Corruption in Croatia: Systemic, Not Case Of Bad Apples

Whether Croatia’s Agrokor corruption scandal, now in its seventh year without a single court hearng,  will further expose coverups that may be the catalyst for HDZ (or the voting public) to remove Andrej Plenkovic’s HDZ party from government in the 2024 mega election year is something worth contemplating upon or hoping for.

Upon searching on Internet with a phrase such as „Croatia corruption“ there are quite a number of credible media sources  where one may read that Croatia, her HDZ government to be more precise, is tackling corruption as a matter of systematic and genuine effort to democratise Croatia. The reality on the ground as well as credible sources, though, gives an entirely different picture and that picture does not talk of genuine efforts to root out corruption (at least the large-scale one) but rather the one of genuine efforts to cover up corruption (at the the large-scale one). I would love to have been able to tell you differently 32 years after Croatian people overwhelmingly voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia, where corruption was a rule rather than exception in corridors of state powers, from top to local, but regretfully I cannot say that and will not try flogging fairytales to the public.

If one takes the effort one will, without doubt, see that when corruption has been uncovered or highly suspected in Croatia in the past two decades there was a tendency within organisations, government, including the police service, to demonstrate, suggest or imply that the problem is one that may be confined to a few rogue personnel or persons sometimes referred to as ‘bad apples’. However, the history of the trail of corruption fighting in Croatia and attempts to prosecute it have too many examples that strongly evidence institutionalised or systemic corruption for this view to carry much credence. Moreover, any notion of ‘bad apples’ narrows the scope of attention, often directing concern away from others and implies that, barring the individual ‘bad apples’, everything in government or its organisations is ethically sound. The facts pertaining to communist regime heritage, from widespread large corruption amounting to millions of euros stolen to bribery at every point of public sector or government services including medical treatment, nepotism in employment, to local council building permits, suggests that this is rarely the case and that maintaining such a view is damaging to the health of the police service as well as the official Croatian anti-corruption bodies.

As a matter of record, for example, in late December 2019, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was forced to defend HDZ ruling party’s record on corruption on the day that former party leader and prime minister Ivo Sanader was found guilty in the first instance of accepting a bribe of 10 million euros to grant Hungarian oil and gas company MOL a controlling stake in Croatian energy firm INA (Croatia’s leading energy company). While Sanader was first arrested under corruption charges in late 2010, in what was seen at the time in a signal to the EU of Croatia’s seriousness about rooting out graft as it sought to join the bloc, Sanader was sentenced to 8-1/2 years in prison in the case in 2014. His fellow defendant, MOL’s Chief Executive Zsolt Hernadi, was being tried in absentia after Hungary refused to heed an international arrest warrant for him. In 2015 Croatia’s Constitutional Court ordered retrials in two corruption cases against Sanader, ruling that procedural errors had affected his right to a fair trial. Sanader’s other retrial ended on 22 October 2018 with the judge handing him a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for taking a bribe from Austria’s then Hypo Alpe Adria Bank when he was deputy foreign minister in early 1990s. In the re-trial ordered by the Constitutional Court as mentioned above, the presiding judge ruled in November 2020 that Sanader had organised a group of people for criminal activity and covering up illegal financial deals, state television reported. His former HDZ party, which is now in power, was fined 3.5 million kuna ($547,071.60) by the court and that it must also return some 14 million kuna of illegally obtained funds.

Suffice to say that several HDZ government ministers and high-level officials have been removed fro their positions amidst allegations of major corruption in the past several years as well and while Andrej Plenkovic served as Prime MInister. In the Agrokor corporation that controlled supply chains of goods and supermarkets scandal, poiting fingers of serious corruption by the head of that corporation Ivica Todoric, saw the finance minister Zdravko Maric eventually drop out of government cabinet amidst allegations that while he worked for Agrokor he must have been aware of corruption in the company. In early 2022, Minister of Construction Darko Horvat stood accused of authorising illegal payments in a number of instances. The investigation had also implicated (and removed from ministerial portfolio) Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic. Both this scandal and the allegations of procurement rigging against former government minister Gabrijela Zalac have called the integrity of the entire Plenkovic government into question. To boot, other high-level arrests or suspicions of high-level corruption saw former mayor of Knin Josipa Rimac under long-term investigation since 2015 and now the former rector of the University of Zadar and others are being placed under the investigative loop for serious corruption.

