On the morning after their existence was revealed to the world, the Daily Mirror described the discovery of the concentration camps as "Belsen 92".
The horror of the camps was manifest - the Serbian authorities had, not unreasonably, tried to hide their existence from the public.
The genocide of the Bosnians - Bosniaks and Croats alike - was the most horrendous act of war criminality in Europe since the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945 and the liberation of concentration camps whose very names resonate with tragedy and pain: Auschwitz. Bergen-Belsen. Sachsenhausen. Buchenwald. Dachau.
I have been to two of the German camps. The ghosts of the past linger in them. At Sachsenhausen, even the birds do not sing. They are oppressive places, heavy with the leaden hand of history. I shudder even now to recall the atmosphere of them.
Prosaic, even dull towns, which because of the evil perpetrated in them will live forever under a pall of dread. People whose grandparents were not born when the camps were operational even yet labour under the terrible burden of the collective guilt that many of the German people feel.
Six million people, at a conservative estimate, were systematically slaughtered in a Europe-wide system of extermination and concentration camps.
When the existence of the network was revealed to an horrified world, we said as one "never again".
And so it was, never again in Europe.
Concentration camps in Yugoslavia
Until the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars.
It fills me with loathing, with shame, and with horror to know that in my lifetime, on my continent, once again men with power, filled with hate, herded entire families, entire towns on occasion, into concentration camps from which many would never emerge alive.
As Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s, multiethnic parts of the Federation exploded into violence. The worst-affected federal unit was the People's Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, a state composed - more or less - of a third Serb, a third Croat, and a third Bosniak (the latter is a term used to describe Bosnian Muslims when it is the ethnicity, rather than the religion, which is being discussed).
|Inmates of a Serb concentration camp|
Croats detained Serbs and Bosniaks at Dretelj, and Serbs in Gabela. The commander of the latter summarily executed an inmate, Mustafa Obradović, in front of the inmates for the crime of having concealed a piece of bread on his person.
In Čelebići, Bosniaks detained Serbs. The inmates were treated to torture, sexual assault, beatings and extra-judicial executions.
The point of the above two examples is to demonstrate that the war in Bosnia was not, as is often assumed, simply a matter of Serbs genociding Bosniaks and Croats. It was a three-way conflict, with atrocities committed on all sides.
We stood by idly and watched it happen.
Ražnatović and the Serb Volunteer Guard
Some of the worst atrocities were perpetrated by Zeljko Ražnatović, a petty criminal from Slovenia turned war criminal.
His Serb Volunteer Guard, known as Tigrovi, the Tigers, fought in Croatia in 1991 and 1992, Bosnia-Hercegovina between 1992 and 1995, and Kosovo between 1998 and 1999. Ražnatović, better known by his nom de guerre, Arkan, was the leader of the Crvena Zvezda soccer hooligans, Delije sever, before branching out into armed thuggery after a riot at a match between Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia's standard-bearer) and Crvena Zvezda (Serbia's most successful team). This riot is widely held to have precipitated the start of the war in Croatia.
Many Golden Dawn, the Greek fascist movement which went on to be so worryingly successful last year, members fought with the "Tigers".
Ražnatović was a particularly unpleasant paramilitary commander in a particularly unpleasant conflict.
|One of Ražnatović's "Tigers" kicks the corpses of Bosniak civilians|
As well as being involved in the administration of the concentration camps (the concentration camp, incidentally, was invented by the British during the genocide of the Boers in the 19th Century), Ražnatović personally led massacres in the towns of Bijeljina, Zvornik and Brčko, overthrowing the government there in the process in order to ensure ethnically "pure" Serbian towns.
In Croatia, Ražnatović perpetrated the Dalj Massacre, in which he executed Croat civilians who refused to leave the city, which was to be "ethnically cleansed". Although arrested in Croatia, Ražnatović was released after the Serbian authorities paid a fee of a million Deutchemarks to the Croat authorities.
In Bosnia, Ražnatović used the services of the Vilina Vlas, a rape camp in which Bosniak girls of around 14 years old were kidnapped and used systematically as rape victims for the "Tigers" and another, similar group, the "White Eagles".
The "Tigers" were charged at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of crimes ranging from forced detention to executions, rape and torture.
Ražnatović was on Interpol's most wanted list throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was personally indicted by the United Nations on charges of crimes against humanity relating to the "Tigers'" role in the Kosovo War. He was unable to stand trial because he was assassinated at the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade in 2000.
Ražnatović and the "Better Together" donor
In 1996, several years after the full horrifying extent of Ražnatović's war crimes, and the extent of the concentration, rape and death camps he was responsible for, emerged, a British oil firm, Vitol, supported him to the tune of US$ 1m.
Its CEO, an English-based Conservative Party member and donor, Ian Taylor, was today revealed as being responsible for up to half of all donations received by the anti-Scotland "Better Together" campaign, a coalition of anti-independence organisations such as Labour, the British National Party and the British regime.
The National Collective goes into this in more detail in a fascinating post.
Last week, Better Together described the hated Bedroom Tax as "popular and right". This week, it is exposed as funded by a man who sponsored Zeljko Ražnatović even after the existence of his war crimes was revealed. Better Together's CEO said he hoped to get "even more" donations: presumably, as Ražnatović is now dead, the money needs to go somewhere. Why not from a Yugoslav unionist and fanatical Serb nationalist to a Scottish unionist and British nationalist campaign?
How much more of this will it take before decent Labour Party supporters realise what Better Together is? It is a front for the British regime, the British military industry, and powerful capitalist forces terrified not that an independent Scotland will fail, but that it will succeed.
With the blood of a hundred thousand murdered Iraqi children still dripping from Johann Lamont's gnarled hands, will she finally have the guts to say "no thanks" to Better Together, disengage from what has become a Faustian pact (the Tories provide the funding, Labour provide the people) with the British regime, and either concede that independence is the best chance of a progressive, socialist state, or set up her own Unionist campaign?
Or will she do what she so often does, hide away, get under the radar, and disappear for a couple of weeks, rubbing her hands at the money provided by a man whose other project is the funding of a perkele responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the worst genocide witnessed on the European continent since the fall of Nazi Germany?
There is a sign at Auschwitz. Its English translation reads, roughly
Let this place always be a cry of despair and a warning to the human race, where the Nazis slaughtered around one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from the various nations of Europe.
And Auschwitz does stand as such a memorial. It is the only Polish town whose name everyone in Europe knows.
Lamont would do very well to go to the concentration camps. She would do very well to visit the death camps in Yugoslavia, as I have, to read the memorials to the thousands of civilians who were murdered or forced from their homes. She would do very well to speak to some of the survivors of the concentration camps.
And then she would do well to sit down with a nice cup of tea, her hands shaking as she tries unsuccessfully to evacuate from her thoughts the imagery of what she has just seen, to chase the ghosts of recent history from her conscience. And she should then think whether the political Union between Scotland and England is worth the shame and taint of being forever associated with Zeljko Ražnatović and a crime against humanity which surely, this time, must never, ever be repeated again.