News 16 Mar 17

Croatia Jews to Boycott Concentration Camp Commemoration

Croatia’s largest Jewish community group will boycott the state commemoration at the WWII concentration camp in Jasenovac, arguing the government hasn’t acted to stop the display of fascist symbols.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
The Jasenovac memorial. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Bern Bartsch.

The Coordination of Jewish Communities will not take part in the annual state-backed commemoration in April at the site of the former Croatian fascist concentration camp in Jasenovac, daily newspaper Novi List reported on Thursday.

Last year it also boycotted the state commemoration – along with the bulk of the Serbian minority and anti-fascist associations – due to the government’s alleged leniency towards those sympathetic to the WWII Croatian fascist Ustasa regime, which ran the camp.

“We won’t take part in the national commemoration again; we have made such a decision. Not only has nothing changed in relation to the situation as it was a year ago, but things continue to escalate,” the president of the Coordination, Ognjen Kraus, told Novi List.

He said that the Coordination will organise its own commemoration at Jasenovac instead, like it did last year.

Kraus listed what he said were a number of new failures over the past year to deal with Ustasa sympathies in Croatian society.

One of them was the installation of a plaque near the site of the Jasenovac camp with the Ustasa slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) engraved on it, which the government was criticised for not removing.

The government recently set up the Council for Dealing with the Consequences of the Rule of Non-Democratic Regimes as a response to disputes caused by the use of the Ustasa slogan, but the Coordination sees the move an attempt to avoid tackling the plaque issue.

Kraus also said that the government did not properly react to condemn the march in support of US President Donald Trump in Zagreb in February, at which a German neo-Nazi party’s flag was flown.

The pro-Trump march was staged by the marginal far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights, and was condemned by the US embassy in Zagreb.

The Serbian National Council, which represents the bulk of Croatia’s Serbs, has yet to decide whether to boycott this year’s commemoration.

Its leader Milorad Pupovac said however that the Ustasa slogan on the plaque not far from the concentration camp site was “an insult to the memory of the victims” and that a memorial service should not be held while it remained there.

“I expect ‘Za dom spremni’ to be removed from the plaque in Jasenovac,” he said.

The Croatian Alliance of Anti-Fascist Fighters and Anti-Fascists and various Roma associations have also yet to voice their position on this year’s commemoration.

Acting upon racial laws against Serbs, Jews and Roma – modelled upon Nazi legislation – the Ustasa killed over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists at Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945.

The Coordination of Jewish Communities is Croatia’s largest Jewish group; there is also the smaller Bet Israel group in Zagreb.

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