The director of leading Jewish rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Centre wrote to Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic demanding an end to pensions for veterans of Nazi-allied units from WWII.
The director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, said in an open letter to Milanovic that was made public on Tuesday that the pensions were an insult to victims of Croatia’s wartime pro-German regime.
According to the Croatian pension insurance institute, in 2013 Zagreb paid out pensions to 13,000 former soldiers and policemen of the Nazi-aligned puppet state Independent State of Croatia, NDH.
Even veterans of the notorious elite voluntary Ustasa unit, responsible for killing Serbs, Jews, Roma and opponents of the NDH, are eligible to receive these pensions.
In his letter, Zuroff stressed that “the special benefits that members of the Ustasa movement got with a law passed in the fall of 1993 is an insult to Ustasa victims and their families”.
The law passed in 1993 was an attempt by the Croatian right-wing government at the time to compensate members of units that fought against anti-fascist Partisans, so that veterans on both sides received benefits.
“With a view of the horrifying war crimes that were committed by the Ustasa in NDH, we believe that such a policy direction was wrong, contrary to the principles of the Republic of Croatia and that it represents a frightening insult to Ustasa victims, their families and all Croats who have a sense of morality and integrity,” Zuroff’s letter said.
“Therefore, we invite you to take appropriate action and change this policy as soon as possible in order to spare Croatia of embarrassing rewarding of those who committed the worst and cruelest crimes of the World War Two, with special awards for their cruelty and moral blindness,” letter concludes.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is dedicated to locating all alleged Nazi criminals who are still alive, maintaining the memory of the Holocaust and tackling Holocaust denial in the process.
Zuroff is an Israeli historian who has been responsible for ensuring some Nazi wartime criminals from Eastern Europe were brought to justice. In 1998 He played a significant role in the exposure, arrest, extradition and prosecution of Dinko Sakic, the former commandant of the Ustasa concentration camp Jasenovac.
In 2013, Croatia spent around 46 million euro on pensions for the 13,000 former NDH soldiers and policemen. Two-thirds of these payouts were so-called ‘family pensions’, claimed by the veterans’ spouses after their deaths.