Croatia: President Paid Respects To Victims Of WWII Jasenovac Camp And Prime Minister Did Not!


Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic At Jasenovac memorial centre 22 April 2015 - 70 Anniversary of liberation of this WWII camp where thousands lost their innocent lives

Croatian President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
At Jasenovac memorial centre
22 April 2015 – 70 Anniversary
of liberation of this WWII camp where thousands
lost their innocent lives

The past week has marked the 70th anniversary of liberation of WWII concentration camps throughout Europe. In Croatia, on 22 April 1945 some 600 prisoners at the Jasenovac camp revolted and broke out; most were killed in this break out. 22nd April is the official Remembrance Day for the victims of Jasenovac camp.
On that morning in 2015, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic went to Jasenovac memorial site – on her own, alone, somber – bowing in deep respect to the victims who perished there during WWII.


Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic bows to the victims at Jasenovac

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
bows to the victims at Jasenovac

At this moment, 70 years ago today, began the break out of the Jasenovac camp. I bow to the victims and express deep respect to the people who were tortured and killed here. Those were people who had first and last names, who had families and homes, their identity, their wishes and hopes, their dreams, everything that makes a person unique.

As President of the Republic of Croatia and as a human being I unreservedly condemn the crimes of torture and killings that were perpetrated in this place. The ideology that caused these crimes is condemned both morally and legally. Those politics were the will of the regime that tied itself to the Nazi-Fascist Axis and it dishonourably used the legitimate wish of the Croatian people for its own state.

This is a platform of warning in our time too, to resolutely keep the legacy of freedom, democracy, human rights and acknowledgement of diversity. The Republic of Croatia is rightfully proud of its achievements in the protection of human and minority rights. In order to preserve and advance this high level of freedom, it is especially necessary to educate the young to correctly understand democracy and educate them for true humanism and a society in whose centre will always be man in his uniqueness”, President Grabar-Kitarovic wrote, in the Book Of Impressions at the Jasenovac Memorial Centre.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic writing in the Book of Impressions at Jasenovac, 22 April 2015

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
writing in the Book of Impressions
at Jasenovac, 22 April 2015

President Grabar-Kitarovic did not attend on Sunday 26 April 2015 the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the break-out of inmates from the Ustasha-run Jasenovac, organised by the government, but did send her envoy, Branko Lustig – a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, who delivered a speech at Jasenovac.
Sunday’s ceremony was attended by surviving former inmates, top Croatian officials, several foreign ambassadors in Croatia, and many other delegations who paid tribute to 83,000 victims of this WW2 camp, says on the Croatian government website (retrieved 29 April 2015).
President Grabar-Kitarovic’s absence from the commemoration on Sunday had given rise to quite a bit of polemicizing and criticising in the Croatian media, almost all of whom failed to pick up on the true meaning and the righteousness of her visit to Jasenovac on Wednesday before.
Just as well Grabar-Kitarovic did not attend the commemoration of 70th anniversary of liberation of Jasenovac last Sunday for it was a disgrace! It was a platform for “Tito’s communist fraternity” that did not focus on the victims who perished there as much as it did on revitalising the personality cult of Josip Broz Tito, the communist regime camouflaged under the term of antifascism. It’s not by accident that in his speech Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said: “For me, there was only one Croatian army in WWII and they were Croatian Partisans and Partisans of Croatia.”


Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic at Jasenovac, 26 April 2015

Croatia’s Prime Minister
Zoran Milanovic at
Jasenovac, 26 April 2015



The fact is that Croatian Partisans were members of Yugoslav Army; there was no Croatian Partisan Army. Tito led the Yugoslav Army whose aim was to retain Yugoslavia as a communist federation of states, as opposed to the Kingdom that had crashed as WWII started.
What disappoints and saddens enormously is that Prime Minister Milanovic’s speech at Jasenovac on Sunday did not contain a single word of condolence or sadness for the victims who perished there. He chose to focus on politics! E
How utterly depraved!
There was a march of silence at Auschwitz on Monday 27 January 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of liberation of this Nazi death camp that represents the largest extermination site in human history. In his speech at Auschwitz, after bowing and giving respect to the victims Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski drew a parallel between Nazi Germany and the USSR, recalling the massacre of Polish elites by Soviet forces, BBC reports.

