Cruel Irony Afflicts Unveiling Of Monument To Croatian Freedom Fighter

Defending “For Home Ready” greeting
Zagreb, Croatia, 11 November 2017
Photo: Screenshot

It is a cruel insult and cruel irony that on Armistice Day, 11th November, when World War I allies mark with respect and piety those who gave their lives for freedom and their emblems, police authorities in Zagreb, Croatia, go about disrupting remembrance gathering organised for the unveiling of the monument to the legendary Zarko Manjkas – Crvenkapa, who lost his life defending Vukovar and freedom for Croatia in November 1991, and attempt to seize the HOS (Croatian Defence Forces) flag under which Crvenkapa fought and died. The monument itself does not have the HOS emblem under which Crvenkapa lost his life fighting, which is a sad and utterly unjust consequence of current push in Croatia to declare the “Za Dom Spremni” (For Home Ready) illegal. The HOS emblem itself and the flag carrying it are protected under the Croatian law. On it, the salute “Za Dom Spremni” (For Home Ready) is written and the process to render this salute illegal is already in train as the left-leaning lot carrying political and power clout wrongfully place its origins in WWII fight for Croatian independence.

Just imagine a Britain, or any Allied country, today where the salute and greeting “For Home and Country”, or similar WWI or WWII salutes across the Allied world, were threatened with bastardisation and extinction! The protests would be as fierce as defending freedom from aggression were.

It was such an uplifting feeling to watch Croatia’s brave young, many of whom are children or grandchildren of those who gave their lives for Croatia’s independence, fiercely and determinately hold their stead, refusing to budge to the police pressure to remove the HOS with “Za Dom Spremni” salute from sight at the unveiling of monument to Crvenkapa.

The words exchanged between a young lady holding the HOS flag, other young people there, and police as recorded on the video taken in Zagreb on Saturday 11 November at the unveiling of monument to the fallen HOS fighter for freedom are as follows:

Young man: “It’s a mistake for the man who got killed for Croatia as member of HOS … everyone here is bothered by the fact that the monument is missing the HOS emblem, because he died for that, in that unit.”

Young lady holding HOS flag: “Why we are here? To give honour to our killed Crvenkapa, keeping in mind that we are very saddened by the fact that there is no HOS emblem on the monument nor ‘For Home Ready’ sign that he proudly carried and under which insignia he was killed … What impression will the future generations have looking at this monument…that Croats respect their patriots, their defenders who gave their lives for Croatia …for the freedom of Croatia.”

Policeman: “Close the flag … you have breached the law”

Police try to remove legal Croatian army banner
Photo: Screenshot

Young lady holding HOS flag: “We have breached no law, this is a legal Croatian army flag…Manjkas died under this emblem on his cap and you did not put it on the monument … who is bothered by the emblem I don’t know…you cannot move a flag at the opening of a park dedicated to a HOS fighter …”

Jounalist to the young lady holding the HOS flag: “What do you say about being chased out from here?”

Young lady holding HOS flag: “What’s there to say! Do we live in a free a free Croatia, or is this still Yugoslavia? Do Chetniks (Serbs) rule over Croatia or, perhaps, Croats …let’s take authority into our own hands and free ourselves from the pests …” – “No, not a chance, no…this flag is legal Croatian army flag that created our State,” she replies as another policeman’s insistence that she takes the HOS flag down.

Second policeman: “Please, everything is alright, the flag is O.K., move the banner…”

Young lady holding HOS flag: “Why, why should the banner be taken down. We are trying to show a big mistake, a big injustice …”

Second young man: “This is persecution of Croatian defenders … this is not right… my father was in the 204th Vukovar brigade, he fought together with HOS, HOS carried its own insignia ‘Za Dom Spremni’ and HSP (Croatian Party of Rights) was written there …”

Policeman: “Move the banner! …” ( The banner had writing on it: “Who is bothered by the ‘For Home Ready’ greeting on Crvenkapa’s monument?”

Third policeman: “Young lady, let’s have a talk, come with me…come here…” Young lady holding HOS flag: “But why!? … OK…”

Journalist: “Why are you forbidding them…” he asks the policeman

Third policeman: “We are not forbidding anything …” he says as he lead the young lady holding the HOS flag to the side.

Zarko Manjkas Crvenkapa Monument
Zagreb, Croatia
Photo: afp

The police, despite trying very hard, did not manage to intimidate these young people insisting on showing the flag and banner under which members of HOS fought and died for independent Croatia. So proud! Make no mistake here – Croatian authorities and their pervasive communist mindset are attempting to kill the love for independent Croatia that carried its defenders into the bloody battles of Serb aggression during early 1990s. No different to oppression that was in communist Yugoslavia. How else could one interpret the intimidating police surges against the holding up of a legal banner!? Ina Vukic

Competitive Victimhood – Injustice For Victims Of Communist Crimes

 

All good people owe it to the victims of communism to learn what happened to them and pursue justice for them. It has often been said, and I agree, that until Croatia’s left and those operationally associated with communism in former Yugoslavia acknowledge how evil communism had been we will continue to live in a morally confused world, unable to move forward into freedom and democracy.

