By Felix Quigley
Carl Savich who is associated with www.serbianna.com has written a review of a book about Yugoslavia, which is of immense importance to the person trying to get a more comprehensive understanding of the many strands, which went to make up the total destruction of the state which was known for a hundred years plus as Yugoslavia. The book in question is written by a German, married to a Croatian, going by the name of Kurt Kepruner. I will intersperse with a few comments of my own which I will place in italic. The rest is Carl Savich and Kurt Kapruner. I have found it fascinating because it joins so many strands together. Let Carl Savich take it up:
start review by Carl Savich here
Kurt Kepruner is a mechanical engineer by training who was born in Austria and who now lives in Regensburg, Germany. He spent 10 years in Yugoslavia. His wife Jadranka is from Croatia. He witnessed the key events in Yugoslavia as the republics descended into civil war and secession from 1990 to 2000. Kepruner was present at the outbreak of hostilities in Zadar in Croatia as he traveled with his wife. Later he traveled to Bosnia and Kosovo.
Kepruner was struck by the anti-Serbian slant of German and Austrian media reporting. He noticed that Western media coverage was based on a black and white stereotypical or propaganda view of the conflict. From the beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbs and Serbia were demonized and satanized in racist terms. This anti-Serbian and anti-Semitic racism had not been seen in Europe since World War II.
As an eyewitness to the conflict, Kepruner was able to compare his own personal experiences of the conflict to what the Western media was reporting. He found that there was a blatant, one-sided propaganda war by the Western governments and the Western media. The Serbian Orthodox population and Serbia were blamed and held responsible for everything that happened in Yugoslavia during the breakup of the country.
Kepruner decided to publish his own personal observations and recollections of the breakup of Yugoslavia in 2001. The book is entitled Travels in a Land of War: Experiences of a Stranger in Yugoslavia. The book appeared originally in German and has since been translated into Japanese and Serbian, but remains unavailable in English.
Kepruner sought to explain why Western media reporting was unfair, biased, deceptive, and belligerent. He was perplexed because he found that the media perception or image of the Yugoslav conflict was totally opposite of what he knew to be the reality. The epigraph of the book is a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche from The Gay Science (1882): “What are man’s truths ultimately? Merely his irrefutable errors.” And in war, as Kepruner found out, this is always true.
Yugoslavia began unraveling and falling apart in 1990. Kepruner was there to witness it. Driving with his wife in Croatia, Kepruner noticed that road blocks had been set. He saw graffiti on Serbian houses in Zadar: “Srbima smrt” (“Death to Serbs”). He also remembers seeing this written on a Serbian house: “Tudjman = Bog” (“Tudjman is God”), referring to Croatian ultra-nationalist President Franjo Tudjman, a former Communist general who morphed into a neo-Ustasha, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi right-wing ultra-nationalist. Tudjman had exploited Croatian nationalism by reviving the Nazi and Ustasha ideology from World War II that envisioned a Croatia that was ethnically cleansed of Serbs. He promised to finish the job that Adolf Hitler and Ante Pavelic began by getting rid of the Krajina Serbs.
Kepruner saw evidence of this revival of Nazism and the Ustasha ideology in graffiti on Serbian houses in Zadar. He noticed that a large “U” and the letters “NDH” had been written on Serbian houses. “U” stood for “Ustasha” while “NDH” stood for Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska, Independent State of Croatia, the Nazi proxy state that Adolf Hitler created in the Balkans. Kepruner explained that these symbols “here have the same symbolism as the swastika has with us.” The effect would be similar to someone painting a Nazi swastika on the home of a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in Israel or someone burning a cross and painting the letters “KKK” on the house of an African-American in the South. This was blatant neo-Nazi, neo-fascist racism, a revival of Nazism and Adolf Hitler’s and Ante Pavelic’s legacy in the Balkans. This was explosive and dramatic. But he noticed that none of this was being reported in the US or Western media.
