News 07 Sep 17

Croatia Removes Fascist Slogan Plaque from Jasenovac

A controversial plaque with the Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ was removed from Jasenovac, near the location of a wartime Ustasa concentration camp.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
The removal of the plaque in Jasenovac. Photo: Screenshot/HRT.

The Croatian authorities on Thursday morning removed the controversial plaque with the ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) slogan from a building in the municipality of Jasenovac in central Croatia, near the location of the former Ustasa concentration camp.

The plaque was installed in November the honour of 11 killed soldiers from the Croatian 1990s paramilitary Croatian Defence Forces, HOS.

The HOS uses the Ustasa chant ‘Za dom spremni’ as its official slogan and it is engraved into their legally-recognised coat of arms.

After media reported about the plaque in December, it sparked negative reactions both inside and outside Croatia.

The Ustasa killed over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists at the nearby Jasenovac camp between 1941 and 1945.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told a press conference on Thursday that the government made the decision to remove the plaque in talks with HOS associations.

“We found a solution; the plaque was moved to [the nearby town of] Novska… [Other HOS] memorials have already been set up there,” Plenkovic said.

For months, junior government coalition parties – the Croatian People’s Party and the Independent Democratic Serb Party – urged their senior partner, then Croatian Democratic Union, to remove the plaque and resolve the issue of the HOS’s coat of arms.

Plenkovic said that removing the plaque was the first step to resolving the dispute over the public use of the ‘Za dom spremni’ slogan.

“The second [step] is a systematic legal regulation of the symbols of totalitarian systems,” he said.

He said that the Council for Dealing with Consequences of the Rule of Non-Democratic Regimes, which was set up earlier this year after the dispute erupted, will give “recommendations for a comprehensive lawful solution”.

The government will then put its proposal to parliament.

“Then we’ll resolve [the issue of] ‘Za dom spremni’ and other symbols of totalitarian systems in order to remove dilemmas and ensure these topics won’t turn Croatia towards the past,” he concluded.

Meanwhile Boris Labasic, head of the Association of HOS for the city of Zagreb, told a press conference in the capital earlier on Thursday that HOS veterans are not fascists and that they are “tied exclusively to the Homeland War”, the official name for Croatia’s 1990s war.

He added that the plaque was legally installed in Jasenovac with all the necessary licences, and that the HOS coat of arms is legally recognised.

“We’ll install the HOS plaque in… Novska in the memory of the dead knights [HOS members]. We thank the government and the city of Novska. The plaque will always be there with the coat of arms of the HOS and ‘Za dom spremni’ written on it,” he said.

He also insisted that ‘Za dom spremni’ will not be removed from the HOS coat of arms.

However the commander of the HOS Rafael Boban unit, Marko Skejo, insisted that plaque should stay in Jasenovac.

“Jasenovac is Croatia. These guys gave their lives for Jasenovac, I can’t see why this sign isn’t staying there,” Skejo told the press conference, ending his speech with the slogan: “Za dom spremni.”

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