News 26 Jan 18

Serbia, Croatia Spar Over Concentration Camp Exhibition

Zagreb accused Belgrade of spreading “false information” with its exhibition at UN headquarters in New York about the WWII concentration camp at Jasenovac in Croatia.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Ivica Dacic, left, at the exhibition in New York. Photo: mfa.gov.rs

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said at the Belgrade-sponsored Jasenovac exhibition’s opening on Thursday evening that its goal was to prevent the deaths at the concentration camp in Croatia from being downplayed - but Zagreb accused Belgrade of using the victims for propaganda purposes.

“The goal of this exhibit is not just to introduce the international public to a lesser-known chapter of WWII. It is also to warn about the dangers from a revival of the ideology and political practice which led to such atrocities,” Dacic said at the opening ceremony.

But the Croatian foreign ministry said that the use of Jasenovac for “everyday political and propaganda” purposes was “unacceptable”.

“The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs condemns the attempt to use the UN for manipulation and the spreading of false information,” the Croatian ministry said, according to local media reports.

Croatia did not say which information about Jasenovac it considered false, but claimed that its intervention forced the organisers to remove “the most blatant forgeries [of history]” from the exhibit.

Serbian daily newspaper Vecernje Novosti alleged that Zagreb took issue with the number of people listed as having died at the camp.

Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi-aligned Ustasa movement killed over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists at Jasenovac, according to name-by-name statistics compiled by the Jasenovac Memorial Site. Some Serbian sources allege the death toll was much higher.

Vecernje Novosti also alleged that Zagreb complained about the use of a photograph of Croatian WWII-era Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac in the exhibition.

After WWII, Stepinac was convicted of collaborating with Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and their Croatian allies, the Ustase, but a Croatian court quashed the verdict in 2016.

The exhibition at the UN was staged ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which the UN marks on January 27.

Jasenovac has often been a subject of dispute between Zagreb and Belgrade, as well as causing controversy within Croatia itself.

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