Croatian President Ivo Josipovic: will his metaphoric Ustashi snake divert attention from post-WWII Communist crimes

Cartoon: Ivo Josipovic and the Snake

When a Head of a country – a President – starts evoking a terrible long-gone past and resurrecting it, pinning it, maliciously, as active inclinations of today’s decent freedom loving citizens then we know that country is in danger of long-lasting disarray and disenchantment. This can no longer be seen as political rhetoric to win votes or political backing, but it must be seen as a blatant, vilifying attack on the decency of that whole country and a profound insult to fellow citizens at whom such resurrections of the past are directed.

It was February 2012 when Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic began using the word “snake” in talking about those members of the World War II Croatian society who participated in the Nazi/fascist driven extermination of Jews.

Of course, and in simple words but true, World War II Croatia was divided in the political loyalties’ sense just as a dysfunctional family might be today. There were those that joined the Ustashi/pro-Nazis, there were those who joined the Partisans/pro-Communists (pro-Yugoslavia) and there were those who joined neither.

Regardless of this, the world seemed to see mainly the Ustashi side of Croatia since WWII. This was undoubtedly due to the worldwide intense hunt for those who participated in the Holocaust exterminations and due to the task the Communist Yugoslavia placed upon itself: to destroy and vilify the Croatian name.

In February, when in Israel, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic requested forgiveness from Holocaust survivors in his address to the Knesset. “Some members of my nation worked to systematically destroy parts of humanity [in World War II],” Josipovic said. “We must look in our hearts, at the darkest stain in our history. We must know: The snake is weak, but it is still there.

And since we are at Jasenovac camp killings, I am truly and deeply disappointed (although not surprised) that Josipovic had not mentioned that Jasenovac camp remained open and operational well into 1948, under the Yugoslav communist rule. How many innocent, but anti-communist or anti-Yugoslav Croatians were murdered there between 1945 and 1948? That, I trust, despite the antifascist kicking and screaming, will be widely revealed and it will not constitute any revision of history but a correction of history to march the truth.

An extract from article on the Truth about Jasenovac in Fokus, 27 May 2005: “When Partisans took over Jasenovac, a large number of prisoners from the Way of the Cross ended up in there…at Gradina, in Partisan Jasenovac Croatians were killed! The largest cemetery is there! …the Partisans carried out mass slaughters there in 1945…

The very idea that in his speech in Israel Josipovic suggested that in Croatia today the political movement or program that resulted in the extermination of Jews during WWII is still active, albeit weak, is something that outraged me, and many, many people in Croatia. Simply because it is not true.

Then, in April 2012, expressing his gladness when the Government banned the International ultra-nationalist conference in Zagreb, Josipovic said: “And I, myself, was attacked when I concluded that the Ustashi snake exists, the snake is not widely accepted nor a part of our dominant culture and tradition, but we need to know that it exists and we need to be ready to react to it in an appropriate manner”.

He did not however move a finger to stop the antifascist rally in Zagreb at the same time, which basically ran amuck, ranting and raving about fascism that does not exist. But antifascists have a burning need to keep the idea of fascism alive, so that their heinous crimes against humanity of the era gone by get pushed into the background.

The open, public rhetoric such as the above from Josipovic should neither be accepted nor tolerated in Croatia. But, alarmingly, it is becoming more and more prevalent from the mouths of the governing coalition (former communists/antifascists) as well as the president.

It seems to have become a loud and brazenly insulting weapon the governing coalition and the president use in order to maintain divisions in society, in order to strengthen their power over people, in order to divert the population from the critical underperformance of economy they don’t seem to know how to move forward (apart from borrowing more money) and, I strongly believe, in order to put-up a fight against the trends in the condemnation and the processing of World War II Communist crimes.

Then on Sunday 22 April at the Jasenovac camp commemoration, after mentioning that the camp was run by the Ustashi, he said: “Often nothing is learned from tragic events because new movements emerge all the time that would want to trample on humanity, freedom and democracy. Often we can hear in the media those programs in which revisionists change history, wanting to change our future as well. But, our future will not change because Croatia has enough clever and honest people. Never again will Fascist, Nazi or Ustashi ideas pass in Croatia...”

Now, if I were a naïve bystander I would just move on and not think twice about what Josipovic said here. But I’m not naïve; I know too well that Josipovic and the Croatian governing coalition work from the platform built by communists who committed crimes against humanity in Croatia and Yugoslavia. The injustice is that the Ustashi were condemned and convicted for their crimes and the communists weren’t.

The cartoon of Ivo Josipovic and the Snake signifies the fact that the snake he says is still present in Croatia is a myth of his own creation,  just as snake-charming is.

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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