the orders coming directly from António Oliveira Salazar, the Portuguese dictator, who had forbidden the issuance of visas to “foreigners of nationality undefined, contested or under litigation; apatridas, and Jews”.

On that day, he said: “From now on, I will grant Visas to everybody, regardless of nationality, race or religion”. After the Consulate was closed, he still kept issuing Visas, until the moment he entered Spain. He justified his stubborness and defyance with these words: “If I have to disobey, I prefer to disobey an order issued by men than an order issued by God”.

He granted more than 30 ooo visas, of which more than 10 000 to Jews.

He was expelled from the diplomatic service and persecuted by the regime, and died as an indigent in 1954.

I take this example of non-conformism as very inspiring, since it happens that it’s simply so much easier to just follow orders and never take risks.

Update, a video:


Filed under Duty of memory, Non-conformism, Portugal, War

42 responses to “Aristides de Sousa Mendes: small tribute on Holocaust Memorial Day

  1. Owen

    Thanks, I hadn’t heard of Mendes before. Another one of these inspiring figures whose heroism we rarely hear mentioned – people like Chiune Sugihara and Raoul Wallenberg, and other heroic “accomplices” of Wallenberg in Budapest who I’ve only just learned about like Angelo Rotta, Angel Sanz, Giorgio Perlasca, Friedrich Born and Sara Salahazi.

    Better thinking about these people and what they did rather than about the Sonja Karadzics.

  2. Sarah Franco

    Owen, this is a case that deserves to be better known, during more than a week her hardly slept, and kept signing and signing and signing…

    …his entry on wikipedia is good, and the entry in portuguese language adds some more details.

  3. Nikos

    Dear Sarah,
    I absolutely share the spirit of your text. Being a non Jew but strongly anti-fascist Greek I’d like to inform you on the following:

    Jews have lived in Greece since ancient times. In the early modern era, their numbers were augmented by the immigration of Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain. The thriving Jewish communities in Greece were decimated in the Holocaust. During their three-year occupation of Greece, the Nazis murdered at least 81 percent of the Greek Jews.

    The indigenous Jewish communities of Greece represent the longest continuous Jewish presence in Europe. These communities, along with those who settled in Greece after their expulsion from Spain, were almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust.

    In the spring of 1941, the Germans defeated
    the Greek army that was successfully fighting against Mussolini’s Italians in Albania and occupied Greece until October of 1944. The country was divided into three zones of occupation: Bulgaria annexed Thrace and the territory of Yugoslav Macedonia; Germany occupied Greek Macedonia, including Thessaloniki, Piraeus, and western Crete; and Italy occupied the remainder of the mainland and the islands. Where Jews resided determined not only their subsequent fate, but also their ultimate possibility of escape.

    Greek National Resistance battled the Axis occupiers in an effort, not only to save Greece, but also to save the Jews living here. Between 8,000 and 10,000 Greek Jews survived the Holocaust due in large part to the unwillingness of Greek people, including leaders in the Greek Orthodox Church, to cooperate with German plans for
    their deportation. In addition, the Italian occupying authorities refused to facilitate or permit deportations from the Italian zone of
    occupation until Italy surrendered in September 1943.

    Even though deportations did not start until March of 1943, Greece lost at least 81% of its Jewish population during the Holocaust. Between 60,000 and 70,000 Greek Jews perished, most of them at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 5,000 Jews presently live in Greece, mostly in Athens and Thessaloniki.

    In Athens where I live, Jews have lived since the 3rd century B.C., and the remains of an ancient synagogue can be found in the Agora, at the foot of the Acropolis. The Jewish community in Athens is Romaniote, who speak Greek and have assimilated into the city’s culture over time.

    In 1940 the community numbered 3,500 and was dispersed throughout the city. With the occupation of Greece in 1941, control of the city was given to the Italians, and the Jews enjoyed three years of relative security. As in other regions under Italian control, Jews fleeing persecution in Thessaloniki sought safe haven in Athens.

    The Head Rabbi, Barzelai, had strong connections with the municipal government and the National Liberation Front (EAM in Greek). These connections and the support of the Archbishop of Athens, Damaskenos, contributed to the rescue
    of 66 percent of Athen’s Jews. Athens’ police chief, Angelos Evert, issued false identification cards and Archbishop Damaskenos ordered the church to issue false baptismal certificates to those
    threatened with deportation. In Athens and the port city of Piraeus, Jews were hidden in Christian
    homes. Both Police Chief Evert and Archbishop Damaskenos are honored at Yad Vashem, along with the Mayor of Piraeus.

    On March 25, 1944, Greek national holiday dedicated to the revolution against the Ottomans and the liberation of Greece, German officials rounded up 1,690 Jews in Athens (many of them refugees from Thessaloniki) for deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the war, Athens became the main center of resettlement for Jews returning to Greece, and the Jewish population increased to 4,940. Today Athens is still the center of Jewish life in Greece, with a total population of 3,000 Jews.

    I want to mention the characteristic example of Zakynthos island. The Jews of Zakynthos share a similar history with the Jews of the rest of the Ionian islands, except that all 275 Jews of Zakynthos survived the Holocaust. The courageous actions of Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Carrer in helping these individuals led Yad Vashem to include them in the “Righteous Among Nations.”

    In 1944 Mayor Carrer was ordered at gunpoint
    to hand over a list of Jews residing on the island. The list was presented to the Germans containing only two names: Mayor Carrer and Bishop Chrysostomos. The Bishop bravely told the Germans, “Here are your Jews. If you choose to deport the Jews of Zakynthos, you must also take me and I will share their fate.”

    In the interim, all the Jews of the island were safely hidden in the mountainous villages. While the whole island knew what was happening, not one person revealed their whereabouts.

    here is evidence that Chrysostomos actually communicated with Hitler himself, to beg for the lives of the Jews on the island. Unfortunately, a
    devastating earthquake in 1953 destroyed all archives on the island, making proof of the
    correspondence impossible. Historians do know that a boat was never sent to deport the Jews of Zakynthos and that all 275 of the island’s Jews survived the Holocaust.

    The first boat to arrive with aid to the victims of the 1953 earthquake was from Israel, with a message that read, “The Jews of Zakynthos have never forgotten their Mayor or their beloved Bishop and what they did for us.”

    I hope these datas meet your thought and enrich your point of view.


    Athens, Greece.

    PS: You, me and many other people all around, we have our legitimate opinion against some policies of those that have been in government in Israel (occupation, 1967 war etc.). We strongly criticize them for thousands of acts, including the last operation at Gaza strip, of them that are obviously out of the logic “ground for peace” and “two peoples, two states” meaning “independent Palestinian state, safe Israel” BUT our strong criticism is at the same time a fight against anti-semitism and a defence of the historical reasons that led to the birth of the State of Israel.

  4. Sarah Franco

    Thank you, Nikos, for your interesting comment.

  5. Nikos

    It’s me the one who has to thank you, Sarah, for your politeness and to warmly congratulate you for your interesting blog.

    I share a lot of your points of view and mainly a deep appreciation for Mario Soares as well as for the reformist and democratic forces of Serbia (basically DS, LDP and the Socialdemocrats of Vojvodina) especially Vesna Pesic.

  6. Owen

    I very much endorse what Nikos says. Anger at the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza is not in any way to be equated with anti-semitism. Respect for the victims of the Holocaust means standing up for all victims.

    Sadly I have just read a report that Aleksander Medic has just received the same five year sentence in his retrial as he received first time round for the murder of the 6 men and kids at Trnovo that was filmed by the Scorpions.

  7. Sarah Franco

    yes, I’ve seen it too on B 92, it’s a shame, a scandal.

  8. Nikos

    Thank you, Owen, for your wise position and for your information about that “flower”.

    Since we are still under the influence of the Memorial Day of the Holocaust I’d like to say that it has to become a Memory for tomorrow, an anti-racist Memory not just of the Jews but also of Romas, homosexuals, liberals, democrats, socialists, communists, Russians, Belarussians, Poles, Ukrainians, handicaped people, anti-fascists priests and intellectuals as well as so many others who happened to have a characteristic that Nazi disliked and because of that they lost their own lifes.

    I’d like to mention here the case of Serbs who were victims of the horrible Ustasha regime in Croatia (the example of Jasenovac is not the only one) and who massively participated into the Resistance against Nazis.

    It’s a pitty how such a heroic and martyric past had been overpassed by all those para-Arkan tramps of all those Karadjices who caused a copy of that pain in Srebrenica and not only there.

    I think that we have to assist all the countries of the western Balkans to form their own way to the future.

    EU has to be more open and generous for them in order to evanish frustration and dellusion of their people, especially of the young ones who have commited nothing bad.

    I cannot understand for instance why EU accepted Estonia inside it inspite the case of the pro-Nazi monument existing there.

    I cannot understand why EU had not clarified to the eastern European countries that inside Europe we are all Europeans and not lickers or servants of other powers, that EU is not a cow to milk it and then to search for our security somewhere else, that EU is our common tree and that we have to take care of it, not to be ignorant and indifferent about its own prospects.

    I cannot understand why inspite EU has suffered so much by the policies of the governments of the eastern european countries starting from the war in Iraq and coming to the current days, no one told them to calm down and to start thinking like partners and not like Bush’s Sanzo Panzas. In the meanwhile Serbs have to suffer the semi-humiliating visa procedure in order to travel to the EU.

    I cannot understand why EU is not going ahead towards the horizon drawn at the Thessaloniki Summit of 2003 regarding the European perspective of all of the countries of the Western Balkans.

    I cannot understand how’s that possible that the leaders of …Georgia give intervies having the EU flag behind them and the Western Balkans don’t have a pragmatic road map to step ahead and at the end of it to enter within our common European house.

    I cannot understand why EU remained indifferent regarding the case of N.I.S. and the whole energy sector of Serbia while Russia had offered to Serbia a (very low) offer to buy N.I.S. with all its Pancevo installations, the building in Novi Sad etc.

