All apologies for victims of the Holocaust not equally welcome?

Jasenovac – the memorial monument

During his visit to Israel last week Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic apologised to the Jewish people for the role Croatia played during World War II in the crimes against Jews.

In almost the same breath, Josipovic said: “amendments to the compensation law that will be made soon, will also include Holocaust survivors, private individuals, their inheritors or local communities.” Jerusalem based newspaper Haaretz reports.

Haaretz also reported that the former Croatian president Stjepan Mesic had done the same thing a few years ago (2001), but omits to mention that the late president of Croatia dr Franjo Tudjman publicly stated in 1997 (when diplomatic relations were established between the two countries) that he intended to visit Israel and apologise on behalf of Croatia for Croatia’s role in the Holocaust.

I would have thought that one formal or official apology on behalf of Croatia was adequate and all further ones are unnecessary. What’s done is done and I have no doubt that both Mesic’s and Josipovic’s apologies reflect the sentiments of regret of the Croatian people, as did President Tudjman’s way back in the 1990’s.

Having said that, it’s quite interesting (politically calculated?) how “Israel” accepted apologies given by former (if not still) pro-Communist Yugoslavia lot (Mesic and Josipovic) and brushed aside rather rudely the apology publicly announced (and broadcasted by the world’s major news media houses) by Franjo Tudjman for his planned visit to Israel in the 1997.

Tudjman’s visit to Israel, though, never eventuated in 1997/1998, and he died in 1999.

Back in 1997, the Israeli government’s decision to establish diplomatic ties with Croatia came under sharp criticism from Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin, who said Tudjman had yet to fully repudiate writings that cast doubt on the number of people killed during the Holocaust.

 The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel also joined the chorus of critics urging Israel to reconsider its ties with Croatia.

The establishment of ties came (1998) after Tudjman said he planned to visit Israel and apologise for his nation’s persecution of Jews during World War II.

By the way, this was not the first time Tudjman directed a sincere apology to Jews on behalf of the Croatian people for the role Croatia played in WWII crimes against Jews. In January 1992 he wrote letter to Edgar Bronfman, president of World Jewish Congress, noting:

“…The Ustashe regime committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity. That was a regime which, under the protection of the Nazi and Fascist occupation forces, persecuted Jews and members of other nationalities as well as Croatian political opponents in the most brutal manner. With these crimes, it irrevocably joined its patrons, sharing their historical fate. On the other hand, a vast number of Croats, myself among them, took up arms against the Ustashe reign of terror and the Nazi and Fascist occupation forces. We deeply regret the fact that the Jewish people in Croatia suffered the tragic fate of the Holocaust during World War II.”

Undeniably, for Israel and the case of apology on behalf of the Croatian people, it’s not all the same (as it should be) who utters that apology. That is truly sad and wicked, not to mention politically driven.

Tudjman wrote in his book about Jasenovac concentration camp run by the WWII Croatian government. Historians have not agreed as to the number of people that perished in Jasenovac and the truth may never be known. Estimated numbers of victims that perished put forth by world’s historians since WWII range from 700,000 to 150,000. These numbers include the killings of Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatians who were against the fascist government.

Croatians have long maintained that about 60,000 perished in the camp, but Tudjman claimed that even this figure is too high. The most probable figure, he maintained, is between 30,000 and 40,000. Moreover, he went on to say that Jewish inmates were largely responsible for the killings there. Besides, Tudjman had also publicly rejected the “Six Million” Holocaust victims in WWII Europe.

No wonder he wasn’t welcome in Israel. It’s easier to stick to claimed or possibly exaggerated estimates than to do something about investigating and confirming the true number of victims? Never mind, things may be slowly taking a reality check on numbers of victims as even the Simon Wiesenthal Center representatives are now publicly saying that the Serb version of 700,000 killed in Jasenovac “may possibly be an exaggeration”.

