Comparing genocides: ‘numbers games’ and ‘holocausts’ at Jasenovac and Bleiburg

David Bruce Macdonald

in Balkan Holocausts?

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780719064661
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700198 | DOI:
Comparing genocides: ‘numbers games’ and ‘holocausts’ at Jasenovac and Bleiburg

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This chapter reviews two of the most important persecution myths emerging from World War II. Revising the history of the Ustasa-run death camp at Jasenovac was a useful means of casting Serbs as the victims of a ‘Holocaust’ by Croats. On the Croatian side, the massacre at Bleiburg (Austria) by Communist forces (or Serb-led Communists, as the case might be) in 1945 was also likened to the Holocaust. In both cases, the other side was accused of committing genocide, using either the mask of Nazi or Communist domination to justify their atrocities. Of central importance was a ‘game of numbers’, or Ronnie Landau's ‘grotesque competition in suffering’. Serbs and Croats used the Jews as the litmus test for historical suffering, while also trading genocide stories with each other. By inflating their own numbers of dead, and reducing the numbers of enemy dead, they conducted their own comparative genocide debate within Yugoslavia. Both Jasenovac and Bleiburg became emblematic of national suffering and Fall during World War II.

Keywords: World War II; Serbs; Croats; Holocaust; genocide; Yugoslavia; persecution myths; Jasenovac; Bleiburg; suffering

Chapter.  10764 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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