He described how he saw houses being systematically blown up around Zadar, “blown in the air”, “kucu dignutu u vazduh”. He witnessed one particular incident himself. The house belonged to a Croatian woman who had been married to a Serb. They had been teachers. Her husband had died several years earlier. A Croatian dressed in black told him how the houses were being destroyed, that you pump the basement of the house with gasoline, and, “boom, it is finished”. He described seeing many destroyed Serbian houses in Zadar. The Serbs had fled, having been ethnically cleansed out of their homes. Ironically, the destroyed Serbian houses were depicted to tourists as examples of “Serbian terror”.
He noticed a fanatical anti-Serbian and anti-Semitic racism and ethnic hatred spurred on by the Croatian government and media. The German magazine Der Spiegel had noted in 1990 how Tudjman’s HDZ party sought to create a Greater Croatia that would also include large parts of neighboring Bosnia-Hercegovina. Croats spoke of “pure blood” and a “pure race”, “ciste rase”, and “pure Croatian blood”, “cisto krvni Hrvat”. Kepruner described this as a “renaissance” of Ustasha racism. Before the emergence of Tudjman’s anti-Serbian, anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist racism, the people of Yugoslavia had seen themselves as a single, united people. It did not matter whether one was a Croat, a Serb, or a Muslim. He was told that: “This was just never the question.” But this all changed in 1990.
start of my comment FQ
To interpose with my opinion on this vital matter. It is now fairly well known that the speech which Milosevic made in 1988 in Kosovo was a speech in favour of multiculturalism and that this speech has been rewritten by the Media in the most blatant manner. The Irish newspaper of record, The Irish Times, actually placed words uttered by Milosevic in quotation marks. For journalists this has great moment. But Milosevic, as Francisco Gil- White pointed out, did not say those words. They were lies and a forgery really. The Irish Times has never answered my e-mail to its editor on this lie. On this site we are not saying the Serbs are wonderful, etc. We are not partisan in that way at all. What we are saying is that there were historical reasons for the Serbs to be multiculturalists in a certain sense, and that was because they were geographically scattered. They had a large minority in Croatia, also in Bosnia, also in Kosovo and these minorities in each situation were vulnerable to Fascist (in the ethnic sense) forces. A little like the Protestants in Southern Ireland post 1921 Independence. These factors also tended to make the Serbs in the Second World War the best defenders of the Jews and the best fighters against the Nazis. All of that is fact and all of that has had to be distorted as this fascinating review by Savich, with the help of Kepruner, is going to show even more clearly, as we get further into this article
end of comment FQ
He witnessed how the Croatian government and media were seeking to provoke a conflict. He heard how Croatian soldiers revived Ustasha sayings: “They wanted to see Serbian blood.” The Croat red and white checkerboard symbol was reintroduced in a provocative and flagrant way. While this was an ancient Croatian symbol which the Josip Broz Tito regime retained, the Tudjman regime magnified its symbolic significance by increasing its prominence in the way the Ustasha NDH regime had done. There was an Ustasha renaissance that entailed a purge of everything that was non-Croat.
The Tudjman regime began with a purge of all non-Croats in state offices. Serbian journalists in the media were fired. Serb teachers were fired. The Croatian media organized a campaign against Serbs and everything Serbian, Yugoslavia, and the JNA. Croatian superiority and racism were promoted. Kepruner was told: “Serbs are inferior to Croats, they have smaller skulls and smaller brains.” Croatia is for Croats only, while Serbs are deemed a minority. Armed Croat interior ministry troops were encouraged to attack Serbs. The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was outlawed. Serbs were evicted from government housing. Streets were renamed after Nazi/Ustasha leaders such as Mile Budak, a racist ideologue of the NDH regime. The Croat police and military forces began wearing the “U” symbol which had the same symbolism as a Nazi swastika. The police tolerated private acts of ethnic cleansing and terror against “Croatian Serbs” which Kepruner described as a “Dalmatian Kristallnacht”.