Back to what president Josipovic said in Jerusalem last week, i.e. his mention of changes in Croatia’s compensation laws. At the same time, Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusic said that “the question of Jewish property which was taken, robbed and confiscated by the Ustashi regime from 1941 to 1945 must be solved”.

What tree do Josipovic and Pusic live on!? For crying out loud!

  • The law regarding the return of all nationalised/confiscated property (including the property confiscated during WWII) was passed in Croatia during 1990’s under Tudjman’s leadership.
  • For about 15 years there have been many cases by Jewish families living abroad from before and since WWII claiming the return of confiscated or nationalised property before Croatian courts with relatively little results so far.
  • Jewish property was confiscated during WWII but also before and after it. Before while Belgrade-based Yugoslav Kingdom ruled over Croatia and after, in Communist Yugoslavia. ALL confiscated property needs to be either returned or compensated for, not just the properties confiscated between 1941 and 1945.
  • The Communists (the camps from which Josipovic and Pusic stem) when they took power in Croatia after WWII did not go about returning the confiscated properties, oh no, they tightened up the nationalisation of property and moved their families into the confiscated properties. It is more likely than not that even president Josipovic and foreign minister Pusic grew up in those confiscated-from-Jews properties/ houses/ flats.
  • It would only be fair to say that, since WWII and post-WWII Communists/antifascists (who were happy to follow the Communist Yugoslav nationalisation laws) enjoyed freely for decades the properties they say Ustashi stole during WWII, they and/or their beneficiary descendants should participate in the compensation to Jews out of their own pockets and stop pointing a finger at the long-dead and gone Ustashis.
  • Many Jews left Croatia during the late 1930’s when the Third Reich was on the rise in Germany and their life and welfare threatened, leaving their possessions behind, unattended. This was the case in other European countries as well. Ustashi regime did not exist then.
  • Communists and antifascists have a nasty and vicious knack of throwing blame onto the WWII fascist regime for the confiscation of Jewish property and yet they themselves were the ones who actually nationalised all the confiscated properties, took more properties, and enjoyed them for personal gain for nearly 70 years.

Tagging the compensation laws and return of Jewish property only confiscated during WWII (not before or after) to an apology for crimes against Jews is absolutely repulsive and makes Josipovic’s apology a joke and a pathetic political manoeuvre attempting to score points for Communists or antifascists. Certainly, Croatian people do not deserve to be represented by an apology tainted with such political tricks,  point-scoring and half-truths. As for Stjepan Mesic he had done very little if anything during the ten years of his presidential mandate to advance and speed up the claims in Croatian courts that Jewish families filed in courts during the last couple of Years of Tudjman’s presidency. Whichever way one looks at it, despite Israel’s rejections of giving Tudjman credibility, Tudjman did more on the front of apologies and putting the processes for the return of the Jewish property in place than Josipovic and Mesic put together.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. We need to change perceptions about Croatia/Croatians. There is a legacy of proganda and lies committed by Serbs for over 70 years that it ruled Yugoserbia. Serbs wrote the fasle history to protect themselves and to conquer / wipe-out Croatia. They controlled all official information and diplomatic channels. Their decit and effectiveness over the years cannot be underestimated as their legacy continues today. Croatians must accelerate the process of establishing the truth. This takes persistent efforts both officially and informally through everyday interactions. Your blog helps termendously by educating people about the situation and especially for Croatians who don’t know the truth. How we can we spread the truth if we don’t know the truth? More academic research, writings, dipolmatic influence and popular culture elements (movies, books, music tourism etc) are needed and must work in tandem. But we are not working in isolation, as the Serbs will continue to counter and mis-inform others about Croatia to achieve their ultimate goal of a Great Serbia.

