06 Apr 16 balkaninsight.com
Nazi-Hunter Criticises Croatia Fans’ Fascist Chants

The chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a prominent Jewish human-rights organisation, called on Croatian ministers to condemn fascist chanting at the national team’s football matches.

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Israel and Eastern Europe office and the organisation’s chief Nazi-hunter, criticised Croatian ministers in an article published in the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday for not strongly condemning fascist chanting at football matches.

Croatian football fans chanted the slogan of the wartime Nazi-allied Ustasa fighting units, “Za dom spremni” (“Ready for the Home(land)”), at a football match between Croatia and Israel in March this year, as they have at international games on previous occasions.

“If the prime minister and/or at least other ministers would have clearly and unequivocally denounced the disgusting behaviour of the Croatian fans after the match, the damage done would have been mitigated somewhat, but the only response from the prime minister’s office was a short press release condemning the use of symbols and slogans of totalitarian regimes, without mentioning the match and the specifics of the event,” Zuroff wrote in his article.

He also criticised Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and Education and Sports Minister Predrag Sustar, who attended the match against Israel in Osijek, for not reacting immediately.

“Given the fact that these chants were clearly heard by all those in the stadium, their failure to respond is an indication of tolerance for such outrageous, insulting and clearly anti-Semitic behaviour,” Zuroff said.

Zuroff alleged that Croatia is “a country where manifestations of fascism and anti-Semitism are very common, especially in the local soccer stadiums, but not easily identifiable by those ignorant of the country’s World War II and Holocaust history”.

The WWII-era fascist puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, took power in April 1941 and passed laws similar to Nazi legislation, targeting Serbs, Jews and Roma.

On the territory controlled by the NDH, encompassing today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina and most of Croatia, around 30,500 out of 39,000 Jews were killed by the Ustasa or deported to Nazi death camps.

Football governing body FIFA fined the Croatian Football Federation 55,000 euros after fans chanted “Za dom spremni” at a match against Norway in March 2015, and ordered the national team to play its next match to an empty stadium.

But before the match in Split last June, a swastika was painted onto the pitch, which was punished by an additional FIFA fine of 100,000 euros.

In a separate development this week, Croatian Jewish representatives expressed outrage after the country's culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic praised a film that claims the number of people killed by the country’s pro-Nazi WWII regime at the Jasenovac concentration camp was exaggerated.