Croatia: President Paid Respects To Victims Of WWII Jasenovac Camp And Prime Minister Did Not!

 

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic At Jasenovac memorial centre 22 April 2015 - 70 Anniversary of liberation of this WWII camp where thousands lost their innocent lives

Croatian President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
At Jasenovac memorial centre
22 April 2015 – 70 Anniversary
of liberation of this WWII camp where thousands
lost their innocent lives

The past week has marked the 70th anniversary of liberation of WWII concentration camps throughout Europe. In Croatia, on 22 April 1945 some 600 prisoners at the Jasenovac camp revolted and broke out; most were killed in this break out. 22nd April is the official Remembrance Day for the victims of Jasenovac camp.
On that morning in 2015, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic went to Jasenovac memorial site – on her own, alone, somber – bowing in deep respect to the victims who perished there during WWII.

 

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic bows to the victims at Jasenovac

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
bows to the victims at Jasenovac

At this moment, 70 years ago today, began the break out of the Jasenovac camp. I bow to the victims and express deep respect to the people who were tortured and killed here. Those were people who had first and last names, who had families and homes, their identity, their wishes and hopes, their dreams, everything that makes a person unique.

As President of the Republic of Croatia and as a human being I unreservedly condemn the crimes of torture and killings that were perpetrated in this place. The ideology that caused these crimes is condemned both morally and legally. Those politics were the will of the regime that tied itself to the Nazi-Fascist Axis and it dishonourably used the legitimate wish of the Croatian people for its own state.

This is a platform of warning in our time too, to resolutely keep the legacy of freedom, democracy, human rights and acknowledgement of diversity. The Republic of Croatia is rightfully proud of its achievements in the protection of human and minority rights. In order to preserve and advance this high level of freedom, it is especially necessary to educate the young to correctly understand democracy and educate them for true humanism and a society in whose centre will always be man in his uniqueness”, President Grabar-Kitarovic wrote, in the Book Of Impressions at the Jasenovac Memorial Centre.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic writing in the Book of Impressions at Jasenovac, 22 April 2015

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
writing in the Book of Impressions
at Jasenovac, 22 April 2015

President Grabar-Kitarovic did not attend on Sunday 26 April 2015 the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the break-out of inmates from the Ustasha-run Jasenovac, organised by the government, but did send her envoy, Branko Lustig – a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, who delivered a speech at Jasenovac.
Sunday’s ceremony was attended by surviving former inmates, top Croatian officials, several foreign ambassadors in Croatia, and many other delegations who paid tribute to 83,000 victims of this WW2 camp, says on the Croatian government website (retrieved 29 April 2015).
President Grabar-Kitarovic’s absence from the commemoration on Sunday had given rise to quite a bit of polemicizing and criticising in the Croatian media, almost all of whom failed to pick up on the true meaning and the righteousness of her visit to Jasenovac on Wednesday before.
Just as well Grabar-Kitarovic did not attend the commemoration of 70th anniversary of liberation of Jasenovac last Sunday for it was a disgrace! It was a platform for “Tito’s communist fraternity” that did not focus on the victims who perished there as much as it did on revitalising the personality cult of Josip Broz Tito, the communist regime camouflaged under the term of antifascism. It’s not by accident that in his speech Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said: “For me, there was only one Croatian army in WWII and they were Croatian Partisans and Partisans of Croatia.”

 

Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic at Jasenovac, 26 April 2015

Croatia’s Prime Minister
Zoran Milanovic at
Jasenovac, 26 April 2015

 

 

The fact is that Croatian Partisans were members of Yugoslav Army; there was no Croatian Partisan Army. Tito led the Yugoslav Army whose aim was to retain Yugoslavia as a communist