Croatia: a hostage of WWII history or…?

Croatian Homeland War Memorial Medal

Friday 13 July article by Zeljko Jurjevic “ The Homeland war is a shrine and it cannot be in the shadows of Ustashe, Partisans, and various (Radimir) Cacic’s and (Stjepan) Mesic’s …”  points to the issue that there are groups (in Croatia) in whose interests it is for Croatia to be seen as a country still preoccupied with World War II Ustashe and Partisans. The article leads one to see that turning to history is an easy way out from having to deal with the reality of the economic crisis. At the same time, Jurjevic, points out, Croatian Homeland War is being muddied and its veterans losing out on the deserved place in society. Jurjevic asserts that Croatia is a hostage of its WWII history and that this is not as harmless as it may appear.

No, it’s not as harmless as it may appear. It’s not just political spin to “mark the time”. It is the WWII Partisans’ descendants or sympathisers’ vessel through which they attempt to claim total credit for today’s independent and democratic Croatia.

Croatia’s Homeland War (1991 – 1995) is the foundation of today’s independent and democratic Croatia.

Because today’s Croatia was created with almost equal participation of the descendants of WWII Home Guards (politically neutral for much of WWII until they were forced to either join Ustashe, join Partisans, or die), Ustashe (fascists, pro-Nazi) and Partisans (communists, some were antifascist) Croatia simply cannot desert this history, leave it to historians without delivering justice for all the victims of all crimes committed during and after WWII.

Today’s Croatia was created (during 1990’s) by the unity of all Croatians, those that lived in Croatia and those that lived abroad, by the politically and historically right-winged, left-winged and neutral, descendants of WWII Ustashe, Home Guards and Partisans – equally! Only through such a marvelous unity was Croatia able to come out victorious against the manifold militarily stronger Serb aggressor.

There’s almost a relentless plight – at times reminiscent of a desperate cry – to have the importance of Croatian Homeland War veterans and defenders elevated to their rightful place of deservedness. Their love and dedication to the freedom and self-determination of Croatian people, more often than not, become marred by the woes of WWII history: Ustashe vs Partisans. The advocates of communist Partisans wickedly and unjustifiably equate the latter with the Homeland War veterans.

There lies the bone of great discontent, and the compelling reason why WWII communist crimes must be prosecuted.

In recent years, in Croatian media, a good number of journalist analyses and statements by various politicians (usually left oriented) have “urged” that “Croatia must move on, leave the history to historians, etc.”

Suffice to say that most of such “outbursts” have been closely associated with events that pointed to heinous crimes against Croatian people committed by the communist totalitarian regime of Josip Broz Tito (former Yugoslavia).

While Croatian people of all walks of life condemn the crimes committed by the pro-Nazi Ustashe regime of the Independent State of Croatia/NDH, when it comes to the crimes against humanity committed by communist Partisans, the pro-communist lot hails them as actions of justified revenge!

Of course, even a blind and politically ignorant individual can see that Croatia’s so-called antifascists (communists) hide the crimes of their predecessors by emphasising those of WWII Ustashe.

This is, all will agree, wrong.

Then, there’s a notion circling around in some loud circles that if Croatia processed and condemned communist crimes, Croatia would be left without any “goodness” in its people; that goodness of today’s Croatia comes from antifascists/communists.

What a load of garbage!

Leftists maintain (wrongly) that if it weren’t for antifascism there would be no modern, independent and democratic Croatia today!

The only way Croatia will lose its “goodness” is if it doesn’t prosecute communist crimes. Because of the WWII widespread Nazi crimes the whole of Germany had once been condemned and yet, it stands proud now, it has moved on a long time ago because no stone had been left unturned when it came to crimes committed against humanity during WWII.

In that respect Germany was the lucky country. It got closure for the victims of Nazism, however painful for some die-hards that closure might have been.

Croatia, would not be a lucky country in the decades following WWII – the ruling communists made sure that crimes committed by their echelons do not end up in the same dark social dungeons as those committed by the Ustashe.

Unlike for Germany, unlike for Ustashe, many WWII crimes committed in Croatia by communists still remain unpunished.

Neither communism nor fascism brought anything good to Croatian people. Both were one-party totalitarian regimes that persecuted those with opposing views.

There’s renewed glorification in Croatia of the former communist system and its ideologist Josip Broz Tito.  Various groups take advantage of the current economic crisis and say that life used to be better under the Serbo-Chetnik Yugoslavia that mercilessly persecuted Croatian people.

This too, is another angle in the pro-Communists’ attempts to evade the destiny of having communist crimes prosecuted. It is an established fact that from 1945 – the day WWII ended – Yugoslav (including Croatian) antifascism/communism became a criminal, anti-Croatian, Serbo-Yugoslav system for the persecution and genocide over Croatians. There has been no regime in history that murdered so many Croatians as did the Yugoslav communist regime under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito.

It is an absolutely undisputable fact that, in 1991, 94% of Croatian voters voted for independence from communist Yugoslavia, voted for democracy and self -determination. That fact in itself speaks clearly that the Croatian people were fed-up, to say the least, with oppressive Yugoslavia.

It is an undisputed fact that descendants of all WWII sides created today’s Croatia. Everyone who participated and contributed to the great freedom and democracy must be hailed a hero. That is what happens in every civilised world.

But, how can descendants of some be branded less worthy than others, because of their historical bloodlines! The descendants of fascists cannot allow the descendants of communists to steal all the blissful thunder of the cries for freedom and the struggle for freedom from early 1990’s. This is particularly so because the descendants of fascists know that the descendants of communists committed terrible crimes that have gone unpunished.

