News 04 Mar 15

Croatian Judge Accused of ‘Holocaust Denial’

Historians and rights activists criticised a judge who questioned the number of victims killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp run by the Croatian Ustasa regime in World War II.

Sven Milekic
Memorial at Jasenovac.

Robert Strniscak, a judge in the central Croatian city of Kutina, has been strongly criticised for questioning whether 83,000 people really died at the Jasenovac concentration camp run by the Nazi-allied Ustasa regime between 1941 and 1945.

Natasa Matausic, a Croatian historian and member of the governing board responsible for the memorial centre at the former camp, told BIRN that the judge’s comments were “nothing short of genocide and holocaust denial”.

Strniscak made his comments while handing down a verdict at the Kutina municipal court on Friday which acquitted the president of the far-right Croatian Pure Party of Rights, Josip Miljak, of threatening the director of the Jasenovac memorial centre, Natasa Jovicic.

Jovicic made the accusation after Miljak sent her an email accusing her of “anti-Croat propaganda” and saying that it “will not continue for long”, which she interpreted as a threat.

But the judge said that Miljak was just expressing his dissatisfaction that a comprehensive study by the Jasenovac memorial centre said that 83,000 people died at the camp.

“The court concludes that Josip Miljak sent the aforementioned mail because he did not agree with the data relating to the number of victims of Jasenovac camp, which, obviously, differ very much, which Miljak had proved with excerpts from several publications by various authors,” the judge said.

He cited four experts who claim that the death toll was much lower than 83,000, although their credibility was strongly questioned by historians.

The head of the Zagreb-based NGO Documenta, Vesna Terselic, said that calling into question the list of 83,000 victims’ names compiled by the memorial centre was an example of “revisionism”.

“All this is happening within a context where for more than 20 years the anti-fascist partisan movement has been demonised and the facts of fascist crimes have been altered,” Terselic said.

Zoran Pusic, the head of the Civic Committee for Human Rights NGO said that the four experts quoted by the judge were trying to prove that “the Ustasa did not commit crimes and that Jasenovac was a labour camp”.

But he said that the fact that they were quoted by the judge was a more serious matter: “This is something completely different, since a state official [the judge] said rather dubious things,” he said.

Another historian and member of the Jasenovac governing board, Goran Hutinec, also criticised the judge for “giving equal value to the results of serious historical research on one side and tendentious interpretation on the other side”.

According to the list of victims compiled by the Jasenovac historians, among those who died at the camp were more than 20,000 women and more than 20,000 children under 14 years old. The victims were mostly Serbs, but also Jews, Roma and anti-fascists.

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