    I think that it is more than evident that we have to stop acting like Marias Antoinettes of the 21rd century and to concretely and practically support their democratic pathway, to help them to find shortcuts towards the modern knowledge economy and society, not to poison and to blovk them with stories of the past.

    We have to use the past as an example of what has to not happen ever again, to encourage all of them to excuse, to pardon each other and to definitely finish with hate and hatred, both characteristics of idiot and illiteral people.

    What is for sure is that the real guilty ones of all of the sides (Milosevic, Tudjman, Izetbekovic and their yards same as the leaders of the West who agreed on the dissolution of Yugoslavia without respecting the rights of the minorities and withour having previously resolved the relevant problems) will never pay for their crimes.

    There is no European state that has not been based on nationalistic principles, some of them were colonialistic forces and still keep being so (France for instance) or fought for something like that (Thatcher’s war for the Argentinian islands etc.).

    And don’t tell me that this is something past. Both our peoples and most of our governments when they have either to vote (euroelections or referendums in France, Holland, Ireland etc.) or when they have to draw serious European policies (foreign policy, immigration policy etc.) they think in a narrow nationalistic way.

    The case of the silly reaction or better to say the apathy regarding the coming of the financial crisis to Europe is more than characteristic. And don’t tell me that in Balkans things were different. Crisis is a war! A strong war that has to do with bonds and money trade.

    Eh, given the above I cannot accept some 25 years old Goran or some 30 years old Biljana to be paying for their whole life while for instance the soviet bureaucrats are enjoying the money of the soviet people since they became leaders of Russia or owners of british business companies and newspapers.

    All this is more than hypocritic and provocative especially given the fact that Serbia lost Kosovo while other countries having passed through dictatorships similar to the one of Milosevic and having similar cases like the one of the Albanians in Kosovo have not lost anything at all.

    Let’s all be less hypocritic and arrogant. Let’s offer to the whole region a solid european and progressive proposal.

    We are not better nore worse than them.

    We left them alone to handle and to manage the most difficult historical problem, the dissolution of Yugoslavia instead of proposing them to transform it into a modern federation based on the acquis communautaire and the rest of the European standards.

    Since we are all – but I mean that, ALL – guilty for the blood in Balkans, we have to admit it and instead of telling them how bad kids they are, to take some advantage of the bloody experience as a total, to give them our hand and to show them the human face of solidarity. If not anything else, life is so short for God’s sakes…

  9. Nikos

    Instead of assisting a (obviously strange but existing indeed) modernisation of Afghanistan, the West assisted talibans in order to fight against USSR. The results: the egg of the snake is not an egg anymore. It gave its place to the snake of Al Qaeda and the terror of September 11th etc. + the current problematic developments in Afghanistan inspite all the money that has been spent since 2001 until now there.

    Instead of assisting Gorbachev to transform USSR into a modern social democratic country, to try to implement what the Spring of Prague and Dubcek were saying (socialism with freedom and democracy etc.) the West chose to push him and kick him out of the game. The result: humiliation of the Russian people, Yeltsin ridiculous regime, prostitution, drugs, guns, nouveau richism, etc. far away from anything qualitative like the works of Yeftushenko, Majakovski, Kandinski etc.

    Instead of assisting the secular, pragmatistic and logical forces inside the Palestinian array, Israel chose to collaborate with the Egyptians “Muslim Brothers” and generate Hamas in order to put it against PLO. The results: more than well known…

    Instead of assisting the murdered Djindjic and now Tadic, DS, LDP, the Vojvodinian Socialdemocrats etc. to give a concrete future to Serbia, the government of Netherlands (and not only that) because of its own problem of Srebrenica (that is a narrow national problem – if you will think deeper- and not a European, collective point of view) insists on puting obstacles at the path of Serbia towards EU mentioning all of the times Mladic while we overpass what Del Ponte wrote in her book and what the Serbian organs trade (…) in Kosovo and Albania mean. The result will be: full frustration of Serbs given the imposed no ways out and the best push of them towards the hug of Putin’s Russia. If this is positive for the Serbs themselves, for their EU neighbors and for the whole European geopolitics, independence and security is left up to any logical mind to be understood.

    What I see is that Milosevic died (or was …helped to die) but Milosevicism, an elegant and modern looking Milosevicism, is dominating not only in Serbia, not only in the rest of the former Yugoslav countries (probably to the relevant exception of Slovenia) but in Europe and in the world in general and this is the more sad possible development.

    We have nothing tought and learnt, I think. Total lack of large and real European Leaders who would be able to ride the European horse and lead it ahead, who would be able to get the volan of the EU vehicle, switch on the lights and drive it out of the crisis and towards a common European future while China, India, even Brazil go ahead and become the new poles of the world. And given all that we spend time by accusing poor Balkans (and especially the usual suspects…) because of this and that and that…

    How much ridiculous and miserable creatures we are!…

  10. Owen

    Nikos, without getting into the wider issues, I agree with you that it’s important for all the Western Balkans nations to be admitted to membership of the EU. Nevertheless it is a fact that the one meagre demand that Serbia faces – to ensure Mladic and Hadzic are delivered to The Hague – hasn’t been met yet.

    Thanks to the ICTY’s and the ICJ’s failure to require the unredacted version of the Supreme Defence Council records Serbia was very lucky to escape having to pay very large reparations to Bosnia. Serbia’s failure to come to terms with the recent past was illustrated last week by the Strategic Media poll when a very large majority of interviewees stated that they would not be prepared to provide information about Mladic’s whereabouts. So what do you want? We simply forget about Mladic?

  11. Sarah Franco

    the question of the arrest of Mladic as a previous condition to negotiations with the EU is a tricky one, because that is actually welcomed by the conservative sectors in Serbia who don’t want EU integration.

    the case with the Visas is a good example: EU countries are willing to ease the access of the Serbian citizens to Visas. this is something that can have a very positive impact on the lives of many Serbs, who are forced to spend huge money and time to ask for Visas. However, this requires Serbia to pass certain laws that are blocked in parliament due to systematic obstruction by the nationalist parties. Plus, the machines to manufacture the new passports and documents have already been purchased, but Serbs still use a passport saying Yugoslavia.

    so, in a certain sense, if the EU accepted to drop this requirement for now, that would mean a lot to the pro-europeans…

    However, to take away the arrest of Mladic as a previous condition would also be seen as a sigh that as Biljana Plavsic once said, the serbs are more stubborn and the west will eventually get tired and forget…

    plus, there is the fact that within DS itself, things look pretty unclear regarding the european option, especially bearing in mind the behaviour of the foreign minister Vuk Jeremic, who is reversing the question of serbian integration to such an extent that sometimes is looks like it is the EU what wants to be integrated into Serbia and not the opposite.

    so, all things measured, I agree with Owen. Plus I think that it is on the interest of Serbia and the serbs themselves to hand Mladic. It is a litmus test towards the political elite’s commitment in joining the EU and towards it’s ability to control the ‘deep state’.

  12. Nikos

    Thank you, Sarah, for your hospitality.
    Thank you both, Sarah and Owen, for your answers.

    Dear Owen,
    1. I fully agree on your remark that it is a fact that the one meagre demand that Serbia faces – to ensure Mladic and Hadzic are delivered to The Hague – hasn’t been met yet.
    But who shaped this demand?
    European peoples, Brussels bureaucrats, politicians, lobbies, who? And how? Under what procedure?

    2. I agree that Serbia has to pay very large reparations to Bosnia.
    Same as Germany has to pay reparations to my own country, Greece, as well as any other European or African land was occupied by the Nazis.
    Same as all of our EU and NATO countries who are guilty for the pain, the blood and the frustration of the people of the former Yugoslavia since 1989 until now.

    3. I agree that Serbia failed to come to terms with the recent past.
    Exactly like ALL of our countries regarding their past and their national novels.

    4. Since you ask me what I want, here is my answer. I don’t want anything to be forgoten. Anything means that the memory cannot be selective but comprehensive. And even more I want an open and sincere pardon from all sides to each other and a simultaneous decision to help each other to have a concrete and touchable present and future of solidarity and mutual progress especially given the reality of the globalisation and the ongoing financial crisis. Given that EU is not a virgin full of virtues I want it to offer an intensive and not very long pathway to all western balkans, a real road map the end of which will be the qualitative change of the life there after and because of a real assession.

    Dear Sarah,
    1. It’s obvious that the question of the arrest of Mladic helps Seselj, Nikolic, Kostunica and in general the spectrum of the reactionary cultural mentality in Serbia.

    2. New (red) passports are being published saying Republic of Serbia and not Yugoslavia and they are exactly the same to the current ones of the EU. So, why they still have to suffer the humiliating visa procedure?

    We, Greeks, suffer the same when we want to travel to the USA inspite the fact that we have the passports that you mean.

    3. Is the western memory similarly strong regarding what Turkey has done and is doing in Cyprus, in Imvros and Tenedos or against the Greeks of Istambul and the Ecumenical Patriarchate?
    Is the western memory similarly strong regarding what Russia has done in Chechnya?
    Is it similarly strong regarding what is happening in China?
    Is it similarly strong regarding what Bush has done? If so, why Guantanamo’s and Abu Graib’s shames have not been enough reasons to impose something similar to his own country?
    Why Europeans have to pass through all those procedures when they travel to the USA but similar procedures don’t take place when Americans travel to Europe?
    Why ICTY does not deal with American or other western troops as well?
    Why we have not even dared to impose them something not similar but even 1/1000 of what we do to the Serbs?

    4. Within DS things are as much unclear regarding the european option as they are within the British Conservatives and society, the French Socialists, the Swedish parties and society the Irish, French, etc. electorates but of course less unclear than within the head of the current Czech president of the EU. Jeremic is a very young person being nominated because of his connection with Tadic. When Thatcher, a senior and experienced western politician was saying the worst against the EU, the social rights in the EU and against the meaning of the society itself, has anybody imagined to say to the UK that it is unaccepted in the EEC/EU?

