The Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH; German: Unabhängiger Staat Kroatien; Italian: Stato Indipendente di Croazia) was a World War II fascist puppet state of Germany and Italy. It was established in parts of occupied Yugoslavia on 10 April 1941, after the invasion by the Axis powers. Its territory consisted of most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as some parts of modern-day Serbia and Slovenia, but also excluded many Croat-populated areas in Dalmatia until late 1943, Istria, and Međimurje regions which today are part of Croatia.
During its entire existence, the NDH was governed as a one-party state by the fascist Ustaša organization. The Ustaše was led by the Poglavnik, Ante Pavelić. The regime targeted Serbs, Jews and Roma as part of a large-scale campaign of genocide, as well as anti-fascist or dissident Croats and Muslims.
Between 1941–45, 22 concentration camps existed inside the territory controlled by the Independent State of Croatia, two of which (Jastrebarsko and Sisak) housed only children and the largest of which was Jasenovac.
The state was officially a monarchy after the signing of the Laws of the Crown of Zvonimir on 15 March 1941. Appointed by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta initially refused to assume the crown in opposition to the Italian annexation of the Croat-majority populated region of Dalmatia, annexed as part of the Italian irredentist agenda of creating a Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”). He later briefly accepted the throne due to pressure from Victor Emmanuel III and was titled Tomislav II of Croatia, but never moved from Italy to reside in Croatia.
From the signing of the Treaties of Rome on 18 May 1941 until the Italian capitulation on 8 September 1943, the state was a territorial condominium of Germany and Italy. In its judgement in the Hostages Trial, the Nuremberg Military Tribunal concluded that NDH was not a sovereign state. According to the Tribunal, “Croatia was at all times here involved an occupied country”.
In 1942, Germany suggested Italy take military control of all of Croatia out of a desire to redirect German troops from Croatia to the Eastern Front. Italy however rejected the offer as it did not believe that it could handle the unstable situation in the Balkans alone. After the ousting of Mussolini and the Kingdom of Italy’s armistice with the Allies, the NDH on 10 September 1943 declared that the Treaties of Rome were null and void and annexed the portion of Dalmatia that had been ceded to Italy. The NDH attempted to annex Zara, which had been a recognized territory of Italy since 1919 but long an object of Croatian irredentism, but Germany did not allow it.
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