To make a single point here, fight against corruption in Croatia appears as a mask dotted with high-level arrests, corruption investigation scandals but, really not much in line of actual prosecution and court judgments! There is no doubt that the dysfunctional and biased judiciary in Croatia functions in the much the same way as it did during the era of former communist Yugoslavia regime.  In Croatia, during the past two decades at least, the Constitutional and Supreme and District Courts have played an active role in the undermining of indictments in high-level corruption cases and this to any discerning eye shows that corruption in Croatia is no matter of „bad apples“ but a matter of systemic corruption well disguised by the government. We all agree on one thing: a bad apple is relatively easily and swiftly removed. Functioning democracies of the West have taught us that much, at least. But in reality the removal of „bad apples“ in Croatia has been made almost impossible out of political reasons as well as hiding any other „bad apples“ lurking active in the background of corrupt practices.

With each new corruption scandal in Croatia, the public and ordinary people are horrified by the amount of property that has been accumulated in a short time by ministers, state officials of all kinds, members of public company boards, local powerful… Villas, apartments, cottages, cars, other property in the form of works of art or hunting trophies suddenly appear in property declaration cards or, which is much more often the case, in the names and surnames of people close to those named in corruption scandals. Much of it, especially when it comes to cash, goes off the radar, often abroad. Every new corruption scandal has reopened in public and in the parliament the question of whether a law on the source of property attainment should finally be passed and enforced, which would confiscate illegally acquired property. But, here we are in late 2023 and Croatia still does not have legislation under which acquisition of property can be investigated and dealt with. There are and were indeed many proceeds of criminal activities there including confiscation of property under communist Yugoslavia, corruption and theft that is still going on unchecked etc.

On 6 November 2023, Croatia’s High Criminal Court in corruption case of Agrokor and Ivica Todoric had declared illegal the key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case.That is, the accounting and financial expert opinion and report based on forensic accounts examination and findings by KPMG (Poland) was found inadmissible in the court proceedings everyone thought would finally be on their way. Reportedly, the court’s decision to label this financial investigation and its consequent report as illegal was based on the fact that KPMG Poland had used some staff from KPMG Croatia for its investigations and that such was in breach of court procedures as it reeks of conflicts of interest and possible interference. And so here we have it: The Agrokor/Ivica Todoric corruption case has been going on for six years without a single court hearing, and it is now in the seventh year without a single hearing in the entire process.

This is scandalous and bears no association with justice, it’s a judicial farce.

It’s easy to see that in the Agrokor/Ivica Todoric corruption affair, where many millions of euros are said to have been misappropriated and/or embezzled from Croatia’s public purse, one criminal group such as the so-called Borg Group stole Agrokor from another criminal group at the head of which was Ivica Todoric. All this during the years when there should have been court hearings but were none.  In that time there was an agreement on behalf of Andrej Plenkovic government that Todoric’s substantial property would not be touched, that his people would not be prosecuted, but that he would sign the document triggering forced administration of Agrokor. Given that his son reportedly worked for KPMG Croatia when the Agrokor forensic account’s investigation was being carried out and now rendered illegal the former Attorney General of Croatia, Dinko Cvitan, should now be arrested an vigorously investigated. But then, we can expect that from a country where rule of law presides, not in Croatia.

All this stinks of the ground being prepared for Ivica Todoric to settle enormous sums of money through arbitration, which in case of successful arbitration will be paid by Croatia’s tax payers! And I am certain this would never have come to this had Ivica Todoric been prosecuted for what was evidently improper and most likely criminal. We still remember that even the American credit rating agency Moody’s had some four or five years ago informed the public that Agrokor or Ivica Todoric together with Zdravko Maric doctored the company’s balance sheets which would tantamount to a situation when someone comes to a bank and says/shows their income is ten million euro per annum and then on the basis of that, the bank gives them huge loans, and they don’t even have two thousand euro in their pocket, nor do they have any such income. Croatia’s Attorney General did absolutely nothing to pursue in the courts of law such allegations from such a credible source as is Moody’s.