    5. So, all things measured, I disagree with testing other countries political elites commitments and their peoples’ everyday’s lifes.
    I am not that arrogant to believe that I can put obstacles to peoples’ futures especially when my country as well as its partners and allies have not been able to act against the previous (stock markets, loans bubbles, equity capitals, hedge funds, tax heavens, offshore companies etc.) and the current (financial) phase of the economic crisis of over production.
    I cannot be so while the Union in which it belongs does not want to see that we have to use the European Investment Bank in order to go to the edition of anti-cycling Eurobonds and before that that we have to make a fund that can give cheap money to be used by the EU countries in order to invest on innovation and merging sectors and to definitely get out of the crisis.

  13. Nikos

    I’d ask you for a

    Because of the fact that I dislike criticizing without proposing, here is exactly what I mean and propose:
    1. Exactly after the fall of the Slobodan Milosevic regime EU should had conveyed a simple and clear message: “You now have the opportunity to become a member of the European family. Don’t let it go to waste”.

    2. By this the region would have confidence in Europe and Serbia would easily advance reforms so that it could soon join the European family.

    3. We all should back Serbia in its course towards European integration.

    4. Turning to the Balkans in general, I want to stress the need for all the countries of the region to access the EU, as this would comprise the single real guarantee for stability and peace in the region.

    5. I had welcomed the EU’s decision to give the green light for the commencement of accession talks with Turkey and Croatia as a positive development. On Turkey in particular I thought that we should welcome the Turkey-EU rapprochement and hope that Ankara will take advantage of the opportunity and make progress in human rights, minority rights, and on the Cyprus issue.

    A. Serbia – especially given the political, social and parliamentary majority of its democratic forces – should be able to immediately implement the association and stabilization agreement.

    B. EU should welcome Serbia, provided that it promotes the reforms that are required at political and administrative level and nothing else.

    C. As long as all Balkan countries don’t join the European Union, stability and peace cannot be consolidated in the region.
    As a Greek living in Greece, meaning in the region and not somewhere far from it or on Mars, I’m one of those who are paying without any personal guilt or reason for that. And this is and will keep being unacceptable by me especially when I know that Mladic is just one of the Serbiancroatianmuslimeunatousa gang of the murderers of Yugoslavia.

  14. Owen

    No, Nikos, the problem isn’t that “Mladic is just one of the Serbiancroatianmuslimeunatousa gang of the murderers of Yugoslavia”. He is actually one of the principal architects of genocide, on record discussing how you proceed to carry out genocide by means that enable you to escape the accusation.

    Finally we have the Genocide Convention being implemented. Its purpose was not simply to punish genocide, it was to prevent it. If the EU decides on grounds of expediency that Serbia should not be required to fulfil its international duty then the Genocide Convention becomes pointless and the Memorial Day becomes a pantomime.

    Everyone is culpable so therefore no-one should be held responsible.

  15. Sarah Franco

    Nikos, I could also make a lot of criticisms to the EU, but as portuguese recognize that european integration has been a very important factor in the process of democratization. In fact, although we have made some serious sacrifices to meet some of the EU demands, the benefits of european integration are worth it.

    For that very same reason I support the accession of all Balkan countries to the EU. But signs have to be sent from those countries to that they share the values that make the EU the best place on Earth to live in, where each of us as citizens have more rights and more protection than enywhere else.

    I don’t think you have the notion of the scale of the atrocities committed by Serb nationalists during the 1990s. Forgive me if this sounds rude or arrogant.

    The examples you give of problems other countries face should not serve to relativise the problems of Serbia. Of course most countries have skeletons in their own closets, and each society should be aware of its own problems and face them…

    but the scale of the harm caused by serbian nationalists has no parallel in post-WW2 Europe and even at a global level it has a impressive scale.

    Unless the Serbs themselves start coping with that, such legacy will keep feeding extremists in the country.

    I want to thank you for your comments, I am sorry that I didn’t have time to properly reply.

  16. Nikos

    Dear Owen,
    We didn’t ask from Turkey to accept that it committed a genocide against the Armenians or the Greeks of the Black Sea (Pontos) before starting negotiations.

    We didn’t ask from Croatia to accept that it committed a genocide against the Serbs (Operation Storm) before starting negotiations.

    We didn’t ask from Izetbekovic regime in Bosnia to accept that it committed a genocide against Serbs.

    We didn’t ask from Russia to accept that it committed a genocide against Chechnya people.

    EEC didn’t ask from the UK that it committed horrible crimes in Cyprus against EOKA and Greek Cypriots before starting negotiations and to send the guilty ones to some ICT for Cyprus.

    We didn’t ask from Papadopoulos, the passed away former President of Cyprus, to resign or whatever because he was Milosevic’s lawyer and the one who knew where the stolen money of the Serbian people went.

    We didn’t ask from Mr. Lykourezos, a former MP and an eminent Athenian lawyer, a Milosevic’s lawyer as well to go to any ICTY or whatever for what he has done or said regarding even Srebrenica. He is a real tycoon though, he has great accesses everywhere inside the western status quo and he doesn’t run any danger of course. To the opposite he is more than welcome everywhere.

    EEC and later on EU didn’t ask from Greece or from the Republic of Cyprus to accept what Grivas, Georgantzis and EOKA B’ did in Cyprus against Turk Cypriots and leftist Greek Cypriots as well and to send them to some ICT for Cyprus.

    Is KLA a national cleanser exactly as Milosevic was, yes or not?
    Who is guilty for what happened for instance in March 2004 in Kosovo against Serbs, gipsies and the Greek troops (parts of KFOR indeed) there?
    Has KLA given its own weapons, guns, artilleries to UNMIK when it was asked so, yes or not?
    If no to the last question and yest to the first one, eh, then why Thaci is accepted as a “prime minister” of Kosovo?

    And something additional:
    I can read at Wikipedia on Haradinaj for instance:
    “…In March 2006, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY extended his provisional release further and granted Haradinaj the unprecedented right for an indictee to engage in public political activity. Such activity was, however, subject to the approval of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

    On February 26th, 2007 Haradinaj was flown back to the Hague so that the trial could proceed. In the previous days he held meetings with Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Agim Çeku, the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, and various diplomatic offices. At a news conference he urged the public to remain calm and was steadfast in his belief that the trial would result in a full acquittal…

    The chief prosecutor at The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, has remained steadfastly unimpressed by the international support for Haradinaj, continuing to make strongly negative statements about him. She told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “according to the decision [to provisionally release him], he is a stability factor for Kosovo. I never understood this. For me he is a war criminal.”…

    Del Ponte, in the same interview, claimed that it was difficult to find witnesses who were willing to testify not just to the prosecutors, but also for the tribunal. “The difficulty in Kosovo was that no one helped us, neither the UN administration nor NATO…”

    This is exactly what I’m saying, dear Owen.
    1. The difficulty in Yugoslavia is that no one will really help a Court especially when this Court is not convincing that it is a really objective and serious one.

    2. If we’d like to have a real Court, we should all go to the UN and seriously and responsibly decide for a permanent International Penal Court and nothing less than that. As simple as that. Responsible and able to act against any violation of any international law. Anything else is just a puppets theater. Because when I see for instance that the Turkish army is still occupying the territory of an independent state-member of the UN, is still occupying EU territory, eh, excuse me, dear Owen, but it’s more than obvious that there is no international justice, courts, rights etc.

    3. Given all the above, try to convince a Serb (and I mean a rational, democratic, reformist, anti-nationalist, anti-populist etc. Serb) that the Court is objective and that his/her own country is not suffering because of Hallbrook’s failed Balkans policy, not because of the then American and German policies and because of the fact that Serbia is simply the loser of the wars but because we respect law regarding genocide… He/she would really die of laughs.

    There is nothing else but the jungle law, the law of the powerful. The rest is just decoration and cock-and-bull stories for little kids.

    Not the fact that Berisha was Emver Hodja’s (Stalin of the Balkans) personal medical doctor nore the SHAME of the Serbians organs sold from Albania (,2967) were able to be an obstacle for Albania’s accession to the NATO and Albania’s association negotiations with the EU.

    Big money, Owen. Very big and very dirty… surrounded by tons of hypocrisy in order to be well covered. The human life, opposite to what is being said in the Law Schools halls, has not a value per se. It has the value that the market laws (demand and offer) want it to have. The life of a Palestinian in Gaza costs as much as a rabbit. The life of a Serb in Kosovo, in Serbia, in Croatia etc. costs something like that. Nobody cares about the Serbs who still live in Kosovo or the Serb refugees from Kosovo and Croatia surviving in Serbia. Hamas realised that better than any one of us and this is why it unfortunately won the war of impressions in Gaza opposite to Israel that had to explain and justify to its own audience any loss of a soldier of it and to the international audience its own policy.

    We are still at the pre-historic period of the human kind but everything is so stylish, so fashionable, so elegant around us. Especially our own crimes…

  17. Sarah Franco

    I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

    you are of course entitled to your opinion, but if your arguments were to be accepted, then nothing would be done anywhere.

    your arguments result in relativising the seriousness of the crimes caused by Serb nationalism, please don’t continue in that track. I’m not claiming that that is your intent, but it is the outcome of your line of arguing.

    the thesis that ‘all sides are equally to blame’ that you seem to be endorsing is one that I openly reject.

    regarding the international tribunals/courts, and global justice, the fact that in other cases justice was not met either should not stop us from pursuing it.

    plus operation storm was not a genocidal operation, nor were the war crimes committed by bosniaks during the war in Bosnia of a scale that allows for any comparison with the Serbs’.

    regarding the suspicions of organs trafficking, the Council of Europe is conducting an investigation, let’s wait for the results.

