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Vladimir Žerjavić (August 2, 1912 – September 5, 2001) was a Croatian economist and a United Nations expert. He published a series of historical articles and books during the 1980s and 1990s in which he argued that the scope of the Holocaust in World War II-era territory of Yugoslavia was intentionally exaggerated. Žerjavić also published a document regarding the death count in the war in Bosnia (1992–1995).
Žerjavić was born in Križ and graduated at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zagreb. He was one of four siblings, having two sisters, Viktorija (1908-1993) and Darinka (1921-2009) and brother Slavko. After 1934 he worked in the private sector, and after 1945 in various institutions of SFR Yugoslavia. Between 1958 and 1982 he worked abroad as an industrial consultant. In 1964 he joined the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and later consulted the governments of various nations.
Žerjavić calculations regarding 1941/45 war
Zerjavić's calculations of total victims in Yugoslavia are based on looking at pre- and post-war censuses. Zerjavić asserted that Yugoslavia lost a total 1,027,000 people in World War II. Of those, the vast majority, 623,000 people, died in the Independent State of Croatia - 295,000 in Croatia itself, and 328,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina (both part of the Independent State of Croatia and under the Ustaše regime at the time), and another 36,000 from those countries died abroad.
According to nationality, Zerjavic provides the following estimates of victims in the Independent State of Croatia, for both the war and immediate post-war period:
- 322,000 Serbs, equal to 17% of the total Serbian population in the Independent State of Croatia
- 192,000 Croats, or 6% of the Croatian population. Zerjavic states that of these, approximately 50,000 Croats died on the Ustasha-side, while the vast majority of Croats were killed by the Nazis, fascists and their Ustasha allies
- 77,000 Muslims
- 26,000 Jews, the vast majority of them exterminated by the Ustasha in Ustasha concentration camps
- 16,000 Roma, nearly all of them exterminated in Ustasha concentration camps
His claim includes 153,000 civilian victims in Croatia and 174,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and of that, 85,000 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and 48,000 from Croatia died in concentration camps.
This was substantially smaller than in all Yugoslav official estimation, especially with regard to previous estimates of hundreds of thousands of Serbian deaths in the Jasenovac concentration camp and other places, which are later disputed by professor Vladeta Vučković, Serbian author of the official 1946 Yugoslav document.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Yad Vashem on the other side did not accept Žerjavić estimates. The Simon Wiesenthal Center cites Yad Vashem document Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem Center claims that only in Jasenovac concentration camp, 600,000 people, mainly Serbs, have been killed. However, Yad Vashem Center seems to contradict itself as, in a separate entry on the Ustasha movement in general, cites "more than 500,000 Serbs killed" in the entire NDH, including Jasenovac and all other camps and massacres. Neither article cites original sources.
With regard to the Serbs, Žerjavić's calculation ended with a total of 197,000 Serbian civilian victims on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia: 50,000 in the Jasenovac concentration camp, 25,000 died of typhoid, 45,000 killed by the Germans, 15,000 killed by Italians, 34,000 civilians killed in battles between Ustaše, Chetniks and Partisans, 28,000 killed in prisons, pits and other camps, etc. Another 125,000 Serbian people from Independent State of Croatia were killed as combatants, raising the total to 322,000.
Žerjavić's opinions and statements
His investigations and statistical analysis aim to show that the original number of lives lost on all sides during World War II in Yugoslavia was considerably exaggerated for the sake of war reparations claims by the Yugoslav government shortly after the war. According to his own word, his primary intent was to demonstrate with these findings that there should be no argument for further bloodshed between Croats and Serbs based on these exaggerated figures, that much of the revenge had already occurred between Croats and Serbs during the war, and that Croats and Serbs could continue to live together peacefully, as they had for centuries.
Excerpt from Žerjavić's book "Manipulations with WW2 victims in Yugoslavia":
- “One should also believe that the Serbs in Croatia, who have lived in these territories for more than four centuries, will realize that they are not endangered in a community with Croats. They especially should not be afraid that any form of genocide could occur, because they themselves know best that during the Second World War a large number of Croats stood at their defense, and that they, along with Serbians, contributed to the National Liberation War, and even prevented a larger number of victims. It should be mentioned that the regular Croatian Army (Domobrani) also helped with their passive role and even by logistic support to the partisan units.
- vengeance for the crimes committed by the Ustaše was executed immediately after the war, with the terrible massacres at Bleiburg in Austria and during the so-called Way of the Cross (Death Marches), when many innocent opponents of the Communist regime were also killed. Therefore, enacting vengeance against the Croats, with whom the Serbs in Croatia have peacefully lived for the past 45 years, could not be excused, neither morally nor politically.