Hence, judicial corruption in Croatia is certainly the culprit of unreasonably prolonged or no court processes set in motion for alleged or evident corruption cases. Equal treatment before te law is a pillar of democratic societies. When courts are corrupted by greed or politics the scales of justice are tipped and ordinary people suffer. It is more than obvious that the faulty KPMG financial report and investigation of Agrokor finances was produced on purpose and with advance knowledge that the court would not accept it as evidence. That is said assuming Croatia is as advanced in its democratic processes as it likes to present itself through its government’s rhetoric. But evidently it is not, because if it was the KPMG financial investigation would not even have commenced before the otherwise obligatory ticking off of any conflicts of interests that could jeopardise the validity of its results. Ina Vukic

Croatian Community Of Diaspora Has With Its Ideology of Freedom Built Itself and Enormously Helped Create Today’s Free Croatia – No Interference Please!

Screenshot Sydney Morning Herald/Ambassador Betty Pavelich (L) Croats fleeing communist Yugoslavia 1945 Bleiburg Massacre (R)

Is it only the Australian Croats who are experiencing diplomats from Croatia dishing out to them patronising lectures and uninvited advice reminiscent of those from the failed communist Yugoslavia era, or is the Croatian diaspora of other countries experiencing the same interference? As we have been able to see from Australia in the last month or so, it has become evident that there is a significant reversal in the politics of the Republic of Croatia towards and against the ideals of the NDH/Independent State of Croatia of the Second World War, which ideals were, in essence, those of the aspirations and struggles for the independence of Croatia from any Yugoslavia, and that trend is being imposed on Australian soil, on its Croatian community, by Croatian government representatives. The Croatian community of Australia has always acted in accordance with the laws of Australia and has always been faithful to the ideal of an independent Croatia. Such interference and meddling by today’s evidently pro-communist authorities of Republic of Croatia through its Embassy with a community of a foreign, legally regulated country (in this case Australia) could be classified as undesirable, politically tendentious, and even legally inappropriate.

Namely, many of us have noticed from the Croatian media that in the last few months the Croatian state has changed its attitude and tolerance towards football fans’ outbursts that are associated with the NDH ideology. We read and heard how about twenty Croatian national team fans were detained and prosecuted for misdemeanours for singing an old Croatian marching cadence at a soccer match in Osijek (for the qualification of the Euro 2024 competition) which the Croatian police, the state, claimed was a marching cadence from the regime of the WWII Independent State of Croatia/NDH. The fact that this marching cadence has its origin in the 19th century in honour of the Croatian national hero Josip ban Jelačić, and not in the NDH, does not bear any significance for the Croatian state of today on its route of these new political persecutions of patriotic Croats. Croatian authorities pin this marching cadence to the WWII Independent Croatia just as they pin the historic salute For Home Ready (Za dom spremni) without regard to facts and truth that show different.

Then, several members of the Bad Blue Boys fan group, otherwise known as the “ultras” of Zagreb’s first division football club Dinamo, were treated in the same way. They also sang a similar song at the national championship match in Velika Gorica near Zagreb, probably as a sign of solidarity with those fans from Osijek, writes Igor Lasić of Deutsche Welle on October 30, 2023, and Zadarski list on October 31, 2023.

Then, before this, we all remember with profound unease the events from August 2023, when, according to reports from some Croatian media, the Croatian police informed the Greek state in advance and obviously with dishonourable intent, that dozens of Croatian fans of the Bad Blue Boys/BBB ultras group were on their way to Greece at the time when a soccer match was supposed to be held there and they were allegedly banned from attending matches, but not from visiting Greece. On the streets of Athens near the football stadium, a young Greek man was killed in a street crowd and the Greek police arrested everyone alive who was there, including dozens of Croatian Bad Blue Boys who were there and detained them on suspicion of participating in that murder. The police in Croatia arrested those who managed to escape from Greece and handed them over to Greece. Weeks passed in Greek prison until they were released home, cleared of all suspicions of participating in that murder. No doubt, Croatian politics are, because of the targeting football players and football fans to force upon the world the false image that WWII ideologies, i.e., neo-Nazism or Neo-Ustashism exist in Croatia today!