It is our duty to remember for ourselves and for the future,” Komorowski said, concluding his opening speech to loud applause.
And remembering the victims is what Croatia’s President Grabar-Kitarovic did on Wednesday 22 April at Jasenovac. Were she to be present there on the Sunday 26 April, I would imagine she would have been tempted to draw a similar parallel, only, instead of USSR, in the case of Croatia it would be Tito’s communist Yugoslavia. The crimes of the latter have yet to be condemned and judged; their victims have yet to achieve justice and proper remembrance.

To President Grabar-Kitarovic it’s the victims that matter and she has demonstrated the courage to point the finger of condemnation and abhorrence at all totalitarian regimes responsible for murders and extermination of innocent people.
Speaking on Croatian TV news Tuesday 28 April she confirmed that she would go to the Bleiburg commemoration in mid-May but that she would not hold a speech.

I repeat, I think that execution sites must not be used to send political messages and politicking but exclusively as a place of commemoration of the victims and condemnation of all totalitarian regimes,” she said.



In May 1945, after the victory of Tito’s Partisans, thousands of unarmed soldiers of the WWII Independent State of Croatia and civilians, with women and children and the aged, had walked on foot the great distance, and often rugged terrain on the way to Bleiburg Austria, in order to seek refugee status in the West. Communism was not what they subscribed to. However, they were returned and handed over by British forces to the Yugoslav Communist authorities and hundreds of thousands were killed during death marches on their way back to Yugoslavia, while some were killed by the Partisans without trial in the Bleiburg field. They too, just like the victims of Jasenovac, of Auschwitz of all death camps, deserve remembrance and respect for they were targeted by communists not because of their ethnicity or religion but because of their political beliefs and plight for independence and democracy.
Equalisation of the Nazi/Fascist Holocaust crimes with Communist crimes is and may be and is undoubtedly seen by many scholars, politicians and ordinary people as the greatest threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and that it serves to exculpate populations complicit in the extermination of their Jewish (and other) minorities during WWII. But remembering the crimes of Holocaust must not and should not obstruct or deny the remembering of the crimes of communism and in paying fit tribute to its victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Victims, some of whom may have been perpetrators. It is difficult. Normally, I think the victims are different from the perpetrators: just because a victim belongs to the same ethnic or social group as a perpetrator does not tar him/her with that guilt. And mass killings are never just, whatever the provocation.

    • And- I love what she wrote in the book of impressions.

    • I tend to think, Clare, that a perpetrator of a crime cannot be a victim of another crime committed from “similar” political motives/drives as these cases are. I agree with your reasoning. And anyone who commits a crime no matter what their political ideology must be held accountable. All political ideologies that carried totalitarian regimes of WWII, even non-totalitarian for that matter, have those followers who delve into justification of crimes but crime is a crime.

    • “I’ve learned a lot from living abroad, and I want to share that knowledge here; I want to modernize Croatia in every sense, including politics,” said Kitarovic, who previously served as an assistant secretary general in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said. “We need to change the mindset and create conditions for doing business more easily.”

      Thumbs up for the find, Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

  2. Ahmed Hrustić says:

    Yet again, your piece is well-written and very objective.

    I personally don’t consider myself as a supporter of any of the two major political parties in Croatia as I don’t live there, but every time I read about our President, I sense hope…a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. She is demonstrating that above all, she is a compassionate human being, a good Christian. That is what I admire most about her.

    Healing wounds from the past, especially in south-eastern Europe, has proven to be an extremely difficult task over the past century. Too much history has engraved ethnic and religious hatred among the various ethnic groups in the region.

