The chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a prominent Jewish human-rights organisation, has again warned that Croatia has problems with what he called ‘fascist nostalgia’.
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Israel and Eastern Europe office and the organisation’s chief Nazi-hunter, has warned that “neo-fascist Croatian revisionists” are trying to change the image of the WWII-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia, NDH and its Ustasa military units.
In an article for the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Zuroff warned that Croatia’s “troubled history continues to plague its present and threaten its democratic future”.
He criticised last weekend’s commemoration of the 25th anniversary of a 1990s wartime Croatian Defence Forces unit named after a WWII Nazi-allied commander.
At the commemoration in Split, members of the Knight Rafael Boban unit chanted the wartime fascist slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) and called for it to be legalised.
Zuroff said this was “an attempt to legitimise the murderous policies of the NDH and whitewash that regime’s crimes”.
He also criticised a new Croatian documentary film about the Jasenovac concentration camp, which was run by the NDH regime.
Over 83,000 Serbs, Roma, Jews and enemies of the WWII-era fascist Independent State of Croatia, NDH were executed or died due to the poor conditions at the camp in central Croatia between 1941 and 1945. The camp was run by the Ustasa units, which were largely modelled on the Nazi SS.
Zuroff said that the film, Jasenovac - The Truth, was seeking to play down the crimes committed at the camp.
The premiere of the film earlier this month was attended by Croatia’s right-wing culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, who praised the documentary.
“The only good news in that respect these days was a declaration by both the Croatian president and prime minister (separately) that the Ustasa government was a ‘criminal regime’,” Zuroff wrote, although he claimed this was only done as a result of US pressure.
“Unless the government starts actively and unequivocally fighting against Ustasa nostalgia, and rising neo-fascism and anti-Semitism, it looks like the situation in Croatia will only get worse,” he said.
He welcomed the fact that year’s state-sponsored commemoration at the Jasenovac camp memorial site is being boycotted by the Croatian Jewish community, anti-fascist associations and the Serbian National Council, the main representative of Croatia’s Serb community.
The boycott is a protest against the permanent exhibition at the Jasenovac memorial, which they believe does not convey the concentration camp’s horrors adequately, and against what they see as a revival of Ustasa values in the political arena.
The Anti-Fascist League of Croatia is also organising an alternative Jasenovac commemoration in Zagreb on the same day as the official one.