In Australia, too, the Croatian Community is experiencing similar finger-pointing and insinuations about some neo-Ustashism, or neo-Nazism, of Croatian football clubs that have always respected the political past and ideology of Croatia’s independence on Australian soil. Namely, in one of the major Australian newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald, which is otherwise widely reputed in the wider Australian community as an ultra-leftist orientated newspaper that promotes such ideology, an article appeared on October 30, 2023 by journalists Simone Fox Koob and Ben Schneiders under the title “Celebrate players, not politics: Croatian ambassador wants soccer clubs to kick out ideology”. 

 Namely, that article referred to the speech by the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Australia, Betty Pavelich, she gave some five or six weeks ago at the Croatian Football Tournament in Australia in Adelaide, after which, justifiably, numerous protests and criticisms appeared within the Croatian community in Australia. Many people asked: with what right does the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia, who is in fact a temporary guest in Australia and who is not part of the Croatian Community, interfere in the community and gives advice that no one asked for? As usual, The Sydney Morning Herald, as anyone smart and familiar with that newspaper could have expected, used the content of her speech to paint the Croatian community in neo-Ustasha and neo-Nazi colours! The Australian Croatian Community has not experienced something like this, I was told, since the 1960s and 1970s, when the UDBA Secret Services of communist Yugoslavia operated on Australian soil tasked with denigrating and destroying the Croatian Community, that is, Croatian patriotism, with untruths and fabrications.

The fact is that Australian Croats do not have to do anything for their life in Australia that the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia or any other country tells them to do. Australian Croats created social and football clubs, Catholic centres, and nursing homes for the sick and elderly, with their own efforts and money, guided by their ideology of an independent and free Croatia they carried from WWII era. With this ideology, the majority also fled from the communist-Yugoslavian ideology and everything they did as a community, they did and do in accordance with the laws of Australia. They certainly do not tolerate well when leftist politics impute against them an ideology they never held, i.e., Nazism. It is also a fact that these same Croatian men and women in Australia gave Croatia the freedom that the Ambassador is talking about, because they played a key role in the creation of the modern Croatian state in various ways and by making sacrifices. And the Croatian Ambassador to Australia omitted to acknowledge that in her speech. No mention in her speech of the fact that the Croatian palatial Embassy building and residence in Canberra she sits in was built with charitable donations and volunteer labour from Australian-Croatians that may well include several of those she now says are not welcome or are acting in undesirable ways to Croatia’s reputation! But I am not surprised because Croatian diplomacy for many years, since the death of Dr. Franjo Tuđman in late 1999, mostly ignores and belittles most of these freedom-building Croatian men and women in Australia (and elsewhere around the world). When did anyone experience in Australia that the diplomatic establishment organised ceremonies to explicitly thank all those Croatian men and women who gave their all so that Croatia could be free of communism and Yugoslav totalitarianism? Nobody has as far as I can see. But some may have come across a reception where the invited guests were mostly those who were nowhere near when Croatia needed help from its diaspora! I have nothing against the “new” people in the community, in fact I’m glad to see them, but I’m against it when those who are responsible for freedom of Croatia are ignored in the same process.

“The Croatian ambassador to Australia has told the community its soccer clubs need to take politics out of the game to protect the country’s reputation,” writes The Sydney Morning Herald. “Let us celebrate Croatia and let us focus on those who gave Croatia its freedom, as well as those who make us proud on the international soccer stage … We must take politics and ideology out of the game. We must work together to protect the reputation of our clubs, of our players, and of our homeland,” Sydney Morning Herald said that Ambassador Betty Pavelich among other things told the Croats of Australia about a month ago at a football tournament!