Serbs in Croatia wanted autonomy like Kosovo Albanians had received from Serbia. The Krajina Serbs only wanted what the Kosovo Albanian minority had. Tudjman, however, categorically rejected any Kosovo-style autonomy in September, 1990. None of this was revealed in the Western media. At the minimum, a Kosovo-style autonomy for Krajina could have been granted before recognition which would have prevented a civil war. The war that erupted in Croatia was foreseeable and could easily have been prevented. It was based on lies and deception.
In Bosnia, Kepruner found the same reckless determination to foment war by lies and deceptions. Alija Izetbegovic never concealed the fact that he was a Muslim ultra-nationalist who modeled his regime on the Ayatollah Khomeini regime in Iran. Izetbegovic proclaimed a policy of “mono-culturalism” in his book The Islamic Declaration (1970; republished, 1990).
Kepruner noticed that in US and Western propaganda, Izetbegovic was portrayed as a “multi-culturalist”, a secular, Muslim leader who followed Kemal Ataturk. This was the Big Lie of US propaganda. On March 17, 1992, the three factions in Bosnia had agreed to the Lisbon Plan which prevented any war and resulted in a peaceful resolution of the Bosnia secession. The US, however, was not content with peace and advised the Bosnian Muslim faction to reject the plan. What followed was a four-way civil war between Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, Bosnian Muslims under Fikret Abdic, and Bosnian Muslims under Alija Izetbegovic.
Ruder Finn, a US PR firm based in Washington, DC, manufactured Holocaust propaganda in tandem with the US and Western media. James Harff of Ruder-Finn admitted the propaganda strategy was to associate the Holocaust and “genocide” propaganda to the Bosnian conflict to help the Bosnian Muslim faction. One absurd example of this Western propaganda was the accusation of the Bosnian Muslim faction against the Canadian UN commander in Bosnia, Lewis MacKenzie, who was accused of having raped a Bosnian Muslim girl in a Serbian rape camp. MacKenzie was unpopular because he was neutral and objective in the conflict. Kepruner recounted the propaganda of the Bosnian conflict beginning with the Breadline Massacre, the Markale I, and Markale II Massacres. The Bosnian conflict consisted of atrocity propaganda. The most absurd propaganda hoax was the alleged evidence of Bosnian Serb Nazi concentration camps, which was manufactured by ITN.
start comment here FQ
This is the great importance in my opinion of the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora studying Yugoslavia. I think Carl Savich in his deep study and understanding of the Yugoslav issue has hit the nail on the head here. Remember the long, long period of propaganda against the Jews in Germany by the Nazis, going on for maybe as much as two decades of intensifying hate in order to prepare for the final Holocaust. In Yugoslavia there was another twist of the Nazi knife through this method of “atrocity” propagandizing lies.
Think about it. We have the film of an Arab Palestinian man “dead” being carried along in a coffin, being photographed, falling off the coffin three times until finally the farce is ended and he (the dead man) scampers off over the field. Comical but in the field of Nazi propaganda deadly serious.
So along then with this book by Kepruner we must also be led into the whole story of Mohammed el Dura and France 2 where a whole politically based theatre was being enacted as Arab stringers for the main Western Press, for papers like The Times etc did their work, which entailed Arab youth running across a space of ground, suddenly they leap in the air, bodies contort in agony, sprawl on the ground “lifeless”, but the photos and reels being taken, they get up and make their way to the starting point again.
Then with that the use of ambulances. The use of bodies sometimes fake, sometimes of terrorists killed in battle. We have learned that the Arabs are carrying on this as black and brutal theatre against the Jews.
There is a long list. As noted there is the Muhammed el Dura case, Qana 1 and 2, the Gaza Beach Bomb, and many more, but preceding all of those the Dir Yassin “Massacre”, although in that latter the right wing and traitorous Labourist leadership of Israel was also involved (in order to discredit the Revisionist patriots) And this long list joins up seamlessly with the Markale bombs, with Racak, with Srebrenica and with the Krajina.
