Croatian Foreign Minister's Diplomatic passport - Our Passports
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Croatian Foreign Minister’s Diplomatic passport

When it comes to locating the rare and unique items, well, this one here surely does fit the category indeed.

 

Not always one has the chance to view images of a very special & unique item, not only rare because of the type and country of issuance, but also because of the individual it was issued too. And the combination of the events and conditions make the item at times, as in this case here, a museum quality piece.

 

Several months ago this travel document surfaced and I was fortunate enough to view high quality images of the set of documents that made up this rare assortment of papers.

 

The passport was issued by the short-lived WW2 Croatian puppet-state that was established following the fall and full occupation of what was known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia: April 10th of 1941. Four days earlier the Germans led the Axis invasion of the country, known as Operation 25, after the Yugoslav coup d’état that occurred on March 17th (the coup was headed by pro-Western military figures, where strong cooperation was already existing between the various security apparatuses in the country with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, mainly the Secret Services of both countries – Yugoslavia also feared her situation due to several developments that occurred earlier, such as the failure of the Italians in their conflict with Greece which prompted German intervention and both Hungarian and Romanian ties with Nazi Germany, especially when they joined the Tripartite Pact in late 1940). As events developed, Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact on March 25th, but due to the coup that followed 2 days later, the government refused tor ratify it, eventually leading to the invasion of the county in early April by the Axis, as mentioned above.

 

Croatian Independent State was controlled and governed by the Ustaše party or movement up to May 8th 1945. The country’s Prime Minster was Ante Pavelić  (July 14th 1889 – December 28th1959) who lead a government that included also well-known lawyer Dr. Mladen Lorković (March 1st 1909 – end of April 1945).

 

The puppet-state (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska (NDH)) also, as expected and as was the condition for most newly formed entities, issued formal passports for its citizens and officials for use when traveling abroad.

 

Passport No. 11, printed on hand-made quality paper bound in leather covers with golden colored lettering, was issued to Dr. Mladen Lorković at Zagreb on November 13th1941 (registered protocol-number 1646/41) and most likely being his second issued DIPLOMATIC passport (on-line sources indicate that he met with foreign dignitaries also abroad, thus we can then assume that an earlier example existed). The document was issued, firstly, for his attendance and participation at the coming signing of the Anti-Comintern conference that was being planned for two weeks later! Meaning, the re-singing of the original pact with the addition of new states: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Manchukuo, Chinese Nanjing Government of China (Japanese puppet state), RomaniaSlovakiaSpainTurkey & El Salvador (with the original signing countries in 1936-39 being Germany, Italy, Japan & Spain). A grand ceremony and reception was held at the Berlin ‘Kaiserhof’ Hotel in honor of the foreign delegations. The Revised Pact was conducted on November 25th at Berlin following the German invasion of its former ally the USSR (needles to state that the original pact was cancelled after signing German-Soviet Pact of 1939). During the days he was in the German capital with his PM’s delegation, meetings with Adolf Hitler and his Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop were held on November 27th & 28th.

 

This fantastic Diplomatic passport was used for several additional official trips abroad:

 

  • December 7th-11th1941 for Sofia, heading the special delegation for signing the Bulgarian-Croatian Cultural Agreement of cooperation between the two countries (June 20th  the foundation of Bulgarian-Croatian Friendship Society with the aim of strengthening and promoting politically and culturally the Croatian State (NDH)) – this visit included also a meeting with the Bulgarian King Boris III.

 

  • August 4th-10th 1942 for Venice, delegation headed by the Croatian Foreign Minister and the Minister of Finance Vladimir Košak for meeting the Italian delegation which consisted of Count Luca Pietromarchi, who was in charge of the Croatian Office at the Italian Foreign Ministry, Count Giuseppe Volpi who headed the General Confederation of Italian Industry (1934 to 1943) and last, Italian Foreign Trade Minister Raphael Riccardi. The main points brought out during the meetings were the Croatian demand for delivery of additional weapons and ammunition and curving the Italian presence, activities and expenditures of the Second Army in territories of former Yugoslavia.

 

Stamps & markings inside the passport:

 

  1. For the first and most important historical trip, the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941, we can locate the German Diplomatic visa 3270 on page 10, issued at Zagreb on November 22nd – issued by Konsulatssekretär Josef Rheinberger (born on 20.07.1891). A very interesting note: There are no exit or entry markings for both Germany and Croatia, so one would assume that he did not make use of the visa at the end, but this is incorrect: on-line sources clearly indicate that the Foreign Minister did attend the conference, so the other possibility is that most likely a special diplomatic plane was sent to collect the delegation for Berlin thus being except from border crossing formalities and applied stamps inside their special diplomatic travel documents.

 

  1. Bulgarian Diplomatic visa 77 issued at Zagreb as well on December 6th at the request of the Croatian Foreign Ministry (this is hand written at the top of the visa on page 11), visa issued for the signing of the cultural agreement between the two countries. There are 3 applied stamps connected to this visit: Two issued for the same date of December 7th: one stamp for the Bulgarian occupied district of Pirot (up to 1941 was part of Yugoslavia), the second stamp was from Bela Palanka (Бела Паланка) which was a smaller town inside the district, a railways police commissariat inspection stamp. Most likely the train continued via the Pirot area directly to the capital Sofia.

 

  1. German transit-passage-permit (Durchlassschein) 4250 issued at the German embassy in Zagreb also on December 6th 1941 by Konsulatssekretär Gerhard Koepke (born on 06.12.1899) and was good for transiting through German controlled Belgrade on route to Sofia, hence the same date of the Bulgarian visa.

 

  1. Italian Diplomatic visas 273 dating from November 14th seems it was not used at the end and could have been issued originally for a proposed visit to Italy that never materialized for the Minister. The 2nd Diplomatic visa No. 1392 was issued a day before his departure to Venice, August 3rd. It is this visa that took him to attend the important consultations with his Italian counterparts regarding weapons and the 2nd Italian Army based in former Yugoslavian territory.

 

  1. Croatian Diplomatic visa registered number 1674/41 dating from November 13th was issued for the purpose of traveling abroad, valid for 6 months and for multiple travels. The visa was also issued by the same high ranking Croatian foreign office official – chief of protocol. 2nd Diplomatic visa was issued on August 3rd for the purpose of traveling to Fascist Italy (issued with connection to the above Italian visa No. 1392) and valid for multiple uses until November 13th.

 

Dr. Mladen Lorković was appointed Foreign Minster of the Croatian State on June 9th 1941 and he held the post until April 23rd 1943, being dismissed following the arrest and execution of his cabinet chief Ivo Kolak for the smuggling of gold. He regained the position, temporarily, for about a week shortly afterwards (during the early stages of his career in 1941 he strongly advocated for the genocidal aims of having millions of Serbs exterminated, making public such views).

 

During this period of time, from April 23rd to October 11th he was also Minister of special relations with Nazi Germany, mainly in close contact with German Plenipotentiary General to Zagreb Edmund Glaise-Horstenau (the General held the post until his dismissal in September following the suspected ties with the August 1944 Coup supporters in Croatia, among them his close acquaintance Minister Lorković, and after both German ambassador to Croatia Siegfried Kasche and Ante Pavelić himself conspired to have him removed).

 

In 1943 he was also appointed as chief liaison officer with connection to the formation of a special Croatian SS division, which he wanted to be named the “SS Ustaša Division “; he was thus entrusted in the talks and preparations for this task, which was supported by the Heinrich Himmler on the German side.

 

Lorković–Vokić plot:

 

1943 also saw him being appointed at Ministry of Interior, and he was dismissed from this position as well around August 30th 1944, after his failed coup were he attempted to conspire with others, such as Minister of Armed Forces Ante Vokić, to form a coalition government with the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) and cut of ties with Germany and side with the Western Allies: Following the defeat in Stalingrad a year and a half earlier and the dissatisfaction with other Axis allies at the obvious outcome of the war to-come, the Minister of Interior tried to stage a change of power and the switching of sides late in the war, this, however, did not work out, and all conspirators were arrested and placed under arrest and imprisoned, eventually leading to his execution at the end of April 1945, shortly before the end of the war.

 

 

The passport surfaced briefly in mid 2017, and ended up in a private archive abroad. Truly a remarkable document of great historical importance!

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.

 

 

Neil Kaplan
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