News 07 Apr 16

Israeli Diplomat Slams Croatian Concentration Camp Film

Israel’s ambassador to Zagreb condemned a controversial Croatian film about the Jasenovac concentration camp, run by the country’s WWII Nazi-allied regime, saying it was offensive to victims’ families.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Israeli ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman. Photo: Israeli Embassy.

Israeli ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman said in an open letter on Thursday that the new documentary film Jasenovac - The Truth offered a selective view of history and was offensive to the families of those who died at the concentration camp.

Kalay Kleitman attended the premiere in Zagreb on Monday of the Croatian-made film, which has also caused outrage among Croatian Jews for appearing to downplay the scale of the violence at the concentration camp.

“Since I am Israeli, and a descendant of a family that was hit by Holocaust, I wanted to see and look at the film, which, in my opinion, very selectively shows history, attempts to revise historical facts and offends the feelings of people who have lost their loved ones in Jasenovac,” she wrote in her letter.

Over 83,000 Serbs, Roma, Jews and enemies of the WWII-era fascist Independent State of Croatia, NDH were executed or died due to the poor conditions at the Jasenovac camp in central Croatia between 1941 and 1945. The camp was run by the notorious Ustasa units, which were largely modelled on the Nazi SS.

Kalay Kleitman said the film focuses on how the NDH came to power, but less time was “dedicated to real crimes committed in the death camp in Jasenovac”.

“I also noticed an attempt to downplay the terrible extent of the crimes committed, or at least an attempt to illustrate them with historical events that led to them,” she said.

“Regarding the truth, this documentary movie represents a truth as seen by the author of the movie, nothing more than that,” she added.

Croatian culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, who has run into controversy in the past for his views about the NDH, attended Monday’s screening and praised the film.

“Such films are useful because they speak about a number of taboo topics. This is the best way to finally shed light on a number of controversial places in Croatian history,” Hasanbegovic said.

The film questions how many people actually died at the camp under NDH rule, and alleges that a larger number were killed there when Croatia was under Communist control.

Director Jakov Sedlar said on Tuesday that the number of victims was exaggerated as a result of “non-scientific Yugoslav historiography”.

The film has also been shown in the coastal city of Split this week, and Sedlar has said he wants to screen it at the Holocaust Museum in Washington and in Israel.

Kalay Kleitman said the film would not be banned in Israel unless it contained “calls to violence, anti-Semitism or hate speech”.

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