AriRusila's Conflicts

SS Fez/Photo credit Rob Elliott

A piece of news in BalkanInsight produced a déja vu impression on me. A quote:

A memorial plaque honouring World War II concentration camp victims who died on the Croatian island of Pag has been vandalised again, just weeks after being restored…The attack came just weeks after the plaque was replaced at a commemoration in late June for the victims of the WWII concentration camp complex which included Slana and Metajna on Pag and Jadovno on the nearby Croatian mainland…It was run by the Ustasha authorities who ruled part of the former Yugoslavia during WWII in alliance with Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The plaque was installed by Coordination of Jewish Municipalities, the Jadovno 1941 Association, the League of Anti- Fascist Veterans and the Serb National Council in Croatia.

Croatian Nazi Camp Slano on the island of Pag was established for Serbian men and Metajna for Serbian women and children. According to Italian documents and survivors’ testimonies a very large number of Serbian people have been murdered and thrown into the sea. According to the research conducted so far on the complex of Ustasha camps “Jadovno – Gospi? 1941”, which also include the island of Pag, no fewer than 40,123 victims were murdered, 38,010 Serbs, 1999 Jews and the rest were ideological opponents of the Independent State of Croatia.

OK – this is only one demolized memorial, similar hooliganism hapens everywhere? Unfortunatelly however in my opinion alarming is that this last event is not an isolated act. I would compare it to the funeral given to Dinko Sakic on Summer 2008. As Sakic was a head of a WWII Jasenovac concentration camp in Zagreb, this ceremony insulted the memory of those killed in the camp run by Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime. The Jasenovac commander and murderer was dressed in an Ustasha uniform, the priest who served at the funeral said that Sakic was a model for all Croats. (More about this in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatias past” ).

Memorial Masses for WWII Croatian Mass Murderer Ante Paveli? – the original Butcher of the Balkans – in Zagreb and Split was one act describing very alarming trend to (over)emphasizing Croatia’s Nazi past. Paveli? as the Fascist Head of state of the Nazi puppet government of the “Independent State of Croatia” (NDH) bears direct responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, tens of thousands of Jews, and numerous Roma. The German Nazis and the Italian Fascist regimes created a puppet State run by the local fascist movement, the Ustashe, headed by Pavelic. He died in Franco’s Spain in 1959 having fled Croatia through the Vatican “rat lines” at the end of the war. To say it politely the ceremonies might indicate that residents in Croatia are still more interested in establishing their national identity than in looking towards Europe. Unfortunatelly from my point of view the question is more serious.

While Ante Pavelic is being officially rehabilitated in Croatia also streets and public buildings are being named after the architects of the Holocaust.. In addition it should be no surprise that for years the best seller in Croatia has been new edition of “Mein Kampf”- faithful reproduction of the original text by that great European leader, benefactor of Croatian nationalism and leader of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler. The other bestsellers have been the anti-Semitic classic, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and memoires of Pavelic. Proving the existence of a ready audience for fascist thought in Croatia, Mein Kampf was published and sold in the year of 1999 – in the number more than 600 copies in hardback within days at the remarkable price of 500 kuna (75 dollars each) – roughly equivalent to a week’s average salary there.

Srbosjek (knife) used in Croatia by the Ustaše for the quick slaughter of inmates, notably in the Jasenovac concentration camp

Public monuments honoring Ustashe regime while numerous monuments erected in honour of the Partisans as well those erected in honour of civilian victims of war have been damaged or destroyed throughout the country. A square in the central part of Zagreb had been named the “Square of the victims of fascism” because during World War II, over sixteen thousand people had been deported via the square to concentration camps. In the early 1990s, this square was renamed to “Square of great Croats”. This decision was later reverted.

Croatia has no laws against historical revisionism and holocaust denial, nor does it regard denazification as a major priority. Unlike Germany and Austria, Croatia places no restrictions on the exhibition of Nazi and Ustaše symbols. In 2003, an attempt was made to amend the Croatian penal code by adding articles prohibiting the public display of Nazi symbols, the propagation of Nazi ideology, historical revisionism and holocaust denial, but this attempt was prevented by the Croatian constitutional court.