  18. Nikos

    Dear Sarah,
    1. I’m evidently, openly and without any but or if, in favor of the EU project and even more in favor of a European federative perspective. I would vote YES to the European Constitution if I had the possibility to participate in a pan-European referndum on that. Being in favor of Europe, I’m against Brussels bureaucracy and non pro Europe tactics of the governments of the countries-members of the EU. So, I want EU to get legitimised leadership and to become close to the interests, the wills and everyday’s life of its citizen, not to remain far from them. I want to see real and strong European leaders that will be able to drive the EU vehicle out of the storm and will tell me generous, attractive, genuine and useful things, not copy-pastes of biased media and polls companies, not little parrots of lobbies and strange interests.

    This is the kind of my criticism. I want more, not less Europe. And I want a real presence of the citizens in its own decision making process.

    2. I formed my opinion/proposal on the relations between EU/Balkans in one of my posts. I will put it this brief way now: to re-find the lost pathway that was drawn at Thessaloniki, 6 years ago.

    3. You don’t live in the neighborhood to have in your daily life the notion of the results of the scale of the atrocities committed by Serb, Croatian and Muslim nationalists guided by the Americans and the Germans (divide and rule) during the 1990s. Forgive me if this sounds rude or arrogant.

    The skeletons in our own closets should not serve to relativise the responsibilities of all of us.

    But there is no harmometer to measure the harm as you know. To believe that serbian nationalists caused a harm that has no parallel in post-WW2 Europe and even at a global level it has a impressive scale inspite what happened in Vietnam and what was committed by Stalin, inspite what France did in Algeria, inspite what has happened in Middle East, or what European colonialists caused in their own colonies, eh, excuse me but I cannot buy that.

    4. I fully agree that Serbs themselves have to start coping with their own skeletons exactly as we all have to do so, especially if we plan to ask them something like that.

    Thank you once again for the exchange of ideas and the friendly space that you offer here.

  19. Nikos

    Dear Sarah,
    I see an all of the sudden kind of embarassement from your side. If you want me to stop talking, I’ll immediately respect your will and go away. But this doesn’t give any answer to the issued that I mentioned.

    1. The point that I make is simple as that: justice for all and justice for everywhere. Anything less or partial is not legitimate and cannot convince. This is something that had been understood since Hamurabi period and was and is followed inside the nation states. I cannot understand why it has not to be followed when it refers to an international institution. So, either we’ll decide to go to a democratic governance of the globalisation with everything that it means or let’s admit our hypocrisy, double, triple etc. standards. This means that if my arguments were to be accepted everything would be done everywhere and not whatever the powerful ones want to be done wherever they want it to be done.

    2. Your arguments result in relativising the seriousness of the crimes caused by nationalisms. Please, don’t continue in that track. I’m not claiming that that is your intent, but it is the outcome of your line of arguing. If we are really against nationalism we have to be against ALL nationalism, against ANY nationalism, not against just the Serbian nationalism and in favor of the Croatian or the Albanian one.

    3. I don’t have any balance, I’m not a grocer or a pharmacist indeed, in order to balance blames. I’m not even a magistrate or God to try to give justice. The thesis that there are guilty sides and victims sides, a black and white, a light and darkness thesis that you seem to be endorsing is one that I openly reject.

    4. So, regarding the international tribunals/courts, and global justice, the fact that in other cases justice was not met either should not stop us from practically act for less unequalities and for a fair world order.

    5. “…The Hague tribunal’s chief prosecutor has said he believes that key documents related to Operation Storm which his office has demanded from the Croatian authorities have been intentionally removed or hidden.

    “We have been seeking those important documents for more than 18 months. I mentioned this to the Croatian authorities in all our meetings, and we had to request a binding order that was issued by the trial chamber,” said Serge Brammertz, in an interview with Croatian daily Vecernji List on January 3.

    “It seems to us very unlikely that key documents related to a major military operation might simply disappear. We have reason to believe that some people have intentionally removed or hidden those documents.”…”


    “…Whatever happened in Srebrenica could have best been prevented, not by U.S. or NATO bombing, but by preventing civil war from breaking out in Bosnia Herzegovina to begin with. This prevention was possible if the “international community”, meaning the NATO powers, Europe and the United States, had firmly insisted that the Yugoslav crisis of 1990 should be settled by negotiations. But first of all, Germany opposed this, by bullying the European Union into immediate recognition of the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia, without negotiation. All informed persons knew that this threatened the existence of Bosnia Herzegovina. The European Union proposed a cantonization plan for Bosnia Herzegovina, not very different from the present arrangement, which was accepted by leaders of the Bosnian Muslim, Serb and Croat communities. But shortly thereafter, Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic reneged, after the U.S. ambassador encouraged him to hold out for more. Throughout the subsequent fighting, the U.S. put obstacles in the way of every European peace plan. These years of obstruction enabled the United States to take control of the eventual peace settlement in Dayton, in November 1995…”

    Diana Johnstone wrote the above and it is more than correct. I could easily co-sign it. As you can see, if you want to see, my opinion is not at all exculpatory of Serbian crimes in Bosnia. As you saw I have been more than objective regarding even my country’s skeletons. And indeed there were Greek ultranationalist/fascist volunteers that were involved in Serbian atrocities in Bosnia. Yet it is equally obvious that reading the disaster of the Yugoslav civil war as a “morality pantomime between pure good and pure evil”, in Johnstone’s words, is so patently unsatisfactory a version of events, that I can’t help but be amazed at the ubiquity of such a view among intelligent and erudite people in the West. It is still useful therefore, to discuss the events surrounding the whole Yugoslav war, not only as a matter of history, not only to identify the culprits of horrendous crimes, but to understand the way in which versions of historical reality are honed as tools in modern propaganda wars – and real victims become alibis for even worse atrocities.

    I’d be eager to hear opinions on my arguments and the issues I tackle.

    A related side note: it seems to me that any version of Balkan history, from Ottoman times onward, that tries to explain events based mainly on local events and local societal and political dynamics, without emphasizing the dominant role that all sorts of “Great Powers” have played in the region, is a naive version of history. Balkan states were marginally more than protectorates throughout their history, the only exception being – for better or for worse – Tito’s Yugoslavia. I hope you will understand that.

    6. Of course you can wait for whatever you want as long as you want especially when it has to do with something that shows that the things are not black and white. But while you are and will be waiting and waiting, proves and evidences are in front of us and hypocrisy is going on as usual.

    So, according to what we can easily see at the net (I will quote here just one of the relevant references) it’s all about systematic organ theft and killing of at least 300 ethnic Serbs during and after the Kosovo War in 1999, committed by the KLA, regarded as a terrorist organisation by Serbia and by the United States until the beginning of the war in 1999).

    “It was first revealed in the book The Hunt: Me and War criminals, written by Carla Del Ponte (former ICTY chief prosecutor) in which she claims that Kosovo Albanians smuggled human organs of kidnapped Serbs after the Kosovo war ended in 1999, the accusations being backed by several witnesses, one of whom “personally made an organ delivery” to an Albanian airport for transport abroad, and “confirmed information directly gathered by the tribunal”.

    The investigation was re-launched on March 21, by War Crimes Prosecution of Serbia just in head of the release of the book on April 3. The prosecutors claim they have enough evidence “to search the whole of Albania” for mass-graves of Serbs.

    The Serb prisoners are believed to have been trafficked in trucks from Kosovo to northern Albania (in the village of Gur near Burrel, Mat District) during the Kosovo War. The illegal operations were performed (with the prisoners alive) in Building/Prison #320, 20km from the “Yellow House” mentioned as the site of the acts by former Hague Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

    Building/Prison 320 is a neuro-psychiatric clinic. “We believe that surgical operations were carried out there on civilians, as the conditions existed for such a thing. There was a prisoner camp there, as well as a KLA camp…

    …It differs markedly from what the Albanian prosecutor has been saying, who shut the case back in 2005.”

    This is what the War Crimes Prosecution spokesman said…

    It is also believed that the prisoners were prepared for operations in the “yellow house”, but were re-located when International humanitarian aid such as the Red Cross came by. A large portion of surgical equipment was discovered inside, certain reports show detailed inventories of what was discovered.

    The organs were sold on the black market, and the profiters are believed to be officials in the newly independent Republic of Kosovo, including President Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj who both have denied the allegations.

    Serbia has urged Albania to cooperate and in late October 2008, Albanian officials replied that they refused to help Serbia and let a further investigation take place on Albanian soil. The Albanian government had no explanation on Its decision.

    On November 3, Kosovo Police uncovered illegal organ transplanting in the Medicus clinic of Kosovar capital Pristina and arrested several doctors.

    On November 14, UNMIK has let Serbia’s War Crimes Prosecutors join their side in a new investigation about the yellow house.

    On November 20, ICTY started cooperating with Serbia on the case. Serbia has received important information from Serge Brammertz (current ICTY chief), evidence of the alleged operation house in northern Albania, but the Albanian side wish not to cooperate. A report shows that seven points are confirmed in the allegations and that the Albanian prosecutor and UNMIK had failed to tell the truth when investigating the findings of different surgical equipment.

    Jose-Pablo Baraybar, the former chief of the UNMIK Office on Missing Persons and Forensics who headed the 2004 investigation said that the Kosovo Liberation Army were very truly (strong evidence, mass graves etc) involved in transportation of Serbs from Kosovo to Albania, who became victims of organ theft and/or murder. The initial investigation was backed by 8 different sources on the kidnapping and transportation of the victims to the house, adding that: “Obviously, we did not go there by chance.”

    Interview with the owners of the “yellow house”…
    The owners initially claimed that the house was never yellow, and that Carla Del Ponte was lying, however a interview by Serbian News B92 showed a whole other story.

    “…I’m telling you that it was only in 2001 that we painted it white, and only one strip on the ground level, one meter high, was yellow. I’m telling you how it was, if you don’t want me to, then leave! I’m telling you when and the reasons why! We had a wedding, we painted the house white, and at the bottom we left a yellow strip.”