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  2. Michael Silovic says:

    So our president went to Israel gave an apology and I am fine with that but I wish no one would apologize to anyone for Croatia’s past. After all no one has ever apologized to Croatia for the suffering we have endured for centuries. My concern is even deeper that we are getting involved with Israel as a friend of Croatia.Israel has a reputation world wide to suck the life out of every country it has befriended.It always starts with an apology to Israel for all the wrong done to the Jews. This is what Israel wants from everyone as a tool to make countries feel they owe something to Israel and to feel guilt for the Jews.Then we become friends and the next thing you know they are asking for our young men to go fight their dirty wars in the middle east as they expect the USA to do.The American people are tired of Israels ploy of poor me we have suffered more then anyone else during the holocaust and you owe us everything attitude.For over 50 years they have not been able to make peace with any of their neighbors in the middle east! You have to wonder why this is.Everyone is at fault except for poor Israel.Croatia needs to examine how much of a relationship it wants with the Jewish state and what benefit comes with it for the Croatian people. One should include that we will never send our young men to defend any war in any country other then our own.If their is no significant benefit to the Croatian people other then to say your our friend I would leave it at that and not expand our relationship any further. If the Croatian government chooses to expand our relationship with Israel I would hope that they ask the Croatian people for its permission and clearly articulate what benefit it is to the Croatian people.

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  3. Michael Silovic the situation in the middle east is NOT the fault of Israel. Look at Israel’s neighbours, not the most friendly bunch of folks. It’s neighbours want to destroy Isreal. Well no wonder Israel needs to protect itself. So, quit harping on Israel and learn from her to help build a better Croatia; we too are surrounded by neighbours who want to detroy Croatia or at least marginalize and dominate it. We have more in common with Israel and should feel solidarity with her.

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    • Yes but the solidarity needs to be a two-way street and that’s not likely. No matter how much of a good will Croatia has or had it seems it’s never enough for Israel and that should be a lesson for Croatia to look after itself first.

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    • Michael silovic says:

      Suman you are missing my point that Ina stated correctly. If we look at Croatia as an example then Israel should follow Croatia. We got over our wars and accepted the fact that we all need to live in peace and will do whatever is necessary to achieve it because Croats have always been a loving and caring people. In fact we have moved so quickly that in 50 years and with Croatians personality as a country and people we will be a World class act country second to none. Did we go to the Serbs and say well you apologize to us or perhaps our countries will not have such favorable conditions for friendships?Anytime a country is at war with it neighbors we have to examine closely why? One can not always assume that Israel is the innocent party and everyone else is wrong.In fact the United States asked Israel not to build settlements on Palestinian lands but the Israel government went and did it anyway. Is this a true friendship?My concern is not even what happens in Israel because my opinion is already stated in the above article. As to give you a further example of why I perceive Israel as the problem is that they also issued dual citizenship to American Jews and encouraged them to move to and build settlements on Palestinian lands ! Did you know that less then 1% of American Jews serve in the American military but yet they are quick to ask for our soldiers!. You can say yes our history is somewhat like Israels but the Croatian people proved to the world we are a just,compassionate, and peaceful people willing to move on with our history. However As a Croat American that has grown up in america I understand the way Israel operates as our country has always held Israels hand. I do not trust the Jewish state and its propaganda and only mention that Croatia needs to be careful with its so called friendship with the Jewish state so we do not send our young people to defend Israel when we have our own problems.( How many Jews came to defend Croatia? ) Our friendship with Israel should be based on mutual respect and benefit to both parties and not a one way street. This is the way I feel about any country who wishes to befriend and do business with Croatia. Croatia must have a Croatia First Policy that benefits its people before it benefits any others.Sunman it is not my intent to go on about Israel on this site but I would hope you examine very closely the relations we have with Israel and speak up when you see Croatia being drag into situations that we need not be involved with. Croatia First is the only way we can secure prosperity for our country and people.