    I truly hope that our President reverses this cycle, and makes concrete steps towards reconciliation between the ethnic Croats and the ethnic Serbs. Her visit to the Jasenovac Memorial Centre makes for a good start.

    Of course, with reconciliation comes duty. That duty has been left for us to carry on by the innocent civilians who perished during all of the horrible wars that have plagued this region for centuries. Reconciliation doesn’t mean that we must erase the events in the towns of Vukovar and Srebrenica during the 1990s from our memories. On the contrary, reconciliation means dialogue. Reconciliation today, in my view, means trialing absolutely all war criminals, allocating seats to ethnic Croats in the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, the signing of a formal border agreement between the Governments of both sides of the Danube, leaders and representatives of the ethnic Serbian community attending the annual commemorations in Vukovar, unprecedented access to state and military archives in Belgrade given to the Croatian judiciary, and the locating of the many mass graves filled with missing Croatian soldiers from the Homeland War.

    Now lets think of all the fruits of reconciliation. Lets think ‘economically.’ Serbia has proven to be a reliable market for Croatian corporations (just think of IDEA, owned by Agrokor, and one of the largest supermarket chains trading east of the Danube). With political stability, think of how much more business Croatian corporations can do. After all, a large percentage of the profits ‘fly back’ into the Croatian budget. However, the most notable ‘fruit’ would be a more stable Bosnia and Herzegovina, a more stable region. After all, who would want to move in (I’m thinking of both tourists and investors) in a rowdy neighbourhood? As our President said during her inauguration, it is a vital national interest of the Republic of Croatia that its neighbourhood be stable.

    To that, and to everything she has done so far, I say ‘hear, hear!’

    • Well put Ahmed, and yes with reconciliation comes responsibility and a big part of that responsibility is being able to wear both the wrongs and the good, once all wrongs are equally condemned can we go forward in a lasting path of good. To get there is a hard task and I too believe that President Grabar-Kitarovic has both the knowledge, the respect and the know-how to lead there

      • Ahmed Hrustić says:

        ‘A big part of that responsibility is being able to wear both the wrongs and the good, once all wrongs are equally condemned can we go forward in a lasting path of good.’

        Which is why Zagreb needs serious partners in Belgrade. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening, or hasn’t happened yet! A good start for the Republic of Serbia would be to extradite Vojislav Šešelj back to The Hague immediately.

        Duty, as you rightly pointed out, is a two-way street.

        I look forward to reading your next article.

      • Thank you, Ahmed – much appreciuated

  3. Observer says:

    Oh man, even in his attire for that mournful occasion at Jasenovac Prime Minister Milanovic looks as if he is at a soccer match, or going for a leisurely stroll – no neck tie to mark respect and composure. Loose even in dress not just words. Shameful.

  4. It is such a beautiful monument to those that died there. Shame on anyone that does not show the proper respect to their memory.

  5. I thought that concentration camp was run by by that Croat war criminal. I saw this series about That place and they had this thing called a Serb smasher… It was an hour episode about just that place… Himmler was told of that prison and it was so brutal he told his underlings to have nothing to do with it… If I’m wrong please educate me..

    • Juan, there are a lot of stories that were true and lot that weren’t. The camp was run by the Ustashe, who were the forces of the Croatian WWII Nazi-collaborators as Croatia was occupied by Germany at the time. All in all every camp, every place where people were killed was brutal and utterly contemptible. The camp many say was a labour camp and it may have started as such but it ended up with a terrible legacy. Another “interesting” thing about that camp is that historians say that it was not closed when the war ended but kept open by Yugoslav communists where many were purged as part of communist purges of those who did not agree with communism etc

      • That’s the show, Nazi Collaborators…

      • That was the case that occurred in all those European countries and they also had communist collaborators, and that part still needs to be fully condemned also – then true peace of mind can make progress

      • Good idea!