    This is what Dashuri Katuqi, granddaughter of the owner, said.

    The Hague War Tribunal investigated the house, finding blood stains on the floor and walls of one of the rooms in the “yellow house”.

    The residents initially denied the existence of any bloodstains, before, later, offering a variety of explanations.

    The owner, Abdulah Katuqi, claims that two children were born in the room in question. The housemates claim that the births took place in 1990 or 1991. The blood was found in 2004.

    They also said that the room contained the blood of animals that they had “slaughtered outside, and had cut the meat up inside.”…”

    – Europe! Clearly, sincerely, openly, seriously, and honestly, Europe!
    Just Europe, here and now! Immediately!
    Europe in the Balkans and Balkans in Europe, now!
    Not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Now!
    And not pseudo alibis and other bubbles. Now!
    And at the same time quick but effective reforms inside EU in order to get out of the European semi-death started the day after the French referendum.
    The ones who disagree are free to enjoy their own life out either of the hard core of Europe (euro zone) or even out of EU.
    There is no other solution for both Balkans and the EU.

  20. Nikos

    As a cherry on the cake, compare, please, dear Sarah what Diana Johnstone wrote and the longlasting and inter-Balkan vision of Rigas Fereos for peace and democracy in the Balkans.

    Rigas Fereos was a champion of the idea of unity of the Balkan peoples. He believed in a free and democratic union of the Balkans, where all peoples would maintain their rights and would respect the rights of their neighbours. And he was arrested by the (anti-French revolution) Austrians in Trieste on his way to meet Napoleon in order to ask his assistance and support. He was handed over with his accomplices to the Ottoman governor of Belgrade where he was imprisoned in Nebojsa Tower and tortured. From Belgrade, he was to be sent to Constantinople to be sentenced by Sultan Selim III. While in transit, he and his five collaborators were strangled to prevent their rescue by Rigas’ Bosnian and anti-Ottoman friend Osman Pazvantoğlu.

    So, this is the direction towards which things should have gone. Instead of dissolving it (without any previous negotiation especially on the border lines and the minorities issue), Yugoslavia should have been expanded and should include the whole Balkans. Yugoslavia wouldn’t have any Slobodan Milosevic put at the top of it but the reformist Croatian PM of SFRY Ante Markovic. It would be transformed and democratically reformed into a modern Balkan Federation and then such a Balkan Federation would enter the EU and would embed Greece within it.

    Imagine: after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of Chausescu and Zivkov, a prosperous european democratic federal state starting from Vojvodina and ending in Crete, having endless Adriatic seasides from Pula to Kalamata, the Ionian and the Aegean Sea and the whole western side of the Black Sea…

    No blood, no pain, no poverty, no frustration, no foreign powers would be able to find space to stay or even to appear. But unfortunately we have had what Johnstone mentioned and the forming of small puppet states, easy to be manipulated, unable and unwilling to guarantee any future to their own citizens. And we had to suffer and to be suffering instead of enjoying stable democracy, social justice, economic, political, social, cultural democracy, economic prosperity and sustainable development. But no… instead of such a development we had to experience what we did.

    Sarah, inspite the Salazar bloody past you have the luxury of being a former colonialist state and of having borders with Spain. Your coastal line is at the Atlantic. Look at the map well and then try to understand how much different is to live here not as a visitor as you were in the former Yugoslavia but as a permanent resident being born here. When you will really make such an effort, we’ll talk again. Until then, I will be listening just …fados that I deeply adore.

    Thank you for giving me the space to express myself.

  21. Owen

    Nikos, justice is not perfect but that’s not a reason to abandon what has been achieved. We start with what we have and push for improvement.

    As far as my limited knowledge goes, there is a very strong case for believing that what was done to the Armenians would have constituted grounds for charges of genocide. Which is different from saying that there would have been convictions for genocide. But there was no crime of genocide under international law at that time.

    In the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik the ICTY was satisfied that there was evidence of genocide having been committed. But Krajisnik was acquitted because the court refused to take the course open to it to draw the inferences that legal authorities have argued it was entitled to.

    So justice is faulty on both sides. You start from first principles and then argue that if the system is inadequate or unfair in applying those principles it should be abandoned. I can’t accept that argument. But more than that, although I respect your clarity of vision to the extent that the examples you cite are legitimate and there are a number of points on which I wouldn’t disagree with you, I detect some dark undertones to what you are saying.

    Why do you respect Diana Johnstone as an authority at the same time as you dismiss the authority of the ICTY’s pronouncements? Do you believe her version of what happened at Srebrenica or do you believe the version established by the ICTY? If you are going to argue with the rigour of Robespierre you are need to reconcile the fact that your own argument has inconsistencies.

    The Serbian apologist lobby has spent years exploiting the flaws in the international justice system, not because they believe in the principle of justice but because they understand how to use the elements of doubt to undermine its authority for their own purposes. As you acknowledge, Lykourezos is one of the influential individuals who have contributed to that campaign and Milosevic’s antics at The Hague were also part of it. It has been a very hard battle that some very determined people have fought in order to establish the truth, people like Natasa Kandic and other Serb/ian/s whose efforts have been and continue to be belittled by their fellow citizens. Perhaps Kandic should simply have listened to the death threats and thrown away the Scorpions’ video if it really wasn’t worth while showing Serbians exactly what it was that they were so intent on sweeping under the carpet?

    OK, so you point out some genuine areas of inconsistency. But then you extend the base of your argument to include contentious areas in which there is more than a suggestion of partisanship. You then make an appeal to pragmatism. And you end up by calling on one of the most notorious apologists for genocide to support your argument to abandon the half-hearted effort to secure justice for the victims. If you set out to be so rigorous in your examination of fundamental principles you must subject your own arguments to similar appraisal.

  22. Sarah Franco

    Nikos, there is no embarassment at all. You are free to have your opinion and to express it here. The limits are set on my homepage:

    “”Comments are welcomed in this blog. However, hate speech and ad hominen attacks will be systematically erased. Nurturing freedom of expression does not include tolerating intolerance.””

    Of course I don’t share your respect for Diana Jonhstone, who is a well-known genocide denier. She is not a credible source, in fact I have never read anything as dishonest as her book. The phenomenon of genocide denial is also well documented. There is also many other things that you said that I disagree with, and i recognize myself the Owen’s perspective. However, my time is limited so refuting your comments is not something I can do right now, neither am I supposed to.

    Finally, your argument about my nationality, yes, of course it is very different to live in a country with its frontiers set centuries ago, with only one neighbour and a homogeneous national identity. But if your argument was right, then I would not be qualified to understand any other people, as homogeneous nation-states with stable frontiers and uninterrupted statehood since the Middle Ages are extremely rare.

  23. Nikos

    Dear Sarah,
    I see that instead of a warm exchange of ideas, senses and glances between people thirsty to see, to participate, to change, it’s becoming a cold “deafs dialogue” or even more not a dialogue (dia-logos: inter, infra-speach, infra-word) but a boring stereotyping of mainstream patterns that will just cause a quick end of the dicussion. I wouldn’t like it to be so but let me reply to Owen since he replied first and I will come back.

    1. So, dear Owen, justice (the judicial system) has to reflect justice (the value). Otherwise it is just a mechanism in the hands of the powerful ones that cannot be improved as you mentioned but has to be strongly reformed.

    2. I can hardly understand a kind of mania to use the term genocide. The english word genocide comes from the greek genoktonia that means assassination of a genus, of a breed. Such a thing happened in the case of the Armenians (most of the few ones who survived came here, in France etc.) or the Greeks of Pontos (they all came here or went to the formerUSSR, no one is in Turkey any more) or the Greek Jews (just 15% of them survived) but didn’t happen for instance in the case of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, 1974, where many violations of the international law happened as well as massacres and numerous assassinations.
    So, as you know genocide means the systematic and wanted extermination of a specific human group, an extermination based on nationality, citizenship, religion, race etc.

    I don’t want to go further on this because I recall memories of mine that I want to forget. But what everybody can see is that the genocide convention that you mention has not been implemented.

    Political relations and international balances have caused obstacles against a general implementation of it everywhere and in any case.

    A selective justice is not a justice then, it’s just the biased procedure of the winner. If a system is obviously unefficient it has to be radically changed. We cannot formally mention its principles and at the same time to be substantially indifferent for their implementation.

    3. I don’t respect or non respect Diana Johnstone or anybody else. I don’t believe versions. I have experienced, I very well know what has happened. What happened was next to my border lines not in some thousands of kilometers away. It affected me completely. So, I just pay attention to some arguments existing in the text that I quoted and that are more than accurate and correct. Do you have anything to tell me on them? If not, it’s ok and we’re going on.

    4. You didn’t say “the Milosevic apologist lobby” but the “Serbian apologist lobby”. Here is our main difference, Owen. I will stop the discussion, if I will realise that your opinion is that you represent the value of justice and whoever can disagree on this or that with you, he represents a nation apologist lobby.

    More specifically: first, I don’t belong to any lobby and I don’t care about any lobby and second, to blame a whole nation for some horrible, awful, terrible decisions and acts of his dictator is evidently reminding Hitler’s logic on collective responsibility, is far away from any reality and is just destroying the present and the future innocent people, including young people, who are completely innocent and have nothing to do with the under discussion facts. This is the same “mistake” that Bosnia did when it asked for reparations and this is why such a claim could not be justified. Not a whole nation is responsible for the acts of a dictatoric regime. This is why Germany doesn’t pay reparations to my country inspite the massive massacres at Kalavryta, Distomo, Kandanos etc.

    4. Natasa Kandic and everybody else can have her own opinion that is or is not shared by these or the other fellow citizens of her. Isn’t it the same in almost any European country, Owen?

    Isn’t this the meaning of political liberties, the self evident meaning of life itself?

    Do we all have to obey to a single thought?

    To some wise one and only opinion?

