UPDATED OCTOBER 2007
What is this lawsuit all about?
In 1998 the US State Department issued a report implicating the Vatican in the 1945 disappearance of the Treasury of the Nazi Puppet State of Croatia. The purpose of this lawsuit is to obtain legal accounting of the missing funds from the Vatican Bank and Franciscan Order, recover assets and distribute them to survivors and their descendants.
How much money is involved?
Nobody knows for sure except perhaps the defendants but estimates have run from several hundred million dollars to sums as high as two billion dollars in year 2008 dollars.
Who are the defendants?
Currently the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan Order are named as defendants. Some members of the Franciscan Order of Monks in wartime Croatia were militant Catholics and led pogroms against Orthodox Christian Serbs, Roma and Jews. Franciscans in Rome helped smuggle the Ustasha Tresury and assisted Ustasha war criminals in escaping justice. The Vatican Bank is alleged to have laundered a portion of the Ustasha Treasury.
What are the Ustasha?
The Ustasha were the Croatian Nazis who ran the puppet state of Croatia between 1941 and 1945. After 1945 they fled Croatia with the help of Croatian Franciscan priests and others via the infamous ratlines. The Ustasha continued activities against Yugoslavia from bases in Spain, Argentina, Canada and the United States.
What are the Crimes of the Ustasha?
The crimes of the Ustasha are too numerous to list here but they massacred over 700,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, Anti Fascist Partisans, and others between 1941 and 1945. The Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic was given refuge by the Vatican, fascist Spain, and Peronist Argentine. The Ustasha Minister of the Interior, Artukovic, lived openly in California from 1949-1986 when he was finally deported to Yugoslavia and convicted of murder. Thousands of Ustasha escaped justice for their crimes due to their wealth and influence and the backing of the Roman Catholic Church and who along with certain rogue elements in the US and UK governments portrayed these war criminals as anticommunist freedom fighters.
What is the Position of the Vatican?
The Vatican Bank has claimed ignorance of any participation in Ustasha crimes or the disappearance of the Croatian Treasury. The Vatican has refused to open its wartime records despite requests from the US government, Jewish and Roma organizations.
Why was this lawsuit filed in 1999?
Successes by Holocaust survivors against Austrian, French, and Swiss banks and German and Austrian corporations to name a few provided renewed hope that justice will finally prevail against the Ustasha and their allies.
Survivors have suffered for years while the killers of their families have enjoyed the wealth stolen from Holocaust victims. The US government finally broke the silence about this little known chapter of the Holocaust in 1998.
Who are the plaintiffs?
The plaintiffs consist of individual victims and their families from the United States, Serbia and Ukraine and organizations representing victims from Serbia, the former Soviet Union and the United States.
As of March 2008 the lawsuit was still pending in federal court in San Francisco. The position of the defendants unfortunately remains unchanged as original survivors of the Croatian Holocaust have died without justice.