Fascism in exile: Ustasha-linked organisations in Australia

Drew Cottle, Angela Keys

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The origins of Ustasha lay in the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by the League of Nations, after the First World War. The new kingdom was beset with ethnic, religious and territorial tensions. By 1929, the Serbian king established dictatorial rule throughout the Balkans. In response, Croatian nationalists led by Ustasha advocated a campaign of terror and assassination to achieve an independent, Catholic and racially pure Croatia. After Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and occupied the Yugoslav kingdom in 1941, a puppet Croatian state was formed, governed by Ustasha collaborators, dedicated to ridding it of racial enemies. Between 300,000 and 500,000 Jews, Serbs, Roma and Communists perished in Ustasha concentration camps or were executed by its security forces. During the Yugoslavia’s liberation from fascism by Communist partisans, numerous Nazi collaborators, including Ustasha leaders, escaped prosecution and punishment through the assistance of allied intelligence and the Vatican. Following liberation and wartime destruction, a federated socialist republic of Yugoslavia was founded, and thousands of displaced Yugoslavs migrated to the United States, Canada and Australia. Amongst these migrants were Ustasha officials and other Nazi collaborators. American, British and Australian intelligence knowing their past, gave them sanctuary. Like other European migrants in Australia, Yugoslavs formed numerous social, cultural, sporting and political organisations. As fascist exiles, Ustasha, regrouped to form their own separate organisations for those they saw as the stateless Croatian diaspora. In Cold War Australia, in migrant hostels and amongst the Croatian community, Ustasha assisted with work and housing those who were committed to freeing Croatia from socialist Yugoslavia. Ustasha reported to ASIO Yugoslav communist activists. From the early 1960s until 1973, Ustasha members carried out a series of bomb attacks on Yugoslav social gatherings, travel agencies and consulates. They held regular military camps and exercises in rural Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Australian Ustasha members travelled to Yugoslavia to stage armed uprisings, which failed. Although aware of these Ustasha activities, Australian security services never attempted to prevent them. Leading Liberal parliamentarians dismissed charges against Ustasha as groundless or described them as problems within migrant communities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistories of Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Australia
EditorsEvan Smith, Jayne Persian, Vashti Jane Fox
Place of Publication Abingdon, Oxon
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781000816310
ISBN (Print)9780367638122
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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