Wed Nov 29, 7:31 PM ET

Nazi-hunter blasts Croatia's 'Auschwitz' museum


ZAGREB (AFP) - The head of the Holocaust memorial group the Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized Croatia over a newly opened museum at the site of a fascist World War II concentration camp, in written comments.

"I saw an exhibition which was a big disappointment," Efraim Zuroff wrote in an article published in the weekly Globus.

"To my disbelief, there was not a single photograph of the commanders of Jasenovac," he said of the camp at which his organization estimates some 600,000 mostly Serbs and Jews were killed during World War II.

Zuroff said that any young visitors to the museum would "leave probably more confused then they were before" they visited an education center on atrocities committed at the camp by the "Ustasha" regime.

"In a museum dealing with nameless Ustasha (members), no individual can be made responsible," said Zuroff.

"More importantly, it lacks materials or explanations about the development of the Ustasha ideology before the war -- hatred against Serbs and anti-Semitism, which helped the spread of genocidal policy," he added.

The education center was opened Monday along with a new permanent layout of the Jasenovac museum in an official ceremony attended by Croatian President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

The memorial museum exhibits the names of about 70,000 people killed at the camp.

But the number of people murdered at Jasenovac -- mainly Serbs, followed by Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians -- is still disputed, with estimates ranging between 100,000 by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and 700,000 by Belgrade.

During his visit Zuroff met with Croatian state attorney Mladen Bajic and urged him to intensify efforts to prosecute Ustasha police chief Milovoj Asner, now living in Klagenfurt, Austria.

Vienna rejected a request by Croatia in September 2005 for Asner's extradition on the basis that he has an Austrian passport, but said it would consider trying the man itself.

Asner, 93, is accused by the Wiesenthal Centre of having participated in the persecution and deportation of hundreds of people killed in Ustasha concentration camps.

"Time is rapidly running out in this case and therefore a concentrated effort must be made by all involved parties to finally convince the Austrian authorities that there is absolutely no basis for their refusal to turn over the former police chief," Zuroff said in a statement.

Zuroff also pressed Croatia to investigate former Ustasha commander Ivo Rojnica who is living in Argentina.