    Is this how democratic people perceive the meaning of freedom of distribution of ideas etc.?

    Is this close to a serious or even more scientific methodology or close to some orwellian perception?

    Your country, your society doesn’t sweep things under the carpet?

    In their own life people around you don’t sweep things under the carpet?

    The financial crisis that we are experiencing isn’t it a product of a massive sweeping under the carpets of social unequalities?

    Who is the virgin individual, state entity or society who is going to blame other nations, societies?

    Let’s not pretend that we are able to give lessons, Owen. Let’s be more normal humans, let’s try to understand, to agree or disagree but to do it in a way that doesn’t mean any maniac extermination.

    Otherwise you just commit a mental and sentimental genocide against the national collectivity that you dislike.

    5. Owen, I don’t care about who says what but about the validity of what is said. Besides I cannot and I don’t have any will to see who is and who is notorious on this or on that. Excuse me but I have to live and I have much more beautiful and important things to do in life. And I don’t feel myself like being the one who is able to criticize every human existance on the globe. I don’t give such a right to nobody else as well. I repeat here that I just stated an abstract that given my life experience and my knowledge is more than correct. I didn’t read any disagreement on any of its points but just a semi-fascist/semi-bushist perception that since we dislike with the X person who have to face it as The monster and we have to close our eyes and ears to defend ourselves from what is said by the specific person. You are following a very very dangerous, slippery and anti-democratic path, dear Owen, and I say that with the most friendly and warm sentiments. I saw that you are a polite man. Try to understand that in life there is no: either with me or against me. Because in such a case politeness and any similar sensitivity become just allibis and masks. I hope and I’d like not to misunderstand me.


    Dear Sarah,
    Thank you for aknowledging my freedom of having my opinion. I started having some doubts on it but it’s ok now after such a permission.

    The limits are set by our own brains, soul, education, culture, sensitivity, human nature. I always remember Scott’s words: facts are holly, comments are free. I like them.

    1. Regarding genocides, Johnstone you have my point.

    2. If you don’t have the time, as I don’t have it either – I just liked your homepage, I thought that you are willing for an human exchange of thoughts and I decided to come and say a few things. If it objectively cannot work, it’s more than ok with me: I will not ennoy you anymore.

    3. With all the respect, you didn’t understand anything at all regarding my last comment. There was not any argument about your nationality. I have red Saramagu, I have been monitoring the developments in Portugal for years. I keep always an eye to Socrates and what he says and does. I like Portugal. It is something familiar to me. I mentioned the fados in order to express something warmer and internal – it is in vain as I can see.

    By what I said there, I answered to your comment that I don’t know what serbian nationalists did etc. I know very well what EVERYBODY did, because I experienced it in my own personal, national, economic, social life. I wanted you to try to “read” the geography, to try to understand what practically means just to read about something and to live, to experience something and to read about it as well. There is no comparison at all.

    You don’t have border lines with chaos. You are not like an island with a continuing fire next to you. You are not receiving every day thousands of immigrants and refugees. They don’t constitute the 15% of your population. Your job has not been influenced by what has been happening in Yugoslavia in total since 1991, almost 20 years now. You have not had depleted uranium in your body. You don’t risk any danger, you don’t have a clue about what national security dangers means.

    Nevertheless you can have a good friend that can fully understand and sense you. In case you want, he is willing to continue this or any other dialogue. If not, as I told you, I will just respect it.

  24. Nikos

    Dear Sarah and Owen,
    Here is my …PS.

    Months ago, the EU and Serbia signed the Assiociation and Stabilisation Agreement. It is obvious that the EU hurried the signature of the Agreement in order to create a favourable climate for the pro-European parties during the Serbian parliamentary elections. Fair enough.

    The EU offered a return in order to balance the unfavourable impressions caused by its acceptance of the (obviously illegal) unilateral self-declaration of independence of Kosovo. I just remind here that the democratic government of Serbia asked for something more than autonomy and less than independence and quoted the example of SouthTirrol (Italia-Austria). The other side didn’t want to discuss anything at all encouraged to act so by its strong supporters. Anyhow…

    There existed a postscript. The agreement would not be ratified, if previously Serbia would not prove that it collaborates completely with the International Court, that is to say arrest and deliver of Karadjic and Mladic.

    This policy of whip and carrot was successful.

    The elections were successful for the friendly to the EU forces and Serbia arrested and delivered Karadjic. And personally speaking I’m very glad for both of these facts.

    But the thing is that the objectives of the “West” (before Obama) have a very small relation with the value of Justice. (Unfair enough).

    The International Court is a winners’ Court, then not a real Court. If it were not, then together with Milosevic and Karadjic we should have seen there the similarly criminals Izetbekovic and Tudjman all together with the heads of UCK. The fact that Haradinaj and Oric are free proved the kind of justice being granted by such a court. Such a justice is actually blind but only in the one of its eyes. The other one works pretty well towards where it wants to look…

    What the EU has seeked in real terms is the coercion, the surrender of Serbia. It wants that Serbia accepts the repercussions of its military defeat.

    However this defeat was not created just by Milosevic or just by Serbia in the absence of the West. Europe faced the nationalisms in Yugoslavia following the logic of World War I. It encouraged its split, it supported someones against some other ones. So, Serbian nationalism lost (and it should have lost) but at the same time Croatian, Muslim and Albanian nationalisms won (and they should not win).

    The West insisted that the new states would have as international border lines the internal administrative limits of socialist Yugoslavia set by Djilas, not even the ones that existed before Tito.

    The criminal result was that powerful and compact minorities (mainly the Serbian ones) remained inside the new states, without any engagement of protection and while the nationalistic passions were raging more and more. Better recipe of bloodshed could not be found! It is and it will be an eternal shame of those who committed it and of the ones who are still supporting it, no matter if they understand what they are stubbornly or naively doing or not.

    The West supported the principle of inviolability of borders in order to dissolve Yugoslavia but it has constantly supported the opposite principle of self-determination of minorities in order to dissolve Serbia.

    If however all of the minorities of the former Yugoslavia have the right of self-determination, except of the Serbian minorities that they do not have such a right, eh, in such a case Serbia is going to shrink in the limits of the Pashalik of Belgrade.

    At the same time the states that are created in such a way (Kosovo, Montenegro) are not ethnologically, financially or politically viable. They are just nests of criminality.

    The nationalistic fragmentation includes poverty, pain and frustration. This is why it threatens the peace.

    The single solution in terms of keeping the road of coexistence and growth open, the single real option is the integration of the whole Western Balkans in the European Union. Anything else is bullshits for idiots or co-guilty ones. And personally speaking I keep the priviledge of not belonging to anyone of these categories. I’ll keep my own dignity together with my Greek and European citizenships as well as my human characteristics including the mental ability of thinking in a non biased way.

    Thank you for everything, falks.
    Have a nice weekend.

  25. Nikos

    Because of the fact that I feel an enormous sorrow for what happened in Srebrenica (no matter if it was a genocide or not, this is really secondary and difficult to be proved),
    because I have proved my shock and deep sadness on Srebrenica in practice (the fact that we don’t know each other doesn’t mean that we didn’t exist before meating each other here),
    because I have full conscience of the substance of the story and of the reality of all of the former Yugoslavia,
    I want the Assossiation and Stabilisation Agreement to be immediately ratified by all parts, and accession negotiations between EU and Serbia (as well as between EU and all of the W. Balkans) to start as soon as possible because it’s in such a Serbia that Mladic can be easier arrested and not in an isolated, nationalistic, pro-Russia one. Crystal clear.

    Best wishes,

  26. Owen

    Nikos, from what you say I suspect that I strike you as someone with a fairly well closed mind and entrenched views. I have to say that that’s not too unfair an appraisal. But there is a reason why I may be seen like that, and I suspect that Sarah has shared similar experiences to mine. I’m afraid I no longer have the patience to spend hours in lengthy exchanges of general views when so many times, almost without exception, I have found myself being led along the path to sharing the Balkan perspective of what I do insist on calling the Serbian apologist lobby, not the Milosevic lobby.

    They are not the Milosevic lobby, because while they are happy to champion Milosevic against his enemies when they can be held responsible for the disintegration of the Former Yugoslavia, they are very quick to blame him when he is able to serve as a scapegoat that allows them to wipe their slate clean in the post 2002 era.

    This method of engagement – denial of responsibility masking as objective debate – is not a Milosevic era phenomenon. I have seen it flourish outside that era. I’m glad to say that it is perhaps less in evidence since the International Court of Justice verdict that did not find Serbia responsible for committing genocide, simply for failing to prevent genocide.

    That of course was the moment when the efforts to challenge the reality of genocide at Srebrenica eased up, because the ICJ’s confirmation of the fact of genocide was sitting side-by-side with its conclusion that let Serbia off the hook on the charge of responsibility. Unable to have their cake and eat it, the apologists seem to have opted spinning the ICJ judgment as an acquittal for Serbia.

    You may want a loose and wide-ranging dialogue on justice, genocide and history, among other issues, but I can assure you that these people did not have that apparent breadth of interest. It always became apparent eventually just how focused they were. And I just became tired of playing their game.

    And part of that game I began to see was a tendency to claim that Diana Johnstone’s analysis provided an insight into the general context informing specific issues such as the genocide at Srebrenica. And I’m afraid that when you refer to Johnstone’s apparent attempt to explain that Serbia was not responsible for Srebrenica, because someone else was responsible for the “civil war” in which the gencoidal massacre occurred as correct and more than correct, I know that I’ve been here before.

    Johnstone is not just a pretty useless commentator – she is sloppy, partial, deliberately ignores facts, etc., it is clear that her analysis is based on one central idea that directs every point that she makes, and damn any facts that may get in the way. Western foreign policy is overwhelmingly responsible for the ills of former Yugoslavia. All that happens can be traced back to that single causal force.

