Croatia: Denial Of Communist Crimes Fanning The Flames Of National Disunity

Jasenovac, Croatia
Photo: screenshot

Democracies are no strangers to national disunity even the oldest and most developed ones and Croatia is no different as in it the moral philosophies of individualism and solidarity with the multitudes of political parties and movements clash, battling for the soul of Croatia. Conservatives or the right wing stand behind the philosophy of democratic freedom and national values instilled through centuries of independence battles that finally created the modern Croatia of today, while liberals or the left side are still tied to the former communist mentality that viciously hangs on to corrupt protectionism of all who subscribe to that mentality which includes denial and non-acceptance of communist crimes. An intense conflict is disuniting the people, and Croatian people all suffering regardless of the fact that many have switched themselves off the political grid and choose not to even vote at elections.

As moral positions, both individualism and solidarity obviously have commendable aspects. Individualism represents self-reliance and independence, while solidarity or community represents social unity, common cause, and an expansive understanding of self-interest. All these aspects are important to people’s well-being.

It’s true that solidarity, a cumulative hub of individuals standing for common moral values, can represent genuine political or economic power. However, speaking psychologically, solidarity is not an intrinsic, a natural psychological power in people – it needs to be developed through self-development spurred on and nurtured by the “right” political tilts. Determined opponents can crush solidarity that’s not grounded in people’s self-development. When that happens, people who relied on solidarity for their sense of standing and well-being can be left feeling empty and defeated.

An example in Croatia of Serb, of so-called antifascist organisations as well as of some Jewish organisations that evidently and consciously keep national disunity spinning, fanning its destructive flames, could be seen, for the nth time in the past two decades, at the WWII Jasenovac camp site on Saturday 22 April 2017. That is, commemorating the 72 anniversary of the 1945 break out from Jasenovac camp of 1,073 prisoners is officially to occur under the Croatian government auspices on Sunday 23 April but the communistically propelled Croatian association of antifascist fighters organised a separate commemoration at Jasenovac on Saturday and the Serb national council in Croatia as well as Social democratic party joined them. Thus boycotting the State official commemoration to be held on Sunday. Some Jewish organisations in Croatia will also hold a separate commemoration at Jasenovac on Monday 24 April!

Much of this boils down to persistent, mindless denial of justice to victims of communist crimes.

It is an absolute human disgrace that on Saturday at Jasenovac communist mouths were filled with hypocritical words that “no crime should ever be forgotten and that such crimes must never be repeated…” These are the same people who keep denying communist crimes, which, by the way, were more horrific and more numerous than those committed at Jasenovac (and elsewhere) during the WWII Independent State of Croatia reign.

A survivor from WWII Jasenovac, Slavko Milanovic, told the Croatian HRT TV on Saturday that Croatia’s inability to come to terms with its past was “reopening the old wounds so they cannot heal.”

The problem with Mr Milanovic’s comment is that the communists who wrongfully call themselves antifascists are the ones who are unable to come to terms with the past, not the ones who were evidently on his mind; those that mourn at Jasenovac have among them many that deny and cover up and justify the horrors of communist crimes. Crimes committed at Jasenovac have been dealt with for decades, individuals charged with crimes have been prosecuted and convicted a long time ago, Jasenovac and other WWII camps have been dealt with as part of history that paints WWII days in Croatia in dark colours. Justice for victims of Jasenovac has been perpetuated over and over again – no justice for victims of communist crimes, though.

This is the 21st Century and the principle of justice should assure a just treatment of victims of every totalitarian regime. “Alongside the prosecution and punishment of criminals, the denial of every international crime should be treated according to the same standards to prevent favourable conditions for the rehabilitation and rebirth of totalitarian ideologies,” said a 2010 joint letter to the European Commission from six former communist countries of Eastern Europe.

Denial of communist crimes in Croatia maintains and deepens the widespread fear of an emergence of yet another communist Yugoslavia and in that prevents the development of mainstream solidarity with the independence and democracy Croats fought for in the 1990’s. The political and, therefore, economic prosperity of the country are at an impasse and this must change – the scales must turn towards that for which Croatia fought: away from communist mindset and practices in public administration. Otherwise the desired prosperity and freedom that are on all lips shall remain just a hope. And the truth in the old proverb “he who lives by hope dies in despair” comes to mind. Decisive actions are needed to rid Croatia of communist crimes denials.

Indeed, way things are going in Croatia it’s high time that Croatian parliament intensifies a legislative process for the banning of denial of communist crimes; for the banning of denial of any totalitarian regime crimes for that matter. Denial of communist crimes is at the heart of the destructive disunity weaved throughout the Croatian society and its destructiveness is defined by the seemingly eternal justifications of one crime with another. This destructiveness was felt strongly in Saturday’s commemoration at Jasenovac. It was as recent as 2014 when in acquitting Josip Boljkovac, a communist operative in post-WWII Yugoslavia, of mass murder a Croatian court ruled that “it was simply a matter of crime committed by the system (communist) …which crimes have compromised the historically-affirmative antifascist battle…

But it seems that court decisions and rulings have little if any significance as to how a society should be guided in its existence in Croatia. That, for sure, is a tragic reality of democracy that is not a democracy.

Croatian Defence Force veterans
at Jasenovac 22 April 2017
Photo: N1

To return to the commemoration at Jasenovac on Saturday and its implications for a continuance of denial of communist crimes and for the denial of justice for all victims, no matter whose, I was actually impressed by the human stamina demonstrated in Jasenovac by several Croatian Homeland War veterans (Croatian Defence Forces HOS) who stood guard in front of the memorial plaque for the 11 Croatian defenders killed in Jasenovac in 1991 during the brutal Serb-led aggression against Croatia, holding the flag with “Za Dom Spremni” (For Home Ready) salute on it.

A symbolic gesture but a strong one that sends a message that communist crimes committed in Yugoslavia and Serb crimes committed in Croatia during 1990’s cannot be justified or denied nor downplayed; must not be forgotten – indeed. Every victim deserves due respect and justice. Ina Vukic

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