Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | 14:21
"Genocidal Ustasha regime still glorified in Croatia"

The genocidal Ustasha regime (of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) is still glorified in Croatia, Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff writes for the Jerusalem Post.

"Two noteworthy events took place in Croatia during the past month that reflect in a very significant way on the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion, which is so rampant in post-Communist Eastern Europe," Zuroff writes, in an article entitled, "Failure to sincerely and honestly confront Ustasha crimes," and adds:

"One of the events was attended by at least 200,000 people and viewed all over the world by millions of others on television and the internet, while the other was attended by a small select group of prominent guests, was closed to the public and was hardly mentioned in the media."

Zuroff explains that the first was the public reception for the Croatia national football team held on July 16 "upon its triumphant return to Zagreb following its surprising second-place finish in the recent World Cup competition held in Russia," while the other was Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's visit to the site of Croatia's WW2 death camp for Serbs, Jews, and Roma in Jasenovac.

Both, however, are important, if we seek to understand the threat posed by the attempts to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust in the region, and why the efforts to combat this plague have hitherto not been particularly successful, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in his article, cited by Tanjug, and Croatia-based website Index.

"Hoping to avoid any controversy, the organizers of the reception announced beforehand that no politicians or performers would appear, but that is not what happened. Marko Perkovic, probably the most popular singer in Croatia, and better known by his nickname of 'Thompson' (for the British machine gun he carried as a Croatian soldier in the wars of the nineties), went to Zagreb Airport to greet the players personally, and they asked him to accompany them and later sing two of his songs at the reception, which cast the entire event in a totally different light," Zuroff writes of the celebration sin Zagreb.

"Thompson is notorious for his ultranationalist lyrics and his glorification of Croatia’s notorious genocidal World War II Ustasha regime, often opening his concerts with the Ustasha salute “Za dom spremni” (For the homeland ready)," the article continued. "Thus, instead of being an uplifting celebration of Croatia’s magnificent World Cup performance, it became a neo-fascist extravaganza, with the players singing all the lyrics along with him by heart. No one openly protested his performance, and those criticizing it in the media and social networks, myself included, were subjected to derision and the usual nasty messages. And if anyone thought that Thompson’s popularity was primarily among the marginal elements of Croatian society, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic herself has said openly that he was her favorite performer."

The failure to sincerely and honestly confront Ustasha crimes has plagued Croatia since it obtained independence, Zuroff said, adding that this "hardly attracted any attention or criticism, with the exception of Serbia and some of the Jewish world," while Israel "never took Croatia to task for its serious failures in this regard."

That is, he continued, "until last week - when President Rivlin visited Jasenovac and delivered what most probably was the most important speech of his life on a Holocaust-related issue."

The article then quoted Reuven's words spoken at Jasenovac:

"The Ustasha regime, one of the terrible regimes which collaborated with the Nazis, emerged here in Croatia. We know that there were also others, but they were a minority. The (Ustasha) regime were active partners in the murders. There are those who prefer to repress their past and consider it a 'black hole' which does not require examination or soul-searching. There are those who think, especially today... that the fact that they were under Nazi occupation frees them from any moral, personal or national responsibility for the atrocities which took place in their country..."

"We expect to see the efforts of the Republic of Croatia to ensure that these historical black pages will not be forgotten. Confronting the crimes of the past is a long journey, which must be pursued with perseverance despite all the difficulties, with determination and courage. Croatia’s ability to deal with its past and not ignore the impact of the past constitutes a moral debt of every just society, and will be an important element in the friendship between Croatia and the State of Israel."

"We are all obligated to make every effort to respect the memory of those murdered, and not to promote any legislation or blow or attempt to silence historical research about crimes by the Nazis and the regimes which were their allies. Only by honestly and courageously confronting the past and educating younger generations will we be able to promise in this terrible place that 'Never Again'."

Zuroff noted that Croatia recently passed a law closing personal files for longer periods of time, "which might make research on individuals who committed crimes during World War II more difficult," and remarked that this was "the first time in years that an Israeli leader makes the issue of historical truth an important element that will affect the bilateral relations with an Eastern European country whose nationals actively participated in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust" - but that the little notice was made of the speech in Israel, and that it reverberated only in Serbia, which was Reuven's next stop after visiting Croatia.