RUDOLF KISZLING, Die Kroaten, Der Schicksalsweg eines Südslawenvolkes. Graz and Köln: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., 1956. VIII + 266 pp. illus.
The author justifies the publication of his work with two reasons: as an Austrian he is extremely interested in the nation which suffered a terrible tragedy on the Austrian soil at Bleiburg at the end of the World War II; he is grateful to the friendly nation who shared bad and good with the Habsburg dynasty and fought successfully for 350 years against the Turks. These ideas show in advance the scope of the work. The author stresses political relations between the Croats and the Habsburg dynasty and treats the Croats as a nation of the Western civilization and culture. Also he is leaning toward a possible solution of the Croatian problem in a Danubian Federation.
The Croatian history is discussed particularly from the political point of view with a strong emphasis on military and war problems. The study of cultural and social developments serves the author only for a better understanding of military and political questions. Of course, there is a great deal of material for military studies concerning the region inhabited by the Croats. On the one hand the Croatian territory had been a military crossroad throughout centuries; on the other hand the Croats had shown very high military capabilities. The author used the documents from the Vienna War Archives and many other published works.
Discussing the medieval Croatian history, the author produces many correct facts and information, but there are also some theories which have been changed or completely abandoned by modern historians. Probably the author had no opportunity to study closely the medieval Croatian history. He, therefore, accepted the results of the known Croatian historians, as for instance iić, Pilar (Südland), and Hauptmann. The author deals mostly with the north-western part of Croatia which was never occupied by the Turks. He does not encompass the whole Croatian ethnical territory. He mentions Istria only occasionally. His information concerning Syrmium is not always creditable.
Regarding Bosnia, he oscillates between the Croatian and the Serbian theses. Therefore, the political and historical questions on the one side and the ethnical elements on the other side are not treated equally.
Concerning Croatian relations to Hungary and to the Habsburg dynasty, the author shows more sympathy to the latter. He speaks more of the Military Frontier organized by the Habsburgs than of the civil Croatia under the bans. Furthermore, he emphasizes more the Croato- Hungarian conflicts than the many centralization and Germanization attempts of the Viennese court. Therefore, the reader is not able to understand the oscillation of the Croats between Vienna and Budapest.
Notwithstanding some false information, the political development of the Croats in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is correctly explained taking into account different tendencies: towards Austria, Hungary, and Serbia. The author also deals with Croatian inclination toward Belgrade which made the creation of the first Yugoslavia possible. In the discussion of World War I, the interest for the military problems predominates. At this occasion the author praises the Croatian high military commanders in the Austro-Hungarian army. The period from 1918 to 1941 is very well discussed so that the reader will be able to understand the Serbo-Croatian conflict and the creation of the Independent State of Croatia.
The most interesting and also the largest chapter is that which deals with the Independent State of Croatia, 1941-1945. The modern period of the Croatian history, particularly the period of World War II is almost unknown outside Croatia. Neither during World War II nor after it, has the world opinion shown enough interest in the Croatian question. A few books published about the Croatian problem have been inspired by political propaganda, and for this reason they are not credible. Therefore, Kiszling's work is very important for the study of Croatian history during World War II. It is the first book discussing the entire historical development of the Croats until 1945. Even in Croatia there is no such a work. We do not have enough words to stress the importance of Kiszling's book from this point of view. It is a pioneer work. The author knows very well the problems and treats them objectively. He uses many monographies published recently and also the manuscript of General Glaise-Horstenau, who was the German military representative in Zagreb 1941-1944.
The reader follows a whirl of political and war events: the political background of the creation of the Independent State of Croatia; the former German sympathy for Yugoslavia; no German interest in Croatia, and later on German interest in her because of the military necessities; Italian pressure and yielding of the Croatian political leadership; military operations and methods of Ustaas, Partisans, and Četniks; political intrigues and war devastations; incapability of the Croatian political leadership; the series of reasons which caused the catastrophe at Bleiburg; occupation of Yugoslavia by the Communists and innumerable losses of lives.
Kiszling is well instructed and sure in dealing with political and military problems. However, he does not make a clear distinction between the original aspirations of the Croatian people and wrong ways and methods applied by the Ustaa government. Nevertheless, the author gave a good opinion concerning the Croatian aspirations to establish their own sovereign state.
It is true that the author sympathizes with the Croats, but his sympathy does not influence his objectivity in dealing with the complicated Croatian problems. He explains and shows all the positive capabilities and the negative inclinations of Croatian people. In conclusion, the author expresses his hope that the Croats will surpass and master all the difficulties due to their high qualities such as courage, fidelity, and a strong will for survival.
The style of the book is concise, without unnecessary disgressions. The work is very informative, with many data and historical details. It is illustrated with some excellent portraits and maps.
We recommend this outstanding work to those who can read German.