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Vladimir Žerjavić (2 August 1912 – 5 September 2001) was a Croatian economist and demographer who published a series of historical articles and books during the 1980s and 1990s on demographic losses in Yugoslavia during World War II and of Axis forces and civilians in the Bleiburg repatriations shortly after the capitulation of Germany. Since 1964, he worked as an adviser in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.


Early lifeEdit

Žerjavić was born in Križ and graduated at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zagreb. He was one of four siblings, having two sisters, Viktorija (1908–1993) and Darinka (1921–2009) and a brother, Slavko. After 1934 he worked in the private sector, and after 1945 in various institutions of SFR Yugoslavia. Between 1958 and 1982 he worked abroad as an industrial consultant. In 1964 he joined the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and later consulted the governments of various nations.[1]

Žerjavić's calculations regarding World War II in YugoslaviaEdit

In the 1980s Žerjavić conducted a research on demographic losses in Yugoslavia during World War II, at about the same time as Bogoljub Kočović, a Serb statistician.[2] Žerjavić's calculations of total victims in Yugoslavia are based on looking at pre- and post-war censuses. Zerjavić asserted that Yugoslavia lost a total 1,027,000 people in World War II.

Victims by nationality comparison
Nationality 1964 list Kočović Žerjavić
Serbs 346,740 487,000 530,000
Croats 83,257 207,000 192,000
Slovenes 42,027 32,000 42,000
Montenegrins 16,276 50,000 20,000
Macedonians 6,724 7,000 6,000
Muslims 32,300 86,000 103,000
Other Slavs 12,000 7,000
Albanians 3,241 6,000 18,000
Jews 45,000 60,000 57,000
Gypsies 27,000 18,000
Germans 26,000 28,000
Hungarians 2,680
Slovaks 1,160
Turks 686
Others 14,000 6,000
Unknown 16,202
Total 597,323 1,014,000 1,027,000
Victims by country and nationality[3]
Serbs Montenegrins Croats Muslims Jews Others Total
Bosnia and Herzegovina 164,000 - 64,000 75,000 9,000 4,000 316,000
Montenegro 6,000 20,000 1,000 4,000 - 6,000 37,000
Croatia 131,000 - 106,000 2,000 10,000 22,000 271,000
Kosovo 3,000 - 1,000 2,000 - 17,000 23,000
Macedonia 6,000 - - 4,000 - 7,000 17,000
Slovenia - - - - - 33,000 33,000
Serbia 142,000 - - 13,000 7,000 5,000 167,000
Vojvodina 45,000 - 6,000 - 7,000 25,000 83,000
Abroad 33,000 - 14,000 3,000 24,000 6,000 80,000
Total 530,000 20,000 192,000 103,000 57,000 125,000 1,027,000

Of those, the vast majority, 623,000 people, died in the Independent State of Croatia - 295,000 in Croatia itself, and 328,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina (both part of the Independent State of Croatia and under the Ustaše regime at the time), and another 36,000 from those countries died abroad. According to ethnicity and/or religion as needed, Žerjavić provided the following estimates of victims in the Independent State of Croatia, for both the war and immediate post-war period:[4][5]

  • 322,000 Serbs
  • 192,000 Croats
  • 77,000 Muslims
  • 26,000 Jews
  • 16,000 Roma

His claims include 153,000 civilian victims in Croatia and 174,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and of that, 85,000 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and 48,000 from Croatia died in concentration camps.[6] As for the total casualties in Jasenovac camp, he estimated that 85,000 were killed, of which 45-52,000 were Serbs, 13,000 were Jews, 10,000 were Roma, 10,000 were Croats and 2,000 were Muslims.[7]

With regard to Serbs, Žerjavić's calculation ended with a total of 197,000 Serbian civilian victims within the borders of the Independent State of Croatia: 50,000 at Jasenovac concentration camp, 25,000 of typhoid, 45,000 killed by the Germans, 15,000 killed by Italians, 34,000 civilians killed in battles between Ustaše, Chetniks and Partisans, 28,000 killed in prisons, pits and other camps, etc. Another 125,000 Serbs inside the Independent State of Croatia were killed as combatants, raising the total to 322,000.[4]

Regarding the Bleiburg repatriations, when soldiers and civilians associated with the NDH and other Axis forces were killed by the Yugoslav Partisans, Žerjavić estimated that around 45-55,000 Croats and Bosniaks, 8-10,000 Slovenes, and around 2,000 Serbs and Montenegrins were killed.[8]

Žerjavić's opinions and statementsEdit

Žerjavić's investigations and statistical analyses aim to show that the original number of lives lost on all sides during World War II in Yugoslavia was considerably exaggerated for the sake of war reparations claims by the Yugoslav government shortly after the war.[citation needed]

Excerpt from Žerjavić's book "Manipulations with WW2 victims in Yugoslavia":

“One should also believe that the Serbs in Croatia, who have lived in these territories for more than four centuries, will realize that they are not endangered in a community with Croats. They especially should not be afraid that any form of genocide could occur, because they themselves know best that during the Second World War a large number of Croats stood at their defense, and that they, along with Serbians, contributed to the National Liberation War, and even prevented a larger number of victims. It should be mentioned that the regular Croatian Army (Domobrani) also helped with their passive role and even by logistic support to the partisan units.
[V]engeance for the crimes committed by the Ustaše was executed immediately after the war, with the terrible massacres at Bleiburg and during the so-called Way of the Cross (Death Marches), when many innocent opponents of the Communist regime were also killed. Therefore, enacting vengeance against the Croats, with whom the Serbs in Croatia have peacefully lived for the past 45 years, could not be excused, neither morally nor politically.
After the artificially created euphoria is over, and once peace is established, all reasonable and objective Serbs will -- I strongly believe -- realize that their common life with Croats, in a state with a prosperous economic future, is the most acceptable solution for them.“
- Vladimir Žerjavić, Zagreb, 27 April 1992