But the issue is so endemic in the system that we can go on and note the propaganda against Russia and China, note the lies of the British Secret Service in the Litvinenko affair, and the recent spate of lies surrounding the anti-Communist Dalai Lama.
end of comment FQ
Kepruner saw that the Bosnia propaganda analogy was being transferred and transposed to the Kosovo conflict. Kepruner found that the long-standing ideology of a Greater Albania was covered-up in the Western media. He noticed that the creation of a Greater Albania that included Kosovo by Adolf Hitler during World War II was covered-up in the West. The Kosovo Albanian policy of ethnically cleansing Kosovo Serbs was also suppressed and covered-up. Kepruner found that this separatist and secessionist conflict to create a racist Greater Albania was covered-up completely in the Western media.
The Albanian goal to create a Greater Albania began on July 2, 1990, when the “Republic of Kosovo” was proclaimed. Like the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs, the Albanians wanted self-rule and autonomy. But the US and Western governments and media had a double standard regarding these conflicts. Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb attempts to achieve “independence” were rejected by the Western governments and their media, while Albanian “independence” was supported. This hypocrisy and double-standard was best exemplified by the flip-flop on the separatist conflict in Kosovo-Metohija. On February 23, 1998, Robert Gelbard of the US State Department had declared that the KLA was a “terrorist” organization. But seemingly overnight, the KLA “terrorists” morphed into mujahedeen-style “freedom fighters”. How did “terrorists” become “freedom fighters”?
Kepruner saw the objective of US and Western policy towards Yugoslavia was to destroy or defeat Serbia, which was perceived as the sole obstacle to the NATO expansion into the Balkans. This was the real objective of Western policy in the Balkans throughout the 1990s. The US wanted total control and hegemony in the Balkans. And Serbia was the only hindrance to that goal. Kepruner pointed to a statement that Klaus Kinkel, German foreign minister, made in 1992: “Our policy is to bring Serbia to its knees.” To achieve this objective in Kosovo, the US and Germany created the KLA, a proxy terrorist army.
The aftermath of the 1999 US- and German-led NATO bombing and occupation of Serbia proved these assumptions. After the NATO occupation of Kosovo in the summer of 1999, 180,000 Kosovo Serbs, Roma, and Jews were registered as refugees in Belgrade by the UN. US and NATO propaganda claimed that 100,000 Kosovo Albanians were killed in a “genocide”. But these were all lies and falsifications. NATO killed more Serbian and Albanian civilians as “collateral damage” than occurred during the “genocide”. In all, 2,000 died on all sides, which included Serbs, Albanians, and Roma. Many of the deaths were related to military combat. Absurdly, the cure was worse than the disease. Kepruner noted that the NATO occupation had made the humanitarian situation worse in Kosovo. Over 200,000 Kosovo Serbs, Roma, and Jews were driven out. Over 150 Serbian Orthodox Churches had been destroyed by Albanian extremists. The remaining Kosovo Serbs lived in Nazi-like ghettos in Kosovo. All the Kosovo Jews fled to Belgrade. There were now no more Jews in Kosovo. The Roma population of Kosovo was also destroyed after the NATO occupation. What NATO achieved was a racially and ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo. NATO achieved what Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler could not.
Kepruner found that all this was covered-up and suppressed in the so-called Western media. None of this was reported in Germany, Austria, the US, UK, or any other Western media. There was a massive propaganda war against the Serbian population and against Serbia. What Kepruner found was that this unprecedented propaganda war, not seen in Europe since Joseph Goebbels and the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, was orchestrated and masterminded not in Zagreb, Tirana, Sarajevo, or Belgrade, but in Bonn, London, Paris, Rome, and Washington, DC. This Nazi-like demonization and racist satanization of all Serbs was the work of the NATO countries. It had its nexus in Washington, DC.
There was a systematic, organized, and planned disinformation and propaganda campaign organized by the Western countries. This was a time when Communism was collapsing in Europe and the New World Order was emerging. But was this an example of the free and independent media of the “free world”? It was ironic that the Western media techniques were almost identical to the Nazi Gleichschaltung and agitprop techniques of the USSR, totalitarian techniques to win “the hearts and minds” of the masses. Why was the “free world” using totalitarian propaganda and brainwashing and persuasion techniques? This is what Kepruner wanted to know. This is something we all want to know.
