News 30 Dec 14

Memorial Mass for Croatian Nazi Slammed as 'Disgrace'

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has described the memorial mass held in Zagreb for Croatia's wartime Fascist dictator, Ante Pavelic, as an insult to the memory of hundreds of thousands of victims of his regime.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Ante Pavelic (right) shaking hands with Adolf Hitler (left). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A leading organisation dedicated to hunting down Nazi criminals and confronting anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, has condemned the Catholic mass held on Sunday in Zagreb dedicated to Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic.

Pavelic, head of the Fascist Ustasha movement, ran a Nazi-style puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, between 1941 and 1945, which is blamed for causing hundreds of thousands of deaths.

As Nazi Germany collapsed and as the Communists took over Yugoslavia, he fled to Argentina, dying in Franco's Spain in 1959.

Controversially, a memorial service has been performed in a Catholic church in Zagreb every year since the early 1990s on 28 December, the anniversary of Pavelic’s death.

While Pavelic’s sympathizers say they have a right to hold a memorial service in church,  the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, said it was a “disgrace for the Catholic Church” and “an insult for hundreds of thousands of innocent victims” of Pavelic's regime.

“It's hard to believe that in the heart of the capital of an EU member country, very close to the premises of Zagreb Jewish community, hundreds of people gathered at a memorial service for one of the greatest mass murderers in Europe,” Zuroff said.

Besides Zagreb, another mass was organized in Croatia's second city of Split, on the Adriatic coast.

While a memorial church service can be legally held for anyone, for the last two years, anti-Fascist protesters have gathered in front of the church in Zagreb to condemn both the service and the wider problem of historical revisionism.

Pavelic governed Croatia for four years after the German invasion of Yugoslavia caused the country to fall apart.

The exact number of victims of the his regime remains controversial and a matter of dispute between Serbian and Croatian historians.

There is no doubt, however, that it set up Nazi-style concentration camps in which tens or even hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-Fascist Croats perished.

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