News 22 Apr 16

Boycott Overshadows Croatian Concentration Camp Memorial

Senior ministers attended the official annual commemoration at the Jasenovac concentration camp, but Croatian Serbs held a separate event amid an ongoing dispute about the country’s Nazi-allied WWII regime.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Government ministers arrive at the memorial. Photo: Twitter/Croatian government.

Senior ministers attended the official commemoration on Friday at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp in central Croatia, where over 83,000 people died during WWII under Croatia’s Nazi-allied regime, but the event was boycotted by representatives of the country’s Jews, Serbs and anti-fascists.

Wreaths were laid at the memorial by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic, vice prime ministers Bozo Petrov and Tomislav Karamarko, and a series of other top officials including controversial culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, who has been criticised for his opinions on Croatia’s WWII history.

Representatives of Croatia’s Roma community also attended the commemoration despite the boycott by Jews and Serbs, who are protesting against the permanent exhibition at the Jasenovac memorial, which they believe does not convey the concentration camp’s horrors adequately, and against what they see as a revival of wartime fascist values in Croatian politics.

Amid the ongoing controversy, this year’s official commemoration at Jasenovac was the first at which no minister made a speech.

Instead a letter was read from one of the last living survivors of the camp, 95-year-old Pava Molnar, who was detained for almost two years at Jasenovac for being an anti-fascist, as well as letters from some inmates who died in the camp.

Hasanbegovic told media that he does not feel responsible for the Jews’, Serbs’ and anti-fascists’ decision to boycott the official commemoration.

“Those responsible are those who are boycotting the official state commemoration,” he told media.

The Serbian National Council, the main association representing Serbs in Croatia, held a parallel commemoration at an Orthodox church in the village of Mlaka near Jasenovac.

It was attended by Croatian anti-fascists and Jewish community representatives came as well as culture minister Hasanbegovic and Serbian labour minister Aleksandar Vulin.

Another unofficial commemoration of the victims of Jasenovac will be held in Zagreb on Friday afternoon at the Square of Fascist Victims.

It is being organised by the League of Anti-Fascists of Croatia, who will be joined by representatives of the Jewish community, the Serbian National Council, the National Council of Roma and others.

Croatia’s Jewish community also had a separate commemoration at the memorial site a week ago.

The Jasenovac camp was set up by the Croatian Nazi-aligned puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, in August 1941, and run by its notorious Ustasa units.

Until it closed in April 1945, a total of 83,145 people were killed or died because of the poor conditions at the camp, according to researchers at the Jasenovac memorial.

They included 47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Roma, 13,116 Jews and 6,229 anti-fascists and others.

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