Cardinal Under Fire for Praising Nazi War Criminal

Timothy Cardinal Manning of Los Angeles has come under sharp attack from two leading American Jewish organizations for a letter he wrote on behalf of Nazi war criminal Andrija Artukovic asserting that Artukovic had “earned the respect of the priests of his church” and suggesting that he was “innocent” of charges stemming from his Nazi-related activities.

Artukovic, 85, the former Interior and Justice Minister of the puppet state of Croatia set up by the Nazis in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II, is being held without bail at a prison ward at Orange County-University of California Medical Center. He was arrested by federal authorities last November on an extradition request by the Yugoslav government, accused in connection with the murder of 700,000 Serbs, 40,000 gypsies and 20,000 Jews in wartime Croatia.

The letter, which Manning wrote to Artukovic’s son Randislav, was dated November 27 and was filed along with other documents in Federal District Court last month. It said in part: “For many years he (Artukovic) has earned the respect of the priests of his church and they are deeply concerned for his welfare. In a spirit of compassion, I write these words to you hoping your cherished father will merit the indulgence of the court and be returned to the care of his family. The action would coincide with the judgement of innocence already given in January 15, 1959.”

‘AN INSULT TO THE MEMORY’ OF THOSE MURDERED

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center, protested Manning’s letter in a telegram to the Vatican’s secretary to the the Secretariat for Relations with the Jews, Msgr. Jorge Mejia. Hier said the letter “is an insult to the memory” of those murdered in Croatia during the Holocaust, adding that “such inappropriate and insensitive actions can only set back the forces of tolerance and mutual respect within our respective communities.”

Harvey Schecter, Los Angeles regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, expressed his distress at Manning’s praise of the alleged war criminal, and likened it to the comment often made about criminals that “they were good to their mothers.”

Noting that Manning’s letter to Artukovic’s son described him as “your cherished father,” Schecter asked the Cardinal, “What about the tens of thousands of cherished fathers whose lives were snuffed out thanks to the role Andrija Artukovic played in the wartime government in Croatia?”

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