The late Croatian pro-Ustashe Nazi and Hitler-loving, Holocaust-denying antisemitic president, Franjo Tudjman, wrote in his 1988 Croatian version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, entitled: “Wastelands of Historical Truth” the following:

Genocidal violence is a natural phenomenon in harmony with the societal and mythologically Divine nature. Genocide is not only permitted it is also recommended, even commanded by the Word of the Almighty, whenever it is useful for the survival or the restoration of the earthly kingdom of the chosen nation, or for the preservation and spreading of its one and only correct faith”.

Also in Croatia, August 4 is celebrated as a Victory Day and state authorieties as well private citizens are celebratating the military operation carried out by forces from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to retake Krajina with operation ”Storm”, which might be the biggest ethnic cleansing act during Balkan Wars. Alice Mahon the Labour MP visited former Serb villages in the Krajina in 1999 and said: “I can only conclude that the Croatian government is aiming for an ethnically pure state. The international community is tolerating these openly racist policies.” (More in Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing and Operation Storm – forgotten pogrom )

Serbia and the former Yugoslavia, in an exact reprise of the fascist 1940s, have been systematically attacked and dismembered by Germany and Austria since the 1980s. Germany joined the Vatican in illegally recognising Croatia in 1991 which led to that State effectively declaring war on Yugoslavia and on Serbs in Croatia. In this the Croats had the full support of Germany and the Vatican – whose funds, liberally deployed among American PR firms helped to spread pro-Croatia propaganda. Todayrock concerts with neo-nazi symbols etc are indicating wide popular acceptance to display racism, anti-Semitism, anti-serbian acts and xenophobia in Croatia. Neo-Nazism has still good cooperation with church and e.g Wiesenthal Center has called for immediate dismissal of Director of Croatian Episcopal Archives who denies holocaust crimes at Jasenovac. (More Jasenovac in Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican )

What’s striking in Croatia that Church and far right neo-Nazi political groups have succeeded in engaging large crowds of fairly young people, most of whom were born at least forty years after the end of the Second World War. They come out dressed in uniforms with flags and crests of the quisling state which claimed at least half a million lives in less than five years of it’s existence. (See more e.g at Propagandistmag )

Constituent elements of the Croatian extreme right are an emphasis on the Ustasha movement during the Second World War, the creation of a strong state with an authoritarian character, territorial expansion of Croatia to its ethnic borders, especially vis-à-vis the Serbs, and a messianic mission of the Croatian nation as a bulwark of catholic Christianity.Radicalization of the public sphere is most readily visible among the younger generation, particularly in the context of football hooliganism. (Read more: Vedran OBUCINA| Right-Wing Extremism In Croatia, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung,2012)

This hapening in a country now in EU unfortunatelly something about todays EU itself where far-right views, neo-Nazism and xenophobia have been gaining ground during last decade. One should not forget old war crimes and especially they should not be honoured in the way like now in Croatia.

Anti-Nazi Graffiti - Rijeka, Croatia 2011/Photo credit: Mark Heard / Foter / CC BY-NC

“The gigantic campaign to brainwash America by our media against the Serbian people is just incredible, with its daily dose of one-sided information and outright lies…What is today’s reality? The murderers of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies are back (in Croatia) from the US, Canada, Argentina where they fled after World War II. The Serbs fought the Nazis, and paid a terrible price for standing at the side of the allies against Hitler. Humanity owes them a debt of gratitude.” And how have the Serbs been repaid? What was their reward for their loyalty? Seventy-eight days of unmerciful US-led NATO bombing and continued vilification by the US media. (John Ranz, Chairman of Survivors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, USA)

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P.S: Btw from 23 Jul 2013 Nazi-hunters are to launch a renewed campaign to track down former death camp guards and others involved in the Holocaust before the last remaining perpetrators of Second World War crimes die.


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