Lord help you if you ever dare to utter the truth that Communism in Europe exterminated more people than Nazism! You should know better! You should know that you live in a politically shaped dystopian world, which beats fear into the bones at any such thought – for the Holocaust must be maintained as the largest politically motivated mass murder of all times! If you are courageous enough to use suppressed historical facts and, using these, argue differently, then you are labelled with negative connotations as being a historical revisionist. You are stigmatised without mercy, rhyme or reason.

The apparent need to compete over victimhood is perhaps one of the greatest inhibitors of reconciliation processes, and removing it can crucially contribute to an enduring peace.

In the context of genocidal pursuits, I and all fair-minded people are not interested in the question of who was worse, but I and all fair-minded people are interested in justice for all victims, whether they be those of the Holocaust or those of communist purges and crimes.

I don’t want nor intend to contribute to the growing phenomenon of competitive victimhood, which has undoubtedly developed by the elevation of one group of victims and the belittling and the dehumanising of the other, and in which various persecuted or formerly persecuted groups scramble for public pity and financial compensation while other groups are made to suffer continued injustice and erosion of their human dignity. But it seems to me that to compare and contrast the two main types of 20th century totalitarian regimes (Nazism and Communism), and to discuss them as evidence of similar evil tendencies in human nature, is not only legitimate, but banal: Hannah Arendt did it way back in the 1950s. Arendt coined the phrase “banality of evil”, which has ramifications for both totalitarianism as a project and the pathways of resistance. The very fact that it doesn’t seem banal to everyone-that to talk about Hitler and Stalin (Tito in Yugoslavia’s case) together can still raise hackles and cause offence-is indicative of precisely the phenomenon tackling competitive victimhood.

While the word “genocide” may, to some, be inappropriate to apply to all of the multitudes of communist mass murders, communism and Nazism can be said to have shared at least one essential trait: both kinds of regime legitimated themselves by using the rhetoric of dehumanisation, and by establishing categories of enemies who were persecuted and destroyed on a mass scale. Most people of the “West” may have grown up not knowing that communist regimes had committed horrible crimes on a grand scale and it is time those communist crimes are treated everywhere for the evil they were. Most people across former Yugoslavia, including Croatia, have until 1990’s grown up not knowing about the horrible crimes committed by the communists.

And hence, I turn to an article written and published (tabletmag.com) this past week by Menachem Z. Rosensaft, General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress, in which he twists the truth of the Jasenovac remembrance plaque for Croatian HOS (Croatian Defence Forces) defenders killed in the area in action of defending Croatia from 1990’s Serb aggression and includes the twist into his misguided and utterly politically coloured claim that “Croatia Is Brazenly Attempting to Rewrite its Holocaust Crimes Out of History”. It seems to me that the only purpose of this article is to add fuel to the existing concocted fire that stigmatises modern Croatia as a place that broke away from communism (at overwhelming human and material costs) not because of the unbearable communist system criminal oppression but because of some trumped-up nostalgia for WWII Ustashi system.

Memorial plaque to 11 HOS
defenders killed in Jasenovac in 1991

In late 2016,” writes Rosensaft, “far-right political figures and veterans of the 1990-era Croatian Defense Forces put up a plaque in the Croatian municipality of Jasenovac that featured the ‘Za dom spremni’ (For Home Ready) slogan. The ostensible reason for putting up the plaque was to commemorate 11 fighters of the Croatian military who died during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Croatian journalist Vojislav Macoko placed the controversy squarely in historical and moral perspective. Setting the plaque in the town of Jasenovac was ‘unacceptable’ for a number of reasons, he said. ‘The first is that it is unacceptable to erect a monument with such a greeting because it’s the Ustasha salute. This is public glorification of domestic Nazism. The other reason is because it is, of course, Jasenovac’.”

Sorry Rosensaft, but there is nothing ostensible about raising a plaque marking the location area where the Croatian defenders died in 1991 and placing on the plaque the image of the legally valid insignia under which the killed soldiers fought to defend Croatia from the brutal Serb aggression. The patriotic salute “For Home Ready” has its roots in centuries old history of the Croatian people, not in WWII.

It is significant to note that Rosensaft chose not to quote any of the Croatian journalists whose statements regarding the plaque aligned with this truth; he chose the one that suited his political agenda that appears to undermine Croatia’s 1990’s fight against communism and the current attempts by many to reveal and prosecute communist crimes to the full. What seems disturbing is the likelihood that Rosensaft may uphold the right of the WWII Jasenovac victims to have memorial plaques in the locations they perished in but denies the same right to the victims of Serb and communist Yugoslavia onslaught against Croatia in 1990’s!

