Some 300 Croatian Jews from Croatian Jewish Councils have held their own Holocaust commemoration at the WWII Jasenovac camp site Friday 15 April, a week ahead of the official commemorative ceremony, in protest at what they say is government inaction in the face of what they maliciously insist is surging neo-Ustashi (pro-Nazi) sentiment in the country. They refer to, among other individual incidents, some “pro-Ustashi” chants at soccer games no government without taking away freedom of speech and bringing the army can control (!). The ceremony at Jasenovac was attended also by representatives from a handful foreign embassies in Croatia, by Croatian members of parliament representing the Italian (Furio Radin) and Serbian minorities (Milorad Pupovac) in Croatia, the ex-president communist die-hard Ivo Josipovec, some handful of other so-called antifascists in Croatia whose sole role in society seems to be negating and covering up communist crimes, which by the way were larger in numbers of victims than the Holocaust.
“We have commemorated the victims of Jasenovac but also all the Jews who had perished in NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia) under the then race laws. We came here because there is a presence in Croatia of a revitalisation of the WWII Ustashi movement and a complete negation, regardless of some statements made after we announced our intentions not to participate in the official ceremony at Jasenovac,” Jewish association leader in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said, accusing the First Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, Tomislav Karamarko, of never having set foot on the Jasenovac Holocaust memorial site.
The “statements made” Kraus refers to here include the statement made by Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, president of Croatia, concerned about the divisions with regards to commemorating the Holocaust victims in Jasenovac, said 11 April 2016 that “NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia led by the Ustashe forces) was the least independent and it protected the interests of the Croatian people the least, and that the Ustashi regime was a criminal regime. Anti-fascism is in the foundations of the Croatian Constitution, and modern Croatia has grown from the foundations of the Homeland War.”
Croatian Constitution may be based on anti-fascism but certainly not on communism and given that Croatia’s communists who arise from Yugoslav communists call themselves antifascist even if they were nothing like anti-fascists but thugs and criminals, President Grabar-Kitarovic made a serious error here in missing this opportunity to make that distinction and calling the communist/Partisan WWII opposition to Ustashas also a criminal regime, then. For that is what they had proven to be and today’s leaders of Croatia must acknowledge that, no matter what the pain and what the political cost to them personally.
The truth is that while there were killings committed by both sides in WWII, the Ustashas goal was an independent Croatia and the Partisans’ one was communist Yugoslavia – no independence for any of the states forced previously into the Serb-led oppressive Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the president and all would do well to remember that especially when relating to the 1990’s Homeland War behind which is the thousand-year of Croat plight for independence.
A pot cannot call the kettle black and get away with it. People at large are neither blind nor stupid. If President Grabar-Kitarovic was intending to settle the political spirits causing upsetting divisions around the Holocaust victims commemorations then her statements needed to cover fairness to all victims of WWII and post-WWII not just one side. She did disappoint quite a lot of people this time and demonstrated that her advisors may have absolutely no skills in political conflict resolution, which Croatia needs to rid itself of remnants of the criminal communist regime.
That is what today’s Croatia, today’s world – require and demand. Throwing sand into the eyes was a thing that may have worked in the past – not today, not in a world of democracy where everyone’s rights are equal and knowledge-base and courage of “ordinary” citizens are much larger than decades before.
Whilst attending a cultural event in Krapina, Zagorje region outside capital Zagreb, Croatia’s minister for culture, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, responded to Kraus’ statements that Tomislav Karamarko had never been in Jasenovac and to his organisation of a separate commemoration in Jasenovac:
“I regret that we are placed in situations where such statements can be heard, especially at the time leading up commemorations when we pay respects to the innocent. Whoever heard what Tomislav Karamarko was saying, can conclude that those (statements like Kraus’) are not truthful statements… the organisers have had their reasons for organising one more commemoration and I respect them. We live in a free country,” said Hasanbegovic.
The blind, let alone those with full vision, can see that such public displays of lies as has come out of the Jewish organisation’s leader Kraus, particularly representing a place of note – like the Croatian Jewish council coordination in this instance – seem to be more about desperate measures to protect communist crimes from full exposure and avoid a possible scenario where in relation to WWII and post-WWII Croatia the Holocaust crime would, in relation to number of innocent victims, take a second place in the realm of the worst and most atrocious crimes in human history to the crimes committed by the Yugoslav communists. Wanting to acknowledge and unearth further the true extent of communist crimes in Croatia is labelled, sadly, it seems, even by some Jewish representatives as a return to Ustashi regime, to Nazism – in the hope perhaps to intimidate those trying to unearth the whole truth of communist crimes!
One can imagine nothing crueler towards victims of crimes than this.
As far as I am concerned and from this vantage point, Ognjen Kraus and those who attended the commemoration designed to shun the official one to be held on 22 April under falsehoods and malicious accusations against the current centre-right government can hang their head in shame.
Using remembrance of the Holocaust victims for dirty communist crime cover-up politics is just not the world of piety I want to be a part of.
Attempts to uncover the full truth of communist crimes in Croatia have been labeled as resurgence of Nazism, Ustashism, of historical revisionism in the negative sense that allegedly negates the truth of the Holocaust. And so it seems WWII Croatia when it comes to “bad guys” only had the Ustashas and not the Communist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito. What utter codswallop.
Nobody has the right to stop or intimidate those wanting to unearth the truth about crimes and victims – not even those commemorating the Holocaust. In fact, I believe, that those commemorating the Holocaust should all encourage the seeking of the truth for all innocent victims.
The eminent American historian James M. McPherson, Princeton University, said in 2003, “that historians know that revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue, between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable ‘truth’ about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians for understanding the past — that is, revisionism — is what makes history vital and meaningful…Without revisionist historians, who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.”
I hope Croatia’s leaders in government and others will know how to draw strength and courage from the words of this brilliant historian when it comes to pursuing the truth of communist crimes. In Croatia as part of communist Yugoslavia, investigating WWII and post-WWII crimes committed by communist regimes, as well as a revision of the ‘official history’ about the events that took place during the Second World War, was not possible before 1990, after the democratic changes in Eastern Europe and Croatia. Resolution 1481/2006 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly strongly condemned human rights violations committed by totalitarian communist regimes and the 2008 Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism stated that these crimes were comparable with Nazi crimes but very few people have been tried for committing such crimes.
Moreover, 28 years later, in former Yugoslav republics (e.g. Croatia) “this topic is still a matter of political and scientific debates, and those who dare to ask ‘new and nuanced questions’ are often labeled as the revisionists who should be treated by medical specialists,” said Blanka Matkovic, PhD dissertation Warwick University, UK. And “thanks” to the likes of the Jewish Councils coordination head in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, those who question WWII crimes or their extent against the form we have been led to believe, those who cannot control or prevent extremist outbursts of individuals in the streets or sports arenas… – are Nazis! Nothing less than Nazis! What an outrage! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)