Croatian Jews said on Monday they would boycott the country’s main Holocaust remembrance event this week, accusing the authorities of playing down crimes perpetrated under the Nazi-backed Ustasa regime during The Second World War.
Three months ago, rightist veterans of Croatia’s 1991-95 independence war raised a commemorative plaque in the town of Jasenovac to comrades killed there at the beginning of the conflict Zagreb fought to secede from Serbian-led Yugoslavia.
Included in the veterans’ plaque are words from a salute used by the Ustasha regime that killed tens of thousands of prisoners including Jews, Serbs, Roma and anti-fascist Croats, in the 1941-1945 Jasenovac concentration camp.
That prompted the association representing Croatia’s remnant population of Jews, numbering somewhat over 1,500, to pull out of its primary Holocaust remembrance event, which is normally conducted in the Zagreb parliament.
“We took the decision on the basis of reactions by the government, parliament and the president. The problem is not (just) a plaque in Jasenovac including the Ustasha salute, but the relativisation of everything (to do with the Holocaust),” community leader Ognjen Kraus told the state news agency Hina.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic – now on an unrelated visit to Israel – proposed last month forming a commission that would legally regulate re-appearances of symbols from any past totalitarian regime.
Kraus dismissed the gesture. “If swastika or Ustasha symbols are equated with the (communist) red star, what are we talking about? Are we going to revise history? Establish a commission to tell us what the Second World War was about?” he said.