A brief detour is necessary here to address the campaign in many formerly communist Eastern and central European countries to place Nazism and Communism on the same moral plane, or even to depict Stalinism and the various post-Stalinist strains of communism as worse—more evil, if you will—than Nazism,” writes Rosensaft. “Without in any way minimizing the oppression and suffering endured by large parts of the populations under Communist regimes, it is beyond question that no post-WWII Communist regime anywhere in Europe committed or attempted to commit genocide. To be sure, there were large-scale political imprisonments, far-reaching deprivations of civil and human rights, and politically motivated killings.”

Oh calamity! To Rosensaft, in excess of 64 million communist crime body count in Europe (source R.J. Rummel) including 1.1 million in communist Yugoslavia is a mere “politically motivated killing”, not genocide. No, probably not just genocide – but definitely democide; “the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder” (R.J. Rummel).

However,” Rosensaft continues, “as Yehuda Bauer stated eloquently in response to a 2009 resolution of the European Parliament determining Aug. 23, the anniversary of the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact, as a date to commemorate the victims of both regimes, ‘to compare this with the murder of many millions of Europeans by the Nazi regime, and especially with the state-planned genocide of the Jews (Holocaust) in the context of Nazi crimes generally … is a distortion of history.’ The comparison is especially invidious, as Bauer made clear, because ‘a certain number’ of those persecuted by the Communists ‘had, in fact, been Nazi collaborators.’

This was certainly the case in Croatia, where the post-war Tito regime engaged in large-scale killing of members of the Ustasha, but this was in revenge and retaliation for the crimes—and they were crimes—committed by the Ustasha during their reign. Such politically motivated excesses, however heinous, cannot be compared, let alone equated, with the genocides that the Ustasha had unleashed on Serbs, Jews, and Roma…

Rosensaft omits to write about the innocent civilians and citizens mass murdered by the Tito’s communist regime and Serbian Chetniks during and after WWII. He omits to tell the public that Jasenovac camp remained opened for some years after WWII where, it is claimed, multitudes of politically undesirable Croats perished under communist regime and those body counts thrown into the WWII body count. Let’s trust in the possible wisdom and will of humanity that this part of the dark history will come to light as research takes the path of good will towards victims.

Rosensaft in his article appears to justify mass murder committed against Croats under political guises of communist revenge and retaliation, giving an outrageous bias to his article in terms of both humanity and justice. To him, it would seem, revenge and retaliation are acceptable but only for the communists to use! No need to think too hard why all this may be so.

Rosensaft goes on to write about the historical recordings of the Holocaust victims in Croatia by Ivo and Slavko Goldstein without telling the readers that Goldsteins were writing history as part of and under the protection and licence of the communist Yugoslavia machinery. The machinery that from the start set out to stigmatise Croats, the WWII independence from Yugoslavia politics, as the only people within the territory of former Yugoslavia to had engaged in persecution and murder of Jews, despite the fact that Serbia was one of the first European countries to declare itself “Jew-free” by having exterminated 94% of Serbian Jews by mid-1942! He omits to mention the unbearable Serb-led oppression against Croats that lasted for decades within the post-WWI concoction known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

In a 2011 New York Times interview, talking about genocide, the same Rosensaft stated that “There are always political elements to these cases. There are always ambiguities.” And in 2017, in the article referred to in this article, he has the gall to justify and colour as acceptable the communist political motivations for mass murders but not those of the other side of the political spectrum of WWII Croatia!

Since WWII politics form a large part of Rosensaft’s reflection upon the tragedy that the Holocaust was for humanity his article would hold much more credibility had his analysis of current day Croatian efforts to expose and deal with communist crimes also included the WWII and post-WWII communist politics. We should feel continuing revulsion at the crimes of both communism and Nazism, but Rosensaft seems to have occupied a seat in the victimhood competition wagon where victims of the Holocaust are to be regarded as somehow more deserving of human compassion than those of communism. To me, a wrongful death resulting from walking into a gas chamber is no worse than the one resulting from being bludgeoned and pushed alive into a pit. The historical fact is that communism spread further and lasted longer than Nazism and, in that, it produced more victims. Surely, even Rosensaft needs to acknowledge that fact without painting the plights in Croatia to pay tribute and deliver justice to the victims of communist crimes as some twisted historical revisionism! Ina Vukic

To Remove HOS Plaque Is Moral Suicide For Foundations Of Croatia’s Democracy!

The Law is set in stone!
No compromises, no apologies!
You touch one, you touch all!
So, be ready for a second Storm!
Whether in the homeland or in the diaspora,
We are ready!
For Home Ready!