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    • I don’t agree that they intrinsically hate Judaism and Jews any more than the Jews hate the Christians, the Muslims, the Poles, or wveheor else they happen to live close toI dont think they hate us intrinsically either, i also dont think even the majority of muslims in europe cares for Israel/Judaism but antisemitism DID exist even the arab countries (ive hard more than enough stories from ex-iraqis how they were treated by their fellow muslim citizens back in the day). Of course, the cartoons or tv shows we sometimes see from Hamas-style tv dont emphasize *ISRAELI* stereotypes, but Jewish stereotypes, and this is what i find disturbing. Theres no reason for them to bring the cute myths about blood-made maza and such, and yet they do it happily.I dont know where ur relatives live in Israel, and immigiration is always not an easy task for anyone anywher, but generally speaking, the ex-soviet immigiration to Israel was a huge success, and from what i know, most of them are actually as content with their life here as any other Israeli is.Im also a human being who is being liked or disliked , but then i go to europe once a year, and find out even the nicest, prettiest quitest German towns have usually at least one swastika drawn on one of the buildings in the town center. Does that mean all the jews are in immidiate danger there, or that i will no longer be visiting Germany? of course not, but it just shows u antisemitism hasnt really disappeard, we’re reminded of our judaism not because you or i care for it (i personally dont follow even one mizva out of the 500+ we have, or at least not in a way im aware it is such), but because we’re such for the surroundnig people. Its not really your choice, unfortunatly, even if u dont feel it everyday, unless u find a way to make people to not care for nationalism, or somehow cancel ur jewishness .

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  4. Michael silovic says:

    Sadly that is the way it is when you do not agree with Israel. That is the way Israel operates. Peace is only achieved when both sides want peace and work together.Croatia is a rich country in its natural resources and knowledge of our peoples self determination and independence. This we have proven.But as a people we have not received the respect of countries who did us harm in our history by the way of apologies and there fore I seen no value in Croatia only being the one to apologize.We see the classic example of the way our generals have been incarcerated for being heroes to our countries people because of politics.Tudjman was not well received by Israel because he would not bend to his knee for anyone.Croatia should never again apologize on a one sided basis to anyone. Our dignity as a people is more important then to have friendships based on false hopes and dreams. Croats are survivalist and can do better with out those who want to do nothing more then to degenerate its country and peoples regardless of who they are.

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  5. Agreed relationship should be based on mutual respect. I have no issues with Israel or Jews. But I do admire Jewish solidarity and accomplishments – over centuries of being stateless. My point was simply to not take our eyes off the real issues that affect Croatia. It is not Israel, it is Serbia. Serbs live in denial and have not gone through any catharsis. In fact they don’t take any responsibility for the war or how it was conducted; they feel self righteous. This makes for a VERY DANGEROUS situation for Croatia. How can you trust the Serbs when their motives are guided by the Greater Serbia ideology – which they have never repudiated or outlawed? Serbs have not taken the right steps to take responsibility for their barbaric actions. No remorse, no moral conflict, war criminals are heros, no financial compensation to its victims; nothing, instead they continue to pursue their victims through quasi-judicial means. In some ways the Serbs have won the war…they were able to create mini Serb state in B/H which in due time will join-up with Serbia, they will repopulate the Krajina through a return process demanded by the EU and UN, and acquiesced by the Croatian government positioning themselves for a final demographic and indeed democratic succession from Croatia. This may sound bleak and pessimistic, but must be considered if we are to defend Croatia.

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    • Totally agree. Croatia should take a tough stand vis-a-vis Serbia and it’s lack of remorse and responsibility for what they have done. Croatia should not forget or push into the second plan the horrors of the Homeland War and I’m afraid this is being done for the sake of “sucking up” to EU and other parts of Western world that dictates how Croatia should act. That is wrong. Jewish solidarity with their own people and issues no matter where they are is indeed the path that strengthens the nation.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] in laws to incorporate World War II era with regards to the return of confiscated Jewish property. As I said in my previous article this announcement had a political agenda of trying to distance and exonerate the Communists from […]

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  2. […] Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999 all three Presidents of Croatia had officially visited Israel, apologising for the […]

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