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Ivo Herenčić

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Ivan Herenčić
File:Ivo Herenčić.png
Born28 February 1910
Bjelovar, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austria-Hungary
Died8 December 1978 (aged 68)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Allegiance Independent State of Croatia
Years of service1941–1945
Commands held5th Ustaše Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II in Yugoslavia  (WIA)

Ivan "Ivo" Herenčić (28 February 1910 – 8 December 1978) was a general in the armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), a fascist puppet state, where he commanded a battalion of Ustaše Militia that committed many war crimes and atrocities on civilians in the NDH. Born in Bjelovar in Austria-Hungary, he completed secondary and tertiary education in Zagreb and Sarajevo in what was by then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1933, he left Yugoslavia to join the fascist and ultranationalist Croatian Ustaše movement in Italy. Late that year, Herenčić participated in an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the King of Yugoslavia, Alexander.

Herenčić returned to his homeland when the NDH was established following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. He was sent to the Herzegovina region he formed and commanded the Mostar Battalion which committed various war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Herenčić also served in the surveillance departments of the NDH, and committed atrocities that made him feared by the people. After being involved in an assassination attempt on Home Guard general Ivan Prpić in 1943, Herenčić had to emigrate to Hungary. Several months later he was brought back to Croatia to help uncover the Lorković–Vokić plot against the NDH government.

In March 1945 he was appointed commander of 5th Ustaše Corps of the Croatian Armed Forces (Croatian: Hrvatske oružane snage, HOS) and in the same month Herenčić was one of the leaders of the withdrawal of the HOS towards Austria. He participated in negotiations with the British, who decided that members of the NDH armed forces and accompanying civilians would not be allowed to proceed further and would have to surrender their arms to the Yugoslav Partisans. Herenčić was able to escape to Italy and later to Argentina where he died in 1978.

Education and early Ustaše activity

Ivo Herenčić was born on 28 February 1910 in Bjelovar, a city in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[1] He attended high school in Zagreb after which he completed Economic-Business Higher School in the same city. During 1930 and 1931, he attended the school for reserve officers of the Royal Yugoslav Army in Sarajevo. In the early 1930s, Herenčić was a member of the security detail for the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, Vladko Maček.[1] In 1933, Herenčić left Yugoslavia and on 9 September he entered a camp for members of the ultra-nationalist and fascist Ustaše organisation in Borgo Val di Taro, Italy.[2] While in Italy, he adopted pseudonym Hetman.[3]

Herenčić was a leader of an Ustaše plot to assassinate Alexander, King of Yugoslavia, in Zagreb. The king was visiting the city to celebrate his and his wife Maria's birthday and the anniversary of the creation of Yugoslavia.[4] In Piacenza, on 9 December 1933, Herenčić met with another Ustaša, Petar Oreb, who was meant to assassinate the king. Oreb and Herenčić traveled to Klagenfurt in Austria using fake passports with names Emil Benedikt and Janoš Kren respectively. They illegally crossed the Austrian–Yugoslav border and spent a night in Celje. They arrived in Zagreb on 11 December and were welcomed into the home of Josip Begović, a student.[5] On 16 December,[lower-alpha 1] the king arrived in Zagreb and was welcomed by a crowd at Jelačić Square. Oreb was in the crowd and had two hand grenades in his pockets which he had been trained to throw in a training camp in Vischetto [sh]. Herenčić and Begović were also nearby. Oreb was tasked with assassinating the king while Begović was to throw another grenade into the crowd immediately after Oreb's attack, in order to cause panic which would allow them to escape apprehension. When the king's car arrived at the center of the square, a group of children ran towards Alexander. Oreb was petrified after seeing the children, and Begović suggested that he throw a grenade at the military band behind the car, but Oreb refused. They left the square and started making new plans for the king's assassination.[4]

On the same day, Herenčić left Zagreb while Oreb and Begović were joined by another Ustaša, Anton Podgorelac. During the night police found out where three Ustašas were, and, at dawn, they broke into Begović's apartment. Oreb fired two shots, killing one policeman and injuring another, after which he managed to escape. Podgorelac and Begović were taken into custody where they gave a detailed description of Oreb who was caught by the police on the same day in Velika Gorica.[7] After the interrogation of the three imprisoned Ustašas, Herenčić was implicated.[8] Klagenfurt police attempted to determine whether Herenčić and other Ustaše were in Klagenfurt and were involved in the assassination plot. They managed to find out that Herenčić had met with Begović and Vladimir Singer in the autumn of 1933, and also that Herenčić was in Klagenfurt just before the assassination attempt and just after it failed. However, this was not enough to prove that Herečić had been involved in the assassination plot.[9]

Upon returning to Italy Herenčić continued to live and work in various Ustaše camps.[1] He also continued to occasionally travel to Austria in order to complete different Ustaše missions, such as recruiting new members into the Ustaše, which gained him nickname Konzul (English: Consul).[10][11] In 1935, he became the commander of the 1st Ustaše Company, a paramilitary unit with the strength of 74 men, stationed on the Italian island of Lipari.[12]

World War II

Herenčić participated in a meeting in Pistoia on 10 April 1941, organized by the Ustaše leader (Poglavnik), Ante Pavelić, after the Ustaše received uniforms and weapons from the Italians following the news of initial German success in the invasion of Yugoslavia.[13] On 11 April, while the invasion was still underway, Herenčić traveled together with Pavelić and other Ustašas to Trieste. The following morning Pavelić tasked Herenčić with traveling to Zagreb where he was supposed to meet with the Ustaše deputy leader, Slavko Kvaternik. Herenčić's mission to Zagreb was canceled after the Italian general Vittorio Ambrosio told Pavelić that the Ustašas could travel to Zagreb that day, as the Italian Army had reached Karlovac.[14] After being provided with buses and automobiles in Trieste on the same day, Ustašas traveled towards Zagreb and they entered the city on 15 April.[15]

