June 30 - July 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 115

NEWS for Friday-Saturday-Sunday, June 30 - July 2, 2000


    Serb and Jewish survivors of the Nazi puppet regime during World War II in Croatia have filed a class action lawsuit and asked the United Nations to investigate claims the Vatican collaborated with the regime.

    The letter to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan asked him to investigate the Vatican and the Franciscan order, and persuade the Vatican to open wartime archives, or face "appropriate action" to encourage them to do so. The Vatican maintains that its archives must remain secret because they contain details of sacramental matters. The Vatican is also a permanent observer at the UN, while Franciscans International is a recognized non-governmental organization at the UN.

    The group of victims and relatives of victims who are bringing the lawsuit against the Vatican Bank, the Franciscans, and the Croatian Liberation Movement, which they said was understood to be the "direct successors to the Ustashe" - the wartime fascist organization which ruled Croatia -- in a San Francisco district court. The suit alleges that gold and other assets worth about $170 million today, not including interest, were looted by the Ustashe and safeguarded by the Vatican after World War II.

    In their letter to Annan, the victims charge that some members of the Franciscan order collaborated with the Ustashe, were actively involved in atrocities, and knowingly helped wanted Ustashe war criminals, including its notorious leader Ante Pavelic, to escape justice after the war. They say the Vatican organized and financed the "rat line" which enabled leading Nazis and Ustashe members to escape to Latin America. The escape route was allegedly partly funded by assets stolen from concentration camp and other victims, looted by the Ustashe, and removed to the Vatican. The Vatican has consistently denied all the allegations.

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