    I used to regard this view as either lazy or bigoted. But Johnstone is more than that. When she describes Omarska as just a temporary Serb prisoner camp and suggests that it was no different from Bosniak or Croat camps, she is not only disregarding evidence that she is not interested in challenging, she is wilfully cruel, spitting in the face of people I have heard describe their experiences and who find considerably more convincing in their narrative than Johnstone in her thesis.

    Johnstone’s views serve her own purpose but I have heard them often enough expressed to serve another purpose, that of exonerating Serbia from its responsibilities. When she blames others for the outbreak of what she terms civil war she is denying that the ethnic cleansing of the Drina Valley was in fact part of a strategic plan of campaign. Without that denial Srebrenica ends up back on Serbia’s doorstep, not the doorstep of the US, Germany, Bosnia, Croatia or whoever else.

    Nikos, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you don’t respect or “non-respect” Johnstone and then find her argument unequivocally more than correct.

    So I see no point in discussing matters any further. I’m not claiming that I am right and you are wrong, though obviously I believe what I believe. What I am saying is that if we disagree on such a fundamental proximal issue I see no point spending time discussing the wider issues – there is too much of a fundamental gulf between us.

    I think that gulf is summed up in my reaction to what you choose to say about Natasa Kandic. My willingness to take what you say at face value dropped to nil when I read that “Natasa Kandic and everybody else can have her own opinion that is or is not shared by these or the other fellow citizens of her. Isn’t it the same in almost any European country, Owen?”.

    Now you know very well what Kandic and other Serbians and Bosnian Serbs have endured and continue to endure because of having an opinion of their own that is not shared by their fellow citizens. You suggest you have experienced some unpleasant things yourself. If you have ever spent some time living under threat you will know that it is a substantially different experience from that of having a difference of opinions in an open democracy. There are people reading this blog who know only too well about the sort of threats you dismiss so easily.

    You think our exchange risks being a dialogue of the deaf. I have to confess I have lost the will to spend time talking about important issues with people who want me to look somewhere else before they will agree with me on what is right in front of our eyes.

  27. Owen

    And Nikos, genocide at Srebrenica has been proved. Engage in legal argument in the learned professional journals if you want to overturn the ruling of the ICJ and dispute the almost unanimous acceptance of that ruling by the elected representatives of the population of the EU (apart from the far right). But if you want a little bit of intellectual ping-pong can I suggest that you take the discussion away to Serbianna or one of the other haunts of the deniers and apologists.

  28. Sarah Franco

    I fully support Owen’s opinion on this exchange, and I would like to thank you for giving is time to deconstruct Nikos comments.

  29. Nikos

    Congratulations, Owen, for your so interesting posting! You did a good job that is evidently out of the subject and very far away of the arguments, points, issues, matters, cases that I mentioned and quoted and which unfortunately for it they are still here, able to be seen and red.

    I’m sure that given Sarah’s support you will make a pretty good effort and you will be able next time to try to answer to them, to leave a real reply not in order to deconstruct anything as she dreams about (we are not enemies, I hope, not even oponents, I think) but in order to actually to participate into a dia-log (I will repeat it: dia-logos = intra/infra/inter speech, word) meaning in order to creatively communicate, to have the joy that you added something, that you multiplied or that you fertilised a series of thoughts, ideas and feelings. Even more to try to contribute into something new and innovative, renewed and renewing, positive and concrete, into an open hug that can be offered sooner or later in a form of a proposal, of a gift or a touchable suggestion to the young people of the Western Balkans in general, to the young democrats, reformists and europeanists of Serbia in specific.

    Do we have anything to propose to them? Can we take the volan, switch on the lights, and get the European vehicle (including its Balkan parts of course) out of this multi-dimensional storm into which it is being right now or not? If yes, we can have a self esteem and they can trust us too. Otherwise better to stay silent. It will be wiser from our part.

    Anyhow this is the single field into which we will all be examined and judged by the coming generations and nothing else. This is the kind of skills that are being practically tested and checked by History, by the European society and by our own domestic societies, by the demands and the needs of our peoples and of the peoples of the nighbouring countries as well and most of all by the future itself, this kind of skills and not the miserable repetition, rotation and recycling of the shells of emmenopause stereotypes and our national novels and legends.

    This is what we owe to the ones who passed by this planet, to the ones who are going to come to this planet, to those who will pass. The ones who were not born yet together with the ones who have passed away are going to estimate us first and then to judge…

    This is what your South Eastern European and Mediterranean friend Nikos had to tell you and is telling you.


    European citizen of Greek origin,,
    Proud member of the dialectic common sense lobby,
    Cadre of the Circle of the non lost poets,
    Young member of a family that took part (and had victims) into the Resistance against the German nazists and their collaborators Italian and Bulgarian fascists, into the Civil War against Greek stalinists, and into the Resistance against supported by Nixon (and not only by him) local dictatorship.

  30. Nikos

    I would have avoided the temptation of a PS this time but it happened to see again the so polite, democratic and cultivated expression of Sarah “deconstruct Nikos’ comments” that helped me to remember that according to the Portuguese TV viewers Salazar is the greatest Portuguese ever, to remember the Portugal’s paedophile shame two years ago, to remember the suffer of Portuguese Sephardi Jews caused by the then Portuguese authorities, to remember “Nacional Sindicalismo”, to remember the horror that Portugal has caused in Africa etc.

    Fortunately no (idiot or hypocrite) one in Europe, before or after the accession of Portugal in it, has ever thought about puting some ultimatum of the kind that is put at the postcript of the Agreement between EU and Serbia.

    For God’s sakes: Portuguese people especially Portuguese youth is not to be exterminated because of the above. Appart from the common logic that is used for us [Portugal, Italy (within the government of which there is the fascist former MSI, now called AN, and the barbarianly racist Lega di Nord as well as the ridiculousity named Berlusconi], Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania, etc etc – 27 etcs. in total] there was a really great Portuguese Revolution during the 70’s (I steel have the picture with the kid puting a flower onto a gun) that showed to everybody that Portugal is not just its fascists, that there have been democrats in Portugal – like Aristide de Sousa Mendes – who needed to be assisted to go ahead, not to be punished because of the above Portuguese Mladices…

    Enjoy yourself,
    N 🙂

  31. Sarah Franco

    Nikos, thank you for revealing yourself so clearly in this last comment.

    About Salazar having been elected ‘best portuguese’, yes, I am very much ashamed of that, it made me better understand how my serbian friends feel when they listen to their compatriots shouting ‘let’s slaughter the shiptars’ and displaying tshirts with Mladic face and the word ‘serbian’.

    This applies also for the rest, and above all the atrocities committed in Africa. As you are aware, a revolution was made in order to put an end to the war and colonialism. Portugal nowadays tries to assume a constructive behaviour in the international system, and in comparison to our GDP we devote a considerable amount to cooperation, mainly in the fields of health and education in the former colonies and other countries, because our political elite feels there is a debt to be paid.

    In order to correct the serious errors of the past, Portugal strongly supported the strive of the east-timorese for self-determination, it never put any obstacles to other countries joining the EU even though it was the EU member state who would lose most, it pays its contributions for the UN on time, it contributes to peacekeeping missions around the world, etc.

    I am also very critical of many things about my country, as people who follow me know.

    But I do recognize that as a political community we have been making an effort to face the wrongdoings of the past, both recent and distant.

    It would actually be good that Serbia looked at Portugal as a positive example of a country that has turned the page.

    so, as Owen said, I think that Serbianna is the right place for you to engage in stimulating debates.

  32. Owen

    Nikos, some of the young people of the Balkans for whom are so concerned are actually keen to resolve the issues you want them to be able to avoid. Mladic’s victims left families.

  33. svetlana

    Reading all the comments above, and of course the article for which all of them were supposed to be dedicated, I cannot restrain myself from dropping a few lines and expressing my deep sorrow for all the victims of all war atrocities. All the three sides have some good points in their comments but somehow I feel that there will never be any understanding for serbian victims. The comments for this article should talk about all the victims of all nationalities and to be equally treated by everyone and not just always to point to Serbs as the main war criminals. Mladic should be arrested, no doubt about it, but now I somehow suspect that it is not Serbia that does not want to arrest Mladic, in my opinion some bigger factors are involved, because for some people it would be better to leave Serbia in dark, islolated, marginalized… so they could do their business as usual there. And pseudo intellectuals and pseudo politicians keep on delluding people how just Mladic is in question.
    And as far as Srebrenica is concerned I repeat, I condemn that attrocity. God forbid to have again Jasenovac, where some 200 000 Serbs were killed together with the Jews and Gypsies by Ustashas (but nobody condemned that case in this discussion except for Nikos)
    And if these comments are made for exchanging the ideas and discussion, I do not understand the need of you Sarah, with really all do respect, to tell people who do not share your opinion fully to go away. As a hostess, and we here in Serbia are hospitable people and know what that is (whatever you may think about Serbs), you should pay more attention to all the people who want to participate and not just Owen, with whom you obviously have the same opinion. I am not criticizing but just as someone objective who read all these comments, I have to notice that there is a sense of unfairness towards the people who do not share exactly the same attitudes with you. Is that Europe? Is that democracy? Europe should be proud of all it’s diversities and let people be different. Not everybody have same thoughts, feelings, styles, attitudes.
    Sorry if I may have offended anyone for it was not my intention
    With best regards

  34. Sarah Franco

    Svetlana, as you are probably new in this blog, and your comments are welcomed.

    I would just like to clarify a few points:

    1. You will not find in this blog or anywhere else one word from me where you can detect any hostility of mine towards Serbs, except towards war criminals and genocide deniers. My feelings about Serbia are particularly clear in this post

    and in case you are curious about my specific interest in Serbia, here’s a post:

    2. the people who want to keep “”Serbia in dark, islolated, marginalized… so they could do their business as usual there. “” are basically the same people who led Serbia or supported four disastrous wars; the same people who sold NIS for a bargain price to Russia; the same people who torched the US embassy in Belgrade; who exploited the frustration of the youth in order to bring chaos to the city of Belgrade last February; the same people who keep obstructing the parliamentary sessions in Belgrade; the same people who hide Karadzic and then decided to hand him; the same people who fear European integration because it will require transparency, a war on corruption and nepotism, etc. Most probably some of those people get visas very easily and travel to the Schengen space whenever they want while normal people have to spend days in lines, spend fortunes and risk haveing their demand denied.

