Holocaust remembrance speaker details Croatian Holocaust events

BY RAEGAN NEUFELD

A group of Fort Hays faculty members, students, and employees from the Hays Public Library are committing to remembering the Holocaust annually, with events taking place throughout the month of April. A more detailed article about past and upcoming events can be found here

The most recent event was the presentation from Lovro Kralj, speaking over ZOOM, which detailed the events of the Holocaust, specifically in Croatia. 

“One of the goals of the committee is [to have] diverse education on the Holocaust,” Assistant Professor of History Amber Nickell said. “We had one talk that was about gender in the Holocaust and gendered experiences, and the talk today was about Croatia. These tend to be aspects that people are less familiar with.” 

Nickell also mentioned that the committee already has one of the speakers for next year planned, who will talk about their experiences as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.

Kralj is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Central European University, studying fascism, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust studies. His presentation was titled ‘In Eichmann’s Shadow: A Story of a non-German Holocaust Deportation Expert.’

Brian Gribben, a coordinator at Forsyth Library, introduced Kralj and his presentation.

“Many of us may be familiar with the extent to which collaboration among inhabitants and governments of allies to Nazi Germany played a role in facilitating the mass murder of European Jews,” he said. “Today, Lovro will share the story of a Croatian Holocaust perpetrator, which does illuminate the nature of genocide in Croatia.”

According to Gribben’s introduction, this perpetrator was responsible for the deportation of over 70,000 people.

In Kralj’s own words, “perpetrators are not born, but made.” 

“In this presentation today, I will examine the making of one unfamiliar Holocaust perpetrator, who is frequently remembered by his victims as simply ‘infamous Tolj’,” he told his audience.

Kralj went on to explain how Tolj worked for the fascist Ustasha movement in the Independent State of Croatia, which wanted an “ethnically homogenous state.” To achieve this, the ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Jews, and Roma took place. People from these ethnic groups were deported to concentration camps either in Croatia or outside of the country. 

Tolj’s most significant impact on the Holocaust in Croatia happened in Sarajevo. He was put there to “destroy all non-Croatian evidence.”

“On the same day that Tolj assumed his duties in Sarajevo, round-ups of Jews started,” Kralj said. “On the evening of October 20th, 1941, police rounded-up Jewish men above the ages of 16 in various parts of the city, removing them from their apartments, loading them onto trucks, and bringing them to the local army barracks. Further arrests and deportations followed almost on a daily basis.”

According to Kralj, Tolj’s eagerness to deport more people led to the opening of more camps, in some cases specifically designed for women and children. His eagerness also led to the mass murder of prisoners taking place more quickly.

Kralj’s presentation served as a reminder that all levels of power can be dangerous.

“Even though [Tolj] occupied the position of a mid-ranked perpetrator, he fused the position of a desk murderer and a direct killer. From his office desk in Sarajevo, he micromanaged the deportations, often personally deciding who should be deported to concentration camps, and who should be kept in detention.”

In total, 75 percent of Jews living in the Independent State of Croatia were killed, amounting to roughly 30,000 people. Around 76 percent of those who died were killed in concentration camps run by the Ustasha.

More information on the Croatian Holocaust can be found on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website

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