The book has received favorable reviews but has been ignored in the US and the West. David Binder, a journalist for The New York Times, had this to say about the book from Washington, DC, on August 25, 2002:
Kurt Koepruner’s Travels reads like a deep, fascinating and lengthy conversation in a Balkan cafe with a pleasant stranger who has taken great pains to find out what he can about his surroundings. His eyes and ears are wide open and so are his mind and heart. This makes him a wonderful guide through valleys of truths and mountains of lies on a tortuous journey through the four Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Fittingly he has dedicated his work “standing in for all the victims of the Balkan wars” to four women, a Croat, a Bosnian, an Albanian and a Serb, who helped him understand the many facets of the Yugoslav tragedy.
Kepruner is not a tenured professor or journalist or politician. Thus, he has no stake in the conflict. He does not have to delude himself with rationalizations and ex post facto justifications. He can tell it like he sees it. And he does that. He doesn’t have axes to grind or agendas to advance. He is not pushing or selling the New World Order. Indeed, he is not selling anything. He does not have a pet Balkans people that he makes his own. He is not espousing a Greater Albania, a Greater Croatia, or a Greater Bosnia. He is not engaged in the policy of divide and conquer. He knows the former Yugoslavia was made of many different peoples and many different cultures and religions and languages. He implicitly knows that there are no “evil” or “good” people in the former Yugoslavia. Each group has its own interests that it wants to protect. He sees through all the hyperbole and platitudes. In short, his account is balanced, sane, and unbiased. Naturally, it is unpopular and is dismissed in the US and the West. It has been translated into Serbian and Japanese from the original German but remains un-translated into English.
This book points to a way out of the madness and hell of the Balkans conflicts. Common human decency is what is needed. Common human decency leads to sanity and is what unites us all. This is how to get out of the moral morass of the Balkans. Throw away that mindless claptrap and intellectualized drivel written by Balkans “experts” and “professors” and “think tanks” and non-governmental organizations. This is the only book you will need. Travels in the Land of War by Kurt Kepruner is the best book on the Balkans. This is the only book you need to understand the Balkan conflicts.
This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the breakup of Yugoslavia, and not merely read propaganda or the endless “scholarly” books by Balkans “experts”. It is essential for those who want to understand war and what it does to human beings. It also shows us the way out of the madness of racial, ethnic, religious hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and ultra-nationalism. We all have a common decency as human beings that unites us all. It is also an anti-war book because it shows how governments and the media manipulate people into racial hatred and bigotry. It shows how all wars start. It is not by accident that it is not available in English.
There is an enduring lesson we can take away from Travels. All wars are based in lies and rely on dehumanization, a self-induced delusional state. All wars begin with lies we tell ourselves. The first thing we kill in all wars is our own humanity, our common sense of decency. Aeschylus had it right 2,500 years ago. And Kurt Kepruner got it right in 2001. But we never learn anything from history. With every new war, we engage in the same ritualistic self-delusion and self-deception.
Travels in a Land of War is the best account of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is a must-read and is highly recommended. This is the first book on the Balkans that I did not have to hold my nose in reading. This is a book that everyone should read.
start final comment here FQ
The article above by Carl Savich is in an article titled “First Casualty of War” which I saw on the site www.serbianna.com, a really important site for those of us who are following the continually changing events in the Balkans, a site that everybody should look into all the time.
It is really alarming that this book has not been translated and published in English. But that is not surprising. There is a cabal of journalists which represents the very rottenness of British capitalism in decline, centred around Hary’s Place, around Kamm and Hoare, and extending into the Guardian and Independent in particular who have used every trick in the book to stop the truth about Yugoslavia being told. Jewish people of Israel will note that it is this Media which is also so hostile to Israel and so supportive of the Nazi Palestinian cause.
end comment here FQ