      • Croatia was occupied by Germany at the time? acting like you didn’t have a choice ? don’t remember Zagreb being bombed to the ground pretty sure you guys were allies….. DELETED AS IRRELEVANT AND OFFENSIVE …


      • Oh dear – Draza – you silly fool – you forgot to mention Milan Nedic, Prime Minister of WWII Serbia, and “Jew-free” Serbia by May 1942…and how these facts are constantly being pushed into hiding, not for ever though

  6. CroatianNew says:

    I am a Croatian and proud member of what was once the great nation of Yugoslavia. I was in the Socialist party and proud to to have served the great people of Province Croatia and had grandfathers who died liberating our Yugoslav homeland from Fascism and Colonialism lead by our greatest son Tito! Look how poor and backward Croatia is now we left the great nation of Yugoslavia. And the return of German colonialism.

    • Good for you, CroatianNew. For the rest of us there never was a Socialist party (only Communist), Tito was not the greatest son, Ante Starcevic was and Yugoslavia was in ruins and widespread economic gutter and poverty when we decided it was time to leave it and chose freedom and democracy.

      • CroatianNew says:

        Ante Starcevic was a tribalist why be a tribalist when you can be something better ? I mean the Croatian people is better of with the rest of their beautiful brothers like the Serbs Albanians , Bosnians. Yugoslavia was a country of justice where the child of a farmer could get the same education as a son of the elite. Free health care to everyone. Remember that beautiful flag we used to sing for every morning ? remember the promise of brother and unity we all gave each other ? I mean today our country is owned by German companies not something to be proud of. And our people has no jobs very different from when jobs where provided to everyone. A lot of people like me who wants the Union back again.

      • True – CroatianNew – Yugoslavia did all that with other people’s/countries money and when time came to pay off debt – guess what – all gone, no industry, empty shelves in shops, limited energy, no electricity for days or petrol on regular basis, many educated people who left farming land for cities to live in relative poverty or on loans, people imprisoned if they were against communism or the regime or could not get even a simple licence to build house in decent time, working without getting a wage started in the 1980’s .. You cane have Yugoslavia but not within Croatia I’m sure. You talk of unemployment etc that is because Yugoslavia failed to build a sustainable industry and market but it spent the foreign loans on making sure people had jobs even if they did not earn their wage in production – all that time in these hard economic time worldwide countries have a strong productivity base and former Yu does not – Starcevic was not a tribalist, but if Croatiua is to live in unity with another country then it already is – it’s a member of the EU much much better than Yugoslavia.

    • NewCroatian says:


      I was from a very poor Croatian farmer family and thanks to the Yugoslav system the government send me to Belgrade to study at the university next to a son of the old aristocratic Serbian families. The Socialists gave us all equal opportines. We poor farmer families were given free housing and clean water. Before we came to power females were seen as sub-humans but made them equal with men. Now the New Croatia is teaching it’s sons that being gay is okay!!! I was in the 1970s as a young man told to be educated and healthy and always had a gun next to my bed to defend the beautiful Yogoslav homeland aganist our enemies and tratiors.

      • Good for you, NewCroatian, while it’s true education was free in Yugoslavia and everybody could study at university because there was also one faculty that had to enroll students regardless of their high school marks while other faculties had merit enrollment. And so, very many people educated who really did not do much to better the life of people across the board. Young went to study and have a city life leaving behind vineyards, olive groves, agriculture etc and the result was city living became more and more unaffordable – agriculture run down and barely existing. Women were never equal to men in Yugoslavia, sorry your memory is crooked. I do not think that opinion about sexual orientation is an ultimate mark of civilisation overall – it is merely a mark of tolerance and freedom. There were gays in Yugoslavia and I remember in 1970’s Zagreb those who were gay had to hide because they’d get beaten and arrested for nothing – and you like that! Pathetic. Today’s Croatia, I would hope, promotes freedom of choice and not fear and oppression. Traitors to Yugoslavia you fought against were those who say loved Croatia, Loved Slovenia, Loved Macedonia etc BUT not Yugoslavia