It seems to me that today’s authorities of the Croatian state are washing away their own sins, that is, the sins of communist crimes against Croats committed by the family ancestors of many, on the shoulders of that part of the Croatian people who, even in the Second World War and after it, only wanted a free and independent Croatia. The fact that loved ones of many from the Croatian community in Australia to whom ambassador Betty Pavelich now gives unsavoury and tendentious advice lie in mass graves and pits full of victims of communist crimes throughout Croatia and Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has it seems eluded her. To forget that, to forget the ideology with which many were saved by fleeing brutal communist Yugoslavia, would mean breathing another breath of life into the failed communist ideology that even the European Union condemned but Croatia, the official state of today, does not. It is utterly unacceptable not to fight against the attempts by Croatian diplomacy to interfere with the lives and beliefs of its freedom-loving diaspora on the soil of its host country. Particularly so knowing that the heart of that patriotic diaspora was grown into human success stories through fleeing from communism and its crimes.

“Those of us who love the game (football) and who love Croatia must do everything in our power to protect the brand and the image,” The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Ambassador Betty Pavelich.

Oh, my goodness!

Where was she and where were her superiors in Croatia (Yugoslavia) when for decades upon decades after the World War Two despite persecution and vilification by communist Yugoslavia authorities – Australian Croatian Community did just that! Maintained its Croatian identity, built soccer and other clubs! Held love of Croatia close to their hearts always!

Heavy-hearted, because Croatia suffered enormously during 1990’s War of Independence from communist Yugoslavia, and because cruel history appears to be repeating itself with the aim to run down Croatia patriotism and colour it as neo-Nazism or neo-Ustashism, this seems like the right time to quote from Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, speech from August 1964 in the Australian Parliament:

“…It is difficult for people coming to Australia easily to forget their historical backgrounds. Since the war a number of organisations opposed to the present Government of Yugoslavia have developed throughout the world amongst refugees and migrants from that country. It is understandable that some Yugoslav migrants of Croatian origin should continue to hope for the establishment of an independent Croatia and within a democracy like Australia they have a right to advocate their views so long as they do so by legitimate means. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the migrants from all parts of Yugoslavia who have settled in Australia have proved to be law-abiding, hard-working citizens and a real asset to this country…”

While the Sydney Morning Herald has not, it seems, asked Ambassador Pavelich what Croatia is doing to condemn the former communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia let it be known to Sydney Morning Herald, to the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Australia, to all who care to note: the Australian Croatian Community together with its soccer clubs has always acted in accordance with Australian laws and its many members have contributed towards a better life for all in Australia and in Croatia. That is a fact recorded by history and no political ideals or pursuits can erase it! Ina Vukic

Stumbling Stones In Croatia Should Symbolise Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust and Communist Crimes – A Historical Reality to Pursue?

On the chilly autumn morning of 25 October 2023 in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, several residents, or rather leftist or pro-communist Yugoslavia political activists some of whose immediate family members were brutal aggressors and ethnic cleansers against Croats during 1990’s war of aggression, former President Ivo Josipovic and a handful of politicians of Serbian extraction, viz Milorad Pupovac and Boris Milosevic of the SDSS/ Independent Democratic Serb Party, as well as handful individuals evidently aligned with the communist past, huddled together on the pavement just outside the Hotel Dubrovnik that is situated on corner of the Ban Jelacic Square and Gajeva Street, to commemorate Svetozar Milinov and his family with the installation of a remembrance stumbling stone (or block). A Croatian Serb Svetozar Milinov was the original owner of Hotel Dubrovnik and he and his family were reportedly among the first Serbs killed in Croatia (1941) by the Ustashi regime and their deaths are considered by some political servants to be a part of the Holocaust. Indeed, it can safely be assumed that those present at this commemorative installation of a stumbling stone and those behind it are among those.

Natasa Popovic, director of the Croatian Centre for the Promotion of Tolerance and Preservation of the Memory of the Holocaust, said that “the stumbling stones dedicated to individual victims of the National Socialist and Ustasha regime indicate the moral duty to remember and take responsibility for what happened.”

Naturally I agree. However, there is a duty to remember and take responsibility for everything that happened, including the communist crimes’ purges of patriotic Croats. Popovic was not about to mention that! And that is so symptomatic of the pro-communist mindset still holding heavily onto the power reins in Croatia.