- After the artificially created euphoria is over, and once peace is established, all reasonable and objective Serbs will -- I strongly believe -- realize that their common life with Croats, in a state with a prosperous economic future, is the most acceptable solution for them.“
- - Vladimir Žerjavić, Zagreb, April 27, 1992
Some international agencies and experts have accepted Croat Žerjavić's (and almost equal data achieved by Serbian statistician Bogoljub Kočović) calculations as the most reliable data on war losses in Yugoslavia during World War II:
- "Details of the (Yugoslav) 1948 census were kept secret but, in negotiations with Germany, it became apparent that the real figure of the dead was about one million. An American study in 1954 calculated 1,067,000. Following Tito's death in 1980, the 1948 census results became available for comparison with those of 1931. Allowances had to be made for the birth rates of the different communities and for emigration. Research was pioneered by Professor Kočović, a Serb living in the West, whose findings were published in January 1985. He assessed the number of dead as 1,014,000. Later that year a Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Conference heard that the figure was 1,100,000. In 1989 Vladimir Zerjavic, a Croatian living in Zagreb published, with the aid of the Zagreb Jewish community, his calculation of 1,027,000. ... So a figure of about one million for all Yugoslavia is now generally accepted." 
Žerjavić's (and Bogoljub Kočović's) calculations of war losses in Yugoslavia during World War II were accepted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, together with other typically higher estimates:
- "Due to differing views and lack of documentation, estimates for the number of Serbian victims in Croatia range widely, from 25,000 to more than one million. The estimated number of Serbs killed in Jasenovac ranges from 25,000 to 700,000. The most reliable figures place the number of Serbs killed by the Ustaša between 330,000 and 390,000, with 45,000 to 52,000 Serbs murdered in Jasenovac." 
Professor Vladeta Vučković, Serbian author of the official 1946 Yugoslav document agrees with Žerjavić and Kočović estimations. Vučković has stated that he had calculated demographic loss to 1,700,000, and later that number was interpreted as actual number of victims and presented by Yugoslav delegation on peace conference later that year in Paris. 
His critics consider his work to have been politically motivated, with the aim of downplaying nationalist Ustashe atrocities during the war, such as at the concentration camp of Jasenovac and that some go so far to state he was a Holocaust denier. They point out that Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia lived in rural areas and therefore had much higher growth rate then others. Žerjavić used growth rate for Serbs in Bosnia as 1.1% (as for all nations together), while actual growth rate was 2.4% (1921–1931) and 3.5% (1949–1953). They claim that he underestimated growth rate of Serbs in order to decrease Serbs death count, according to critics, especially Serbian statistician Đorđević. These criticisms were rejected by Kočović book, published in 1997, which refutes Đorđević's efforts to "reinstate" the "great numbers" victims figures dominant during Communist Yugoslavia period.
So far, the institutions that have not accepted (or haven't expressed their opinion on the matter) Žerjavić's and Kočović's results of investigation include the Yad Vashem memorial and the Simon Wiesenthal center. Others, like the United States Holocaust Museum and, most importantly, the Jasenovac memorial museum in Croatia, have accepted both scientists' estimates as realistic.
Žerjavić's calculations regarding the Bosnian war
However, according to newer research done by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the number of people killed in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was around 102,000. Among killed it was found 69.24% (70,625) Bosniaks, 25.35% (25,857) Serbs and 5.33% (5,437) Croats. It should be noted however that this number refers only to deaths caused in the most direct sense, and does not include those who died of war related causes.
References and footnotes
- "Umro Vladimir Žerjavić" (PDF). Vjesnik (in Croatian). 2001-09-07. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
- Zerjavic, Vladimir: Manipulations with World War II victims in Yugoslavia
- Zerjavic, Vladimir: "The inventions and lies of dr. Bulajic on Internet" 
- Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online; "Yugoslavia - Jasenovac" 
- Yad Vashem Center documentation
- Yad Vashem Center documentation
- Zerjavic, Vladimir; "Yugoslavia - Manipulations with the number of Second World War victims"; Croatian Information Centre 
- Mayers, Paul and Campbell, Arthur; The Population of Yugoslavia; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington D.C., 1954; p.23
- At the conference of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, held on June 6, 1985, Dr Dusan Breznik stated that about 1,100.000 people were killed in the war.
- In an article in Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list published on 20.9.2007 , Slavko Goldstein, prominent Croatian Jew, partisan and publisher stated that he had financially supported Žerjavić's work regarding Jasenovac and other victims.
- Barton, Dennis; "Croatia 1941 - 1946"; The ChurchinHistory Information Centre 
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Nikolić, Goran; "Žrtve rata između nauke i propagande"; Nova srpska politička misao (in Serbian) 
- Glišić, Venceslav; "Žrtve licitiranja - Sahrana jednog mita, Bogoljub Kočović"; NIN 12.01.06 (in Serbian) (retrieved from www.knjigainfo.com) 
- Žubrinić, Darko: "The period of Croatia within ex-Yugoslavia (1918-1941, 1945-1991)" 
- Nilsen, Av Kjell Arild; "Death toll in Bosnian war was 102,000"; Norwegian News Agency
- Zerjavic, Vladimir: Manipulations with World War II victims in Yugoslavia
- Zerjavic, Vladimir: Lies of dr. Bulajic on the Internet: a polemic with Director of the Museum of Victims of Genocide in Belgrade
- Dinko Sakic trial:Jasenovac Memorial Area
- Glišić, Venceslav: "Žrtve licitiranja - Sahrana jednog mita, Bogoljub Kočović"; NIN 12.01.06 (in Serbian)
- Human Rights Watch: "Šansa za pravdu? Procesuiranje ratnih zločina u bosanskoj Republici Srpskoj: Kontekst"; March 2006 (in Bosnian)