      • NewCroatian says:

        And stop claiming Yugo did not belong to us. Croats with their small numbers had a large over representation in the army, administration and many Industries was placed in Croatia/Slovenia which made the rest of the country angry. Also Tito gave nationality to the Bosniaks and self-rule to Kosovo two decisions that made many Serb Nationalists very angry. Many was also hoping for mass revenge against Croatia after second world war but it did not happened Tito forced the Serbs to be quite in the name of Brotherhood something they never forgave him for.

      • NewCroatian you’re off the rails completely – I suggest you do better research on representation in Yu army and other crucial positions in former Yu. No one is really interested any more except perhaps waiting for Serbs to own up on their crimes instead of talking about others’ Certainly Serbia couldn’t contribute to economy as much as Slovenia and Croatia did after all these two states had strong tourism that brought a great deal to federal revenue. You talk of Tito as a true diuctator – he gave self- rule to Kosovo etc Kosovo was not his to give. Well Serbs showed in 1990 they were ready to kill and murder for Brotherhood any unity … no one wanted it, not even Montenegro in the end, only Serbs because that is the way how they thought they could rule on other nations’ territories

  7. Branko Kramaric says:

    Honestly, reading CroatianNews’s comment, made me literally puke, how this moron has forgotten, this fool isn’t Croatian at all, rather, an absolute moron to suggest the so called Socialist Yugoslavia was anyone’s homeland. I can tell you right now, it wasn’t my parents. To any self respecting Croatian, there is only one homeland, that is Croatia, not some Communist created ideology called Yugoslavia, The so called Yugoslavs showed their true colours siding with their Serb masters only to get the shit kicked out of them. Mr Wanker CroatianNews, stick your socialism crap up your ass where it actually belongs.

  8. Ante Saric says:

    Zoran Milanovic is not fit to be Prime Minister. In Australia, Liberal backbenchers initiated a “spill” against Tony Abbot only 12 months into his leadership.
    I guess that what happens in a normal democracy. In an abnormal democracy like Croatia, nothing happens. Milanovic should have been removed from his party long ago. Along with Pusic.
    I guess it shows that Croatia does not have a democratic leaning left wing. It is in the clutches of Stalinists.
    His comments at Jasenovac were despicable. It ranks with Josipovic comments in the Israeli Knesset.
    Milanovic is mentally ill. That is the only conclusion one can draw.

    • Indeed, Croatia still has a terrible case of political elite and untouchables even though they were elected by the people to represent, Ante. Croatia needs quite a few more like president Grabar-Kitarovic for whom democratic thinking and fairness seems to be a part of her nature as politician and human being. As to Milanovic’s mental health I have often wondered whether there was some personality disorder that “thrives” in him under political role. Simply beyond my understanding that he often in public speeches or comments appears to talk to himself or convince self that what he is saying is “right”. It was in communist Yugoslavia that one did not dare to cause or begin any “spills” or actions to depose a “leader” and so the practice continues.