After Pavelić arrived in Zagreb, he sent Herenčić along with Jure Francetić and Mijo Babić to Bosnia and Herzegovina to form Ustaše units and organizations.[16] Herenčić participated in the suppression of the Serb uprising in eastern Herzegovina in June and early July 1941. Main Ustaša Headquarters sent Herenčić to Mostar in mid-July. A few days after he arrived, arrests and killings of Serbs and Jews began in the city. Between 19 July and 4 August 750 people were arrested in Mostar and sent to various concentration camps in the NDH.[6] On 2 August, Herenčić ordered the establishment of the Jablanica concentration camp where, according to one of the witnesses, around 400 Serbs were detained.[17] During the summer of 1941, Herenčić formed the Ustaše Mostar Battalion and became its first commander.[1] His battalion committed various war crimes in the Mostar area, where it operated until 7 September when Italy took full control of the area. After this, the battalion traveled to the German occupation zone, where it continued to commit atrocities that disgusted even the high-ranking officials of the NDH.[18] In November, Herenčić was promoted to the rank of major and soon after to lieutenant colonel. Later he was wounded while participating in fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[1]

In April 1941, Herenčić had been appointed as a commissioner in RAVSIGUR, a supervisory department in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[1][19] In April 1942, the Chief Surveillance Department[lower-alpha 2] was created and tasked with overseeing work of the Ustaše Surveillance Service (UNS)[lower-alpha 3] and the work of the police. Herenčić was appointed its leader with Lieutenant Mirko Vutuc as his deputy.[20] Herenčić remained in this position until August 1943, when he ordered the assassination of the Chief of Staff of the Croatian Home Guard, General Ivan Prpić, as he feared Prpić might reveal compromising information about him and other Ustaše Militia officers. The assassination failed and Herenčić had to flee to Hungary.[21] He was brought back to Zagreb by RAVSIGUR in the spring of 1944 when he was tasked with uncovering the Lorković–Vokić plot against the NDH government.[22] Herenčić was one of the UNS and RAVSIGUR officers whose atrocities made them very feared by the people.[23]

In mid-December 1944, Herenčić was promoted to the rank of general[24] and in mid-March 1945, he was appointed commander of the newly formed 5th Ustaše Corps.[25] Herenčić, along with two other generals, Vladimir Metikoš and Vjekoslav Servatzy, led the withdrawal of the Croatian Armed Forces towards Austria with the goal of surrendering to the advancing British.[26] Once the lead elements of the fleeing columns reached Bleiburg just across the Austrian border on 14 May 1945 they were stopped by the British 38th (Irish) Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Patrick T.D. Scott. Herenčić, together with Metikoš, Servatzy and Danijel Crljen met with Scott who decided that the NDH troops and the civilians accompanying them should not advance any further. On 15 May, Herenčić, Metikoš, Servatzy and Crljen, representing the retreating NDH forces, met with Scott and the Partisan representatives, Milan Basta and Ivan Kovačić-Efenka. During this meeting, it was decided that the NDH forces would have to surrender to the Partisans.[27][28]

Post-war life and death

Although he was not able to negotiate passage for the NDH forces and the accompanying civilians into Austria, Herenčić himself was able to escape into the countryside and make his way to Italy.[29] He lived for a time in Rome near Porta Pia, working as an art dealer.[30] Later he traveled to Argentina, where he died on 8 December 1978 in Buenos Aires, aged 68.[31]

Personal life

During World War II, Herenčić married Vera Javor, Ante Pavelić's secretary; she fled to Argentina with Herenčić.[32]


  1. Sources contradict on the date king arrived in Zagreb. Adriano and Cingolani give the date as 11 December[4] while Krizman and Skoko give that date as 16 December.[5][6]
  2. Croatian: Glavno nadzorništvo
  3. Croatian: Ustaška nadzorna služba



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Rupić & Aljinović 1997, p. 155.
  2. Krizman 1978, p. 566.
  3. Krizman 1978, p. 68.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Adriano & Cingolani 2018, p. 85.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Krizman 1978, p. 130.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Skoko 1991, p. 241.
  7. Adriano & Cingolani 2018, p. 86.
  8. Lewis 2014, p. 202.
  9. Lewis 2014, p. 203.
  10. Begić 1986, p. 191.
  11. Krizman 1978, p. 165.
  12. Krizman 1978, p. 575.
  13. Krizman 1978, pp. 403–404.
  14. Krizman 1978, p. 411.
  15. Tomasevich 2001, pp. 59–60.
  16. Redžić 2005, p. 214.
  17. Škiljan 2014, p. 207.
  18. Skoko 1991, p. 250.
  19. Jelić-Butić 1977, pp. 102–103.
  20. Kovačić 2009, p. 147.
  21. Jelinović 1995, p. 575.
  22. Yeomans 2013, p. 346.
  23. Jelić-Butić 1977, p. 185.
  24. Tomasevich 2001, p. 458.
  25. Tomasevich 2001, p. 462.
  26. Adriano & Cingolani 2018, p. 272.
  27. Geiger 2003, pp. 189–190.
  28. Grahek Ravančić 2006, pp. 33–35.
  29. Tomasevich 2001, p. 759.
  30. Adriano & Cingolani 2018, p. 315.
  31. Rupić & Aljinović 1997, p. 156.
  32. Blažeković 1997, p. 156.