Independent verificationEdit


Some international agencies and experts have accepted Žerjavić's (and almost equal data achieved by Serbian statistician Bogoljub Kočović) calculations as the most reliable data on war losses in Yugoslavia during World War II:

"Details of the (Yugoslav) 1948 census were kept secret but, in negotiations with Germany, it became apparent that the real figure of the dead was about one million. An American study in 1954 calculated 1,067,000.[9]

Following Tito's death in 1980, the 1948 census results became available for comparison with those of 1931. Allowances had to be made for the birth rates of the different communities and for emigration. Research was pioneered by Professor Kočović, a Serb living in the West, whose findings were published in January 1985. He assessed the number of dead as 1,014,000. Later that year a Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Conference heard that the figure was 1,100,000.[10]

Žerjavić's and Kočović's calculations of war losses in Yugoslavia during World War II were accepted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, together with other typically higher estimates:

"Due to differing views and lack of documentation, estimates for the number of Serbian victims in Croatia range widely, from 25,000 to more than one million. The estimated number of Serbs killed in Jasenovac ranges from 25,000 to 700,000. The most reliable figures place the number of Serbs killed by the Ustaša between 330,000 and 390,000, with 45,000 to 52,000 Serbs murdered in Jasenovac."[11]


Some Serb critics of Žerjavić consider his work to have been politically motivated, with the aim of downplaying Croatian nationalist atrocities during the war, such as at Jasenovac.

Critics point out that Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia lived in rural areas and therefore had a much higher growth rate than others.[clarification needed] Žerjavić used growth rates for Serbs in Bosnia as 1.1% (as for all nations together), while actual growth rate was 2.4% (1921–31) and 3.5% (1949–53). They posit he intentionally underestimated growth rate of Serbs to decrease the Serb death count, according to critics.[citation needed] Some, like Đorđević, claimed that Serbian losses were in fact 1.6 million, a number which goes in other direction compared to the official estimates that Žerjavić denied. The higher numbers was opposed by Bogoljub Kočović's book, published in 1997, which tries to refute Đorđević's efforts to "reinstate" the "great numbers" victims figures dominant in Communist Yugoslavia.[12]

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Yad Vashem still use the old estimates given by the Yugoslav authorities. The Simon Wiesenthal Center cites Yad Vashem document, the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.[13] Yad Vashem claims that in Jasenovac concentration camp alone, 600,000 people, mainly Serbs, were murdered.[14] In a separate entry on the Ustasha movement in general, however, Yad Vashem cites "more than 500,000 Serbs killed" in the entire NDH, including Jasenovac and all other camps and massacres.[14]

Žerjavić's calculations regarding the Bosnian warEdit

According to Žerjavić's calculations, there were 220,000 victims in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Bosnian war of 1992–95, of which 160,000 were Bosniaks, 30,000 Croats and 25,000 Serbs.[dubious ] However, according to newer research done by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the number of people killed in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was around 102,000: 69.24% (70,625) Bosniaks, 25.35% (25,857) Serbs, and 5.33% (5,437) Croats.[15]


  1. ^ "Žerjavić, Vladimir" (in Croatian). Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. ^ Zimmermann, Tanja (2014). Balkan memories: Media constructions of national and transnational history. Transcript Verlag. p. 195. ISBN 9783839417126.
  3. ^ Geiger, Vladimir (2011). Ljudski gubici Hrvatske u Drugom svjetskom ratu koje su prouzročili "okupatori i njihovi pomagači"; Brojidbeni pokazatelji (procjene, izračuni, popisi) (in Croatian). p. 714.
  4. ^ a b Žerjavić, Vladimir. Yugoslavia - Manipulations with the number of Second World War victims, Croatian Information Centre; accessed 8 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Komentari". (in Croatian). Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  6. ^ Geiger, Vladimir (2011). Ljudski gubici Hrvatske u Drugom svjetskom ratu koje su prouzročili "okupatori i njihovi pomagači"; Brojidbeni pokazatelji (procjene, izračuni, popisi) (in Croatian). p. 741.
  7. ^ Geiger, Vladimir (2011). Ljudski gubici Hrvatske u Drugom svjetskom ratu koje su prouzročili "okupatori i njihovi pomagači"; Brojidbeni pokazatelji (procjene, izračuni, popisi) (in Croatian). p. 728.
  8. ^ Geiger, Vladimir (2013). "Human losses of Croats in World War II and the immediate post-war period caused by the Chetniks (Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland) and the Partisans (People's Liberation Army and the partisan detachment of Yugoslavia/Yugoslav Army) and the Yugoslav Communist authoritities. Numerical indicators". Review of Croatian history. Croatian institute of history. 8 (1): 94.
  9. ^ Mayers, Paul and Campbell, Arthur; The Population of Yugoslavia; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington D.C., 1954; p. 23
  10. ^ At the conference of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, held on 6 June 1985, Dr Dusan Breznik stated that about 1,100,000 people were killed in the war.
  11. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,; accessed 8 November 2015.
  12. ^ Glišić, Venceslav (12 January 2006). "Žrtve licitiranja - Sahrana jednog mita, Bogoljub Kočović". (in Serbian). NIN. Archived from the original on 1 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Blackbaud Internet Solutions - Online Events and Marketing Solutions". 2 April 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  14. ^ a b Documentation,; accessed 8 November 2015.
  15. ^ Nilsen, Av Kjell Arild. "Death toll in Bosnian war was 102,000"; Norwegian News Agency; accessed 10 September 2016.

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