    3. Please don’t get me wrong, but I am aware of the huge amount of disinformation and propaganda in which the serbian public opinion has been systematically flooded. I have spoken to many people in Serbia, people whom I have deep feelings, and who I know are good, honest, decent persons. Yet, because of this disinformation, their system of values has been distorted in a way that they firmly believe that the Serbs are the main victims in the region. What is worse, those Serbs who tend to fight that state of mind, and acknowledge the importance of facing the past and overcoming the legacy of aggressive nationalism are systematically threatened, as I have witnessed myself.

    4. When you mention the Ustashas, I think it is clear that by dedicating a post to the Holocaust Memorial Day I was paying my tribute to all victims of Nazism and its allies and puppet regimes. I chose to do it in a positive way by telling the story of a man that put his safety and well-being in jeopardy to save lives, regardless of race, religion of nationality.

    5. Srebrenica was an atrocity, as you say, and it’s good to know that you condemn it. But it was not merely an atrocity. It is widely acknowleged that during the second world war the Serbs were victims of genocide. The war in the 1990s was not a continuation of the war in the 1940s. That is what nationalists want you to think, to deny their own agency. A genocide was committed against the Bosniaks and it has been proven repeatedly, so please don’t try to avoid the word. Any single innocent life that is taken away is a tragedy, but a genocide is actually the worse that Humanity can produce.

    6. I don’t mind to be called intolerant, because I am extremely intolerant to people who deny, relativise and downplay genocide. If that means that my audience gets reduced to like-minded people, I don’t see that as a problem. People of good will recognize my honesty and commitment.

    7. About European values, I agree with you that diversity is an asset, something that we should all cherish. Diversity of opinions enriches democracy, but only as long as it is not used as an excuse to distort freedom of speech in order to falsify the truth.

    8. About my reaction to Nikos, and Owen’s, he came here, put comments on a post that had no connection at all with the text in order to deliberately drive the debate to a certain field. Both Owen and I are already experienced enough to easily detect such technique. However, we gave him the credit of acting in good faith, a credit that the evolution of his comments proved to be undeserved.

  35. Sarah Franco

    Nikos, due to the tone of your last comment, I have decided to erase it. Other comments from the same IP or nikname will also be erased.

    This is due to the tone in which you address me and the insinuations you make about me. Ad hominem attacks are not allowed in this blog.

    This is not the first time that I ban someone from my comment boxes and it will certainly not be the last. Call me intolerant if you like. I couldn’t care less.

  36. Owen

    Svetlana, I must take my share of criticism for the way in which the discussion moved on from discussing Sarah’s initial post honouring Aristides da Souza Mendes by way of commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.

    The problem was that I saw in the way Nikos expanded his original comments yet another effort to take discussion of criminal atrocities into the area of subtle propaganda for the EU to allow Serbia to move on and in.

    As Sarah has said, our experience of exchanges with Serbians – hers considerably greater than mine – has been sufficient for us to have a reasonable idea now here an apparently open-ended discussion is heading. I observed to Nikos that the regrettable outcome of so many discussions with so many Serbians is that I have become much more focussed – closed-minded, with entrenched views, whatever – because I have wasted so much time beating around the bush as a result of taking the initial remarks at face value. Sad, but some of us have to use our time and energy carefully.

    That’s not to write off all Serbians, far from it. I know that Sarah like myself has Serbian friends and acquaintances whom we not only like but intensely admire. But when engaging in discussion with Serbs and Serbians on the internet – on blogs, at places like Wikipedia, etc. – I so often find myself aware of a pattern emerging that reveals a single overriding concern on the part of my interlocutor, the aim to persuade me that Serbia is being victimised and discriminated against and I and the world should treat Serbia with more consideration and tolerance.

    Of course I know about Jasenovac and the atrocities there. It is true that what happened at Jasenovac is not widely enough known and acknowledged outside Former Yugoslavia as a horror that stands alongside Srebrenica and the other atrocities in the wars of 1991-1995. But there are reasons why even those who are aware of Jasenovac are distracted from showing adequate respect for the memory of the victims.

    Most of us communicating on the internet were born after the Second World War. We tend to speak of what we know. I know that Srebrenica was the single worst atrocity on the continent where I live since WWII. Events in Former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s were profoundly shocking to myself and others who had grown up with the idea that even if the commitment to “Never Again” was unlikely to eradicate war and conflict the one thing we should not expect to see in our lifetimes was the spectre of ethnic extermination. Srebrenica was only the culmination of horrible events that unfolded before us in places like Eastern Slavonia, Prijedor, Central Bosnia and the Drina Valley (not ignoring atrocities perpetrated on a smaller scale but no less importantly in places like Gospic and during the exodus from the Krajina).

    For a long time when trying to discuss these atrocities and the reality of what had happened the inevitable response from Serbians, with the exception of an honourable and honoured minority, was that no massacre had taken place, that the scale of atrocities was vastly exaggerated, that Muslim and Croat atrocities were on a much greater scale than those blamed on Serbs, etc.

    Over time as more facts have been confirmed the arguments deployed have gradually changed. There is still denial, but absolute denial is much less in evidence and attempts to downgrade the scale of what happened are much less blatant. In the case of Srebrenica that’s perhaps thanks to the evidence of the Scorpions video, though Natasa Kandic remains a target of hatred for forcing it onto the public’s consciousness. And also perhaps an appreciation of the overwhelming public acceptance outside the Balkans of the facts relating to the wars of the Former Yugoslavia wars as established in legal proceedings which however imperfect have succeeded in bringing to light an extraordinary volume of evidence that is now seen as beyond question.

    So the argument has shifted but its central focus remains the same, the unfair treatment of Serbs and Serbia. Many Serbians now acknowledge that Srebrenica was a terrible atrocity (albeit little is said about events elsewhere – Omarska doesn’t seem to register much and Ovcara seems to remain difficult to accept). But that’s about as far as it goes. After a brief acknowledgment of Srebrenica the discussion moves rapidly on to Serbia’s problems and suffering. There’s no real outrage, no condemnation of the fact that the principal perpetrators have succeeded in avoiding justice for so long. I never hear concern expressed for the families of the victims. Above all I hear about the suffering of Serbians denied the right to be part of a prosperous, contented Europe (and occasionally complaints about the situation of Serb refugees in Serbia – a legitimate concern but usually expressed in a context of assigning uncritical blame). Serbians appear to be outraged by the notion of conditionality. The country that has protected and paid pensions to the indicted war criminals considers it has moved on.

    The agenda is always to make the outside world aware of its mistreatment of Serbs and Serbia. And that is the problem. So much obvious intelligence and wide-ranging knowledge is relentlessly applied to the task of persuading the persion at the receiving end that Serbia must be allowed to cast off the burden of any outstanding responsibility for the recent past.

    Jasenovac has become part of the scheme of justification, as an instrumental reference. And that’s why people who are aware of what happened there may appear to pay less attention to Jasenovac than the scale of what happened there demands.

    The motives behind the work of the hopefully now defunct Jasenovac Research Institute were made clear by the activities of its officers elsewhere. That was perhaps one of the most transparently cynical attempts to exploit the reality of the suffering of the victims of Jasenovac and their survivors by using an association with other Holocaust victims to cloak apologist propagandising in a false respectability.

    I often sense the presence of a similar, if less intense, cynicism in the references to Jasenovac that I’m offered as a sort of balance to comments about Srebrenica and other atrocities. To be frank though possibly unfair, it is difficult to detect the pain experienced by other victims in many of these references. Where there is a sense of genuine anger it often seems to spring from a resentment at being treated unfairly. But at least that anger is genuine. What I find most disturbing is when the references are almost incidental and appear intended simply to confirm a communality of victimhood rather than remind me of the terrible suffering of the individuals killed and otherwise abused by the Nazis and their Ustashe and Chetnik associates.

    Svetlana, I don’t quarrel with your reference to Serbians as hospitable people. My problem is that Serbian hospitability seems to be conditional on the conduct of your guests. We’ll get along fine as long as I don’t disagree with you. I’m not going to be mealy-mouthed and pretend that I’m not criticising because that’s precisely what I have been doing up to this point.

    As far as you personally are concerned I know almost nothing about you and your personal motives so the above is not directed at you. Nevertheless I think I’m still entitled to challenge your lack of insight in accusing Sarah of unfairness towards people who don’t share her attitudes. I very much hope that the profound respect for truth and justice she observes is, as you put it, what Europe is, and what democracy is.

    You’re right, Europe should be proud of all its diversity and let people be different, their difference informed by that fundamental respect for one another.

  37. Pingback: Denial and the rhetorics of Serbian victimization. « CAFÉ TURCO

  38. Hi Sarah
    I won’t add to the debate in the comments above. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for this wonderful post and video clip, and for making me aware of a great Portuguese hero – your post made me want to find out more about him and about the extent to which Portugal was a refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution (I remember reading something about this in a Paul Auster novel, though it seems to contradict what we know about the Salazar years).
    Keep up the good work.

  39. Sarah Franco

    Thank you Martin! I’ll post more about the relationship of Portugal with the Jews as soon as I have some time.

  40. Sousa Mendes is a great example of tolerance and the power of the conscience of one person.

    See the blog of Friends of Sousa Mendes

  41. Sarah Franco

    Obrigada, Micas.

  42. Owen

    A rather sad but informative article about the impact of the denial of justice and knowledge, in this instance on the family of Raoul Wallenberg: