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The plight of Istria, Rijeka and other areas annexed by Italy remained an issue close to the hearts of all Croatians during the inter-War period.
When Germany, Italy and their allies began their conquest of Yugoslavia in April 1941, they decided to look to Croats to support their efforts.Headed initially by Stjepan Radi, the HSS advocated the reconstitution of the Kingdom into a confederation of peasant republics.After being jailed by Yugoslav authorities in 1925, Radi was forced to renounce this initial dream.A mere recitation of the historical record does not suffice in presenting the true story of World War II in Croatia.Using monuments of victims of the War as well as available published sources, the author has determined that a listing of those Croats killed as Partisans or as Victims of Fascist Terror would allow readers to come away with a better understanding of the War in Croatia and an appreciation of the deep memories of the Nazi and Italian Fascist occupation which continue to inhabit the Croatian psyche.An Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drava Hrvatska or NDH) was proclaimed and German agents approached Maek asking that he become the head of the NDH.
However, Maek remained committed to western-style democracy and refused.
While the events in Croatia during World War II have been well-documented by experts in the field, especially within Croatia, this rich literature, dating from both Communist and post-Communist times, remains virtually unknown in the West.
As discussed further below, approximately 60,000 ethnic Croats, almost 1.5% of the pre-War population of Croats in the former Yugoslavia, died either while fighting with Partisan forces or at the hands of the German Nazis and Italian and other Fascists.
Italian Fascism embodied imperialist ambitions toward ethnic Croat areas, as vividly shown in Istria and Rijeka (Fiume).
The poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, a progenitor of Mussolini, and his thugs known as the Arditi seized control of Rijeka to thwart any peaceful negotiations concerning the disposition of Rijeka following World War I.
Ultimately, Italy annexed Rijeka and Zadar (Zara), the entire Istrian Peninsula, the islands of Cres and Lošinj and a number of other islands, despite the fact that ethnic Italians constituted a small minority of the population in these areas.