Known as “Stolpersteine”, or “stumbling stones”, the stone is a ten-centimetre concrete cube bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution the installation of which started in Berlin in 1996. The stones were invented with the aim to commemorate individuals at exactly the last place of residency or work – which was freely chosen by the person before they fell victim to Nazi terror, forced euthanasia, eugenics, deportation to a concentration or extermination camp, or escaped persecution by emigration or suicide. There’s probably over 100,000 such stones installed on pavements across Europe. The stones represent a new vision of urban remembrance and unlike large monuments focus on individual tragedies.

It is my firm belief that everything possible needs to be done in order to make sure that remembrance preserves the dignity of the victims and, in this case in Zagreb, not much victim dignity appears to have been preserved. First of all, the stone in installed and commemorated by Serbs and former communists of former Yugoslavia! It is a historical fact that while those Serbs deny the fact that World War Two Serbia was among the first in Europe to declare itself “Judenfrei”/Jew Free, they keep pursuing the laying of guilt for WWII exterminations against Croatia.

The Jew Free status of Serbia was achieved by the killing of 94% of Jews in Serbia as early as May 1942 as its Milan Nedic government joined freely, and enthusiastically, forces in this extermination business with the occupying Nazi forces. Croatia was Nazi occupied also, but it never pursued a Jew Free status. If you depend on history as reported by Serbs or their allies you will never come across this absolute fact, which of course does not in any way excuse the terrible killings that did occur under racial laws. That is a historical fact. Hence, how can any dignity of victim Milanov be preserved when his stumbling stone of remembrance is installed by the descendants and political subscribers to the murderous communist Yugoslavia that murdered so many more!? It cannot – in the eyes of dignity and truth.

For me, stumbling over a piece of metal or concrete in the ground is anything but dignified. But at least it is a daily reminder of the past that was cruel to multitudes. In that light, were stumbling stones to be installed for the hundreds of thousands of victims of communist crimes as well as multitudes driven to emigration due to intolerable communist oppression and purges then, together with the stumbling stones dedicated to the victims of the Ustasha regime, Croatia would have stumbling stones installed at every step of pavements in cities, towns, and villages. Every victim of whichever brutal regime needs to be treated equally, with same piety and respect but not in former communist countries such as Croatia! Anything less does not preserve the dignity of victims because remembrance becomes a political spin seeking power, justifying one crime by condemning another. That is Croatia today. Communist crimes as opposed to those likened to the Holocaust are consistently ignored and even justified! Justified! For political reasons and no other!  

In a controversial move, Stolpersteine or Stumbling Stones were banned by Munich city council in 2004. The decision was upheld in 2015, despite more than 100,000 people signing a petition in favour of them. In the summer of 2018, Munich introduced an alternative remembrance project, also placed before a victim’s last home, but presenting biographic plaques and photographs on stainless steel columns.

Every time I come across the installation of stumbling stones in Croatia I think of my late friend Helena S., a Croatian Jew who fled Zagreb with her family in 1939 and the family’s sizable property in elite and expensive parts of Zagreb, such as Pantovcak, confiscated by the Ustashe regime in 1941. The family settled in Australia and once communist Yugoslavia took the reins in May 1945, the family tried and hoped to have their properties returned. Decades of futile attempts for justice bore no positive fruit. The communists of Yugoslavia did not return the confiscated properties but gave them to communist party officials and operatives. Then the family embarked on attempts to have the properties returned from 1994, i.e., soon after Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia. To this day – no return; former communist operatives still live in those elite properties and have usurped as their own many of them! How can such people or their descendants be taken seriously when they go about installing stumbling stones to victims whose families suffered under their reins also!?