  9. Michael Silovic says:

    Great work Ina on this article. Sometimes it gets hard for me to comment when I read so many different angles to digest from commentary with out being to aggressive. Even though I am Croat and biased in favor of our motherland I have served many years in the military and worked covert operations including in NGO’S and have a grasp of what happens in many circumstances in wars , Have seen how it is played out on both sides and a good grasp of why. I try my best to be rational in any debate on the subject and as honest in feelings as I possibly can.Yes we all need to move Croatia in a new direction and not look to others for leadership but to learn from the mistakes of other countries and become better and I honestly believe that our new president will lead us in that direction. But I am always pained by the misinformation and misunderstanding of those who think our past is the cause of our pain because we supposedly we brought it upon ourselves because we wanted to be a free people. I am of the belief that those that caused our country and people harm in our history should not have any part of our current system until they have made amends and restitution for the damaged they have caused. There is so much false propaganda against Croatians that we are in a cycle of either trying to defend ourselves or to seek out justice for the atrocities that have occurred against us. We spend time defending the crimes that we were supposedly to have committed yet no one has ever apologized to us for the crimes they have committed against us. Croatia owes no one an apology if those who did the same to us do not want to recognize their short comings.There are many people and countries who committed crimes against our people and country including some of our leaders. Our history dictates that as Croats we have always had to fight for our rights to be treated as an equal to others in the so called Yugoslavia. It was not easy then and it is not easy now. While some people want to think that our days in communism or under so called Serb control was a good thing they need to understand and learn of the destruction that was done to many individuals and families. Many only hear of the so called atrocities of the ustache but never the good that was trying to be accomplished for an independent motherland. No one talks about the families of the Ustache who were murdered or the children raped because of the ideology that they held. To this day people all over the world are fighting to be free and independent and world leaders say yes they should have a right to their independence, democracy and freedom and we see worse horrors then what happened in WW2 in some places. Croatia owes no one an apology and until we get set in that mentality and demand justice for what was done to us we will never see justice. In my opinion and the way I see the world today I do not think that the Ustache ideology was that wrong. You see so many countries now wanting to get back to their origins because they are losing their history, culture and ethnicity. Croatia is at a cross roads in our history again. We either protect it with out apology or lose it very rapidly.

    • I agree Michael – there was much good in WWII independent Croatia movement and ideology, it’s a crying shame that gets clouded by the terrible acts of few, most of whom have been condemned or brought to “justice” but it somehow seems never enough to those who do not wish Croatia well – and so indeed nothing to apologise for, head high and forth into the hard won freedom and democracy.

    • NewCroatian says:

      The reason why Ustache lost in the end was because the entire Croatian national home guard the foot troops fleed with their weapons and joined the Yugo communists the ones who should had protected the independent ustache state.

      • Well actually, you are wrong NewCroatian, it was not as simple as that: many Domobrans did defect to Partisans, many to Ustashe, Many wanted neither and often got caught by either – Partisans executed those they caught and did not defect to Partisans…only one example is island of Daksa near Dubrovnik to just mention one…the matter is complicated and it does not serve it justice to write a few lines only about it here so I won’t go there here but at some time if future I will

  10. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  11. …Vlad Putin (old line KGB colonel and the craftiest politician in the world) led a wreath laying ceremony recently for the 100 year old genocide of the Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans! You see how these “orthodox” brothers stand up for their own co-religionists, even if he, as a communist also is an atheist! But this useful idiot, Zoran Milanovic, doesn’t care to go to Bleiburg, and at least acknowledge that ALL sides suffered during that time! When Milanovic was in New Zealand over 1 year ago ( I think it was in Wellington) at a press conference , one of the Croatians in attendance, told him in English…”If not for Dr. Tudjman, you would NOT be here!” ….this idiot still doesn’t get it! The trip that Zoran deserves, if not to Bleiburg, then to the …..GUILLITINE!

  12. Thank you for this most interesting article, Ina.

  13. Very interesting new post!!!

  14. It is wonderful that the new president paid homage. She will be good for Croats. Hugs, Barbara

  15. Reblogged this on IdealisticRebel's Daily View of Favorites.


  1. […] government top-ranking figures were present in Bleiburg on Saturday, as for instance they were at Jasenovac in April, the leader of the parliamentary opposition – Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, Tomislav […]

  2. […] yelled, as if struck by vicious rabies, that the “same hands cannot lay wreaths at Bleiburg and Jasenovac”. With the latter he meant that the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Communist crimes […]

  3. […] yelled, as if struck by vicious rabies, that the “same hands cannot lay wreaths at Bleiburg and Jasenovac”. With the latter he meant that the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Communist crimes […]

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