While the descendants of all WWII sides cannot be held responsible for the deeds of their ancestors, they must be held responsible to reconcile history. They must bring justice to those victims of crimes who have been forgotten and who have had no closure for their suffering (victims of communist crimes) which would allow them to move on, leave history to historians.

So, Croatia is not a hostage to WWII history. On the contrary, Croatia is struggling to rectify history and bring all to their deserved place. It only seems as if there’s a hostage-of-history situation in Croatia but the bottom line is the one being frantically drawn by the tactics of communist sympathisers whereby they do not want prosecution and condemnation of communist crimes.

Croatia will, in many ways, be a poor country if the shaping of its future solely depends on the descendants of criminals who got away (from justice)! This goes for corruption, as well as for WWII and post-WWII crimes. Ina Vukic, prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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)

Croatia: Commemorating the 82,085 recorded deaths in WWII Jasenovac area concentration camps

Jasenovac Flower Memorial (Photo HRT)

22 April 2012 marks the 67th anniversary of the Jasenovac concentration camp prisoner break-out.

A commemoration was held at that largest detention and work camp of the Independent State of Croatia (1941 – 1945). Out of 1073 prisoners still held there on 22 April 1945, 600 of them broke out and barely 100 of them survived the breakout. The remaining 473, who did not attempt to escape , were killed or burned, reports the Croatian television HRT.

Numerous dignitaries including Ivo Josipovic (President), Zoran Milanovic (Prime Minister) and Boris Sprem (Speaker of Parliament) attended the commemoration at the Flower monument, Jasenovac.

67th commemoration at Jasenovac, 22 April 2012 (Photo:HRT)

Katica Sedmak, the president of the Advisory Council of Jasenovac Area Memorials, spoke first at the commemoration. She sent a special greeting to the survivors of Jasenovac concentration camp and some 70 other camps in World War II Croatia, who suffered from war crimes.

Sedmak said that, to date, there are 82,085 recorded deaths over ten localities in the area of Jasenovac and that the victims were Serbs, Roma, Jews, Croatians and antifascists. She said that there were 20,038 children under the age of 14 among the victims, and that if there were no humanists there that number would have been greater and more terrible.

Brigita Knezevic, the representative of prisoners and herself a survivor, said that Jasenovac area should always remind us about the victims who had lost their lives there and that evil should never be repeated, that we should build our life and future in love and tolerance. This vow we must leave to future generations, she said.


(taken from Jasenovac Memorial Site portal

Jasenovac Memorial Site is in the immediate vicinity of the former Jasenovac concentration camp, Camp III (Brickworks). In the Memorial Site the original sites of buildings and execution sites within the camp itself are marked by earth mounds and hollows. The path to the Flower Memorial is paved with railway sleepers. They denote symbolically part of the preserved railway track used to transport prisoners to the camp. 

Along with the memorial area, Jasenovac Memorial Site is responsible for the original, preserved camp building known as The Tower, the Stara Gradiška Camp cemetery, the Roma cemetery in Uštica and the mass graves in Krapje, Mlaka and Jablanac. 

The activities of Jasenovac Memorial Site have developed in different directions and include compiling, researching, scientifically processing, preserving and exhibiting the museum buildings and documents on how the Jasenovac Ustasha camp system operated; an educational programme; organising exhibitions and publications; ongoing co-operation with surviving prisoners and organising commemorative events in honour of the Jasenovac victims. 

Besides the Memorial Museum, the Education Centre is also part of Jasenovac Memorial Site. 

Jasenovac is a place in which visitors will discover the exceptional suffering and incredible courage of the Jasenovac victims, but also learn of the strength of hope in life and faith in humankind, as emphasised in particular by the survivors.

Thanks to all the Jasenovac victims, Jasenovac today is a place which encourages contemplation, learning, research, building personal convictions and actively resisting evil and crime, and is also a place where the value of human life and the moral principles which characterise humankind are embraced. Jasenovac is a place from which we should all depart having reached the decision that evil and the “Jasenovac” crimes should never be repeated, anywhere. Differences between peoples, cultures and nationalities should be respected, communicated and taught, and never again allowed to be the causes of crimes against humanity”.

This is the ugly part of Croatia’s World War II history that the whole world, rightfully, needs to remember with condemnation. That history though, haunts the people much more than what it should 70 years on, I would say, because of the irksome, grossly false representations of numbers of victims that fell at Jasenovac one finds in books, newspapers and on the internet.

Furthermore, the other ugly part of Croatia’s World War II history, viz. communist crimes and massacres committed by antifascists have not yet been fully condemned nor have the faces of the perpetrators been branded with the deserved mark of abhorrence.

It is sad to see that even on this 67th anniversary of Jasenovac deaths the “antifascists” as victims of the camp are referred to as a separate group of victims. I ask myself: why is this so? Weren’t those antifascists members of all or any of the ethnic groups on the victim list: Serbian, Jews, Croatian and Roma? Mentioning antifascists as a distinct group of victims is repugnant in this context. It is a fact that Croatians who were against the Ustashi/Nazi regime, were exterminated in Jasenovac, the same would go for some members of the other ethnic groups.

And so, sadly, the antifascists bring politics to Jasenovac commemoration. But let’s hope that people will not forget either of the two ugly parts of Croatia’s WWII history, and press on with making the antifascists condemn and convict the atrocities their predecessors committed. The young people of Croatia should recognise the destructive antifascist politics and reject the hypocrisy it brings (even to the Jasenovac commemoration), and move on into a future that has reconciled its past fully, otherwise tension and discontent will linger. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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