Moral convictions shape a nation. Moral convictions shape a nation’s political opinions and actions.

When insistence on a political compromise dictates that one side to the compromise relinquishes its moral foundations then you have a huge problem of, in fact, forcing the latter to commit moral suicide. This would epitomise the current political climate in Croatia that is seriously and bitterly disrupting daily life in Croatia and its diaspora. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s (HDZ) coalition government (with leftist party HNS and Serb minority-led SDSS…) has in the past few days announced that it will “install” a compromise with regard to taking down the HOS “Za Dom Spremni” (Croatian Defence Forces “For Home Ready”) plaque in Jasenovac … raised in memory to HOS defenders who perished there at the hands of Serb aggression in 1991. The issue is charged with the leftist (communist) malicious branding of the salute “For Home Ready” as being the salute of the WWII Ustashi regime. The historical facts show indisputably that the salute “For Home Ready” is hundreds of years old among patriotic Croats and the WWII salute was “For Home and Leader Ready” (Za Dom i Poglavnika Spremni) – not “For Home Ready”.

The announced installation of a compromise does so remind of the dictatorial era of communist Yugoslavia, when compromise meant no compromise but mere stamping of hard party lines. The pertinent issue here, upon which there cannot be any compromise because it is a historical fact, is that the HOS flag and emblem contained in the Jasenovac plaque was the emblem under which HOS forces defended Croatia from Serb aggression, hence significantly contributing to the creation of the modern and independent state of Croatia. “For Home Ready” moral energy was crucial to this and, now, the government obviously pressured by its leftist coalition partners who have been clearing and forcing the path to equating the victim with the aggressor, seeks to remove it! Replace it with “something else” (that doesn’t contain the salutation “For Home Ready”) that, Prime Minister says, is yet to be legalised!

Given that a true process of compromise requires partners there is no sign of partnership being formed here at this stage. What is there is the head of government dictating how a compromise will look and a frantic swell of community and Croatian defenders’ expressions of intent to save the Jasenovac plaque from being taken down; to defend the honour and the righteousness of the good fight – the fight for independence from communism.

The compromise that the Croatian government is announcing digs into the very historical facts and defence motivation of the 1990’s Croatian Homeland War. As such, it is not a compromise to be entertained behind closed doors or one side dictating the outcome of the intended compromise – it requires a referendum! After all, the 1991 referendum saw 94% of Croatian voters vote for independence from communist Yugoslavia, bestowed upon the salute “For Home Ready” a driving moral force that led to victory over the brutal Serb/Yugoslav aggression. In the current make-up of the Croatian parliament, where the HDZ majority is stitched up with Serb minority, pro-communist minor parties, etc., one cannot even contemplate that any passing of a law or bill on the removal of the plaque would be in any sense of justice to the victims of Homeland War an acceptable compromise. The consequences of any compromise reached as the government announces – to remove the Jasenovac plaque and replace it with another, more “acceptable” one that would not have “For Home Ready” salute written on it would be catastrophic. This is particularly so because the former/current communists in Croatia would grow stronger wings and the shedding Croatia of the communist mindset and practices would reach a new stage of impossible tasks. That this reasoning is justified one only needs to visit the pro-communist Yugoslavia rally that was organised only a couple of days ago on one of Zagreb’s main city squares, with communist Yugoslavia flags, songs and colours! An abomination to experience in this day and age, 26 years after the Croatian referendum to secede from communism, 21 years after the Homeland War ended laden with untold aggressor brutality and Croatian lost lives and devastation.

Whatever happened to the responsibility of the Croatian government outlawing in legislation the display of all totalitarian regimes!

It is clear that it is impossible to reach any compromise in the matter of the HOS “Za Dom Spremni” plaque in Jasenovac without causing real and grave damage to the status of Croatia’s Homeland War objectives, it’s political and patriotic profile. The plaque has become a symbol of the good fight for democracy and to desecrate that symbol by taking it down spells out grave injustice not only for the HOS victims who perished on that spot for democracy but to the whole plight and fight for freedom from communism.

Obviously what is afoot here in Croatia is the situation of a compromise being touted by the coalition government against the background of moral conflict. The murky parts of the political establishment and part of community hold hard onto moral convictions that communist Yugoslavia was acceptable and the other part of the political establishment and community hold that it was not. The reality of the brutal Homeland War and the reasons for which it was fought stand firm on the side of the latter. It is a conflict of interests and a conflict of incompatible moral convictions. Moral conflict is a conflict of incompatible commitments. It is clear at this point that commitment to retaining a communist mindset in Croatia flourishes to a disturbing extent and, if only because of that, there can be no compromise in the case of the HOS plaque in Jasenovac. Ina Vukic

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