German leftist (or pro-communist) artist’s, Gunter Demnig’s stumbling stones project in essence asks people to take an active role in the reconstruction of the Nazi past of their own cities and localities. Demnig set stumbling stones in the pavement only on the invitation of local organisations or groups of citizens who have developed an interest in his project and who have researched the histories of the victims who are to be remembered with these stones. Placing these stumbling stones has sometimes provoked controversy. Some homeowners argue that a stone in front of their property may lower its value, a few city governments have refused to give the necessary permission, and some Jews have questioned whether stepping on the names of the victims is an appropriate way to remember them. Yet, Demnig’s project is constantly expanding. It seems that the “stumbling stones” has become a European project; examples of this “decentralised monument” can now be found not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Ukraine, Croatia, and other countries.

Hence, Croatia has not been exempt from this trend of remembrance, so a couple of years ago several such stumbling stones have also been set up in Zagreb. One of them, placed in Zagreb at the address Boskoviceva 28 mentions Miroslav Juhn, born in 1897, who was reportedly deported to Jadovno in 1941 and killed in August 1941. On the contrary, the online Jasenovac Memorial Site census states that Miroslav Juhn was born in 1897 in Podgorac and killed in 1941 in Jasenovac. So, already on the basis of the above mentioned example (and there are quite a few others), it can be clearly said that the stumbling stones project joined numerous other sources that denounce the online list of Jasenovac Memorial Site as a problematic source containing a number of false victims.

It is more than saddening that a similar project to stumbling stones has not been pursued for victims of communist crimes who were, in fact, more numerous than victims of the Holocaust. Europe had both murderous regimes in its twentieth century: the Nazi and the Communist and it had acknowledged this by officially condemning them in its parliament but chooses to stay silent at the relative lack of respect, justice, and human dignity for victims of communist crimes. Some would argue that by respecting both victims equally, diminishes the significance of the Holocaust and would fall under the politically invented term “Holocaust denial”. Well, to my vision, a human being never utilises politics or discrimination when it comes to victimhood because the very term “victim” is defined by an innocent human being falling as a target of brutal political regimes or criminals.  There is no denying the crimes of totalitarian Communist governments, in Croatia under communist Yugoslavia in particular — mock trials and mass executions, forced labour camps, grinding oppression and several hundreds of thousands of patriotic Croats who rejected communism dead in over a thousand mass graves and pits as well as more than a million escapees fleeing to the West post World War Two. The purpose of memorials serves to remember and humanise the victims but should also stand as a reminder of the human capacity for evil from whichever corner of political pursuits, whether racial laws or political disagreements it comes from.

Both Communism and Nazism were genocidal regimes. No doubt about that! Analytical distinctions between them, that we come across rather too frequently, with the aim to make one look better than the other, devaluing the victims of one or the other, may be seen as important by some, but the commonality in terms of complete contempt for the bourgeois state of law, human rights, and the universality of humankind regardless of spurious race and class distinction is beyond doubt. Communism and Nazism contained all the political and ideological ingredients of the totalitarian order – party monopoly on power, ideological uniformity and regimentation, censorship, demonisation of the “people’s enemy,” besieged fortress mentality, secret police terror, concentration camps and/or hard labour camps, and, no less important, the obsession with the shaping of some “New Man.”

Renowned historian and political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, had drawn a moral equation between communism and Nazism, writing in her  1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism” that both represented “absolute evil,” just two sides of the same totalitarian coin. Considering that and in light of my own moral persuasion no communist or Nazi sympathisers should be installing stumbling stones or other memorial symbols to any victims of any totalitarian regime because the lack of that non-discriminatory, filled with conflicts of interests, act takes the human dignity of the victims away. To boot, published in the late 1990’s the absolute international best seller, the Black Book of Communism, which documents communist atrocities, was very well received and opened millions of shut eyes. What The Black Book of Communism succeeds in demonstrating is that communism in its essence was from the outset inimical to the values of individual rights and human freedom. Despite communism’s overblown rhetoric on emancipation from oppression, the leap into freedom turned out to be an experiment in social engineering for the success of which murder and extermination of political opponents was compulsory. Paranoia regarding infiltration, subversion, and treason were enduring features of all communist political cultures, from Russia and China, to Romania and Yugoslavia (Croatia).

How long will it take for the world to repay the debt of civilisation to all victims, be they victims of Nazism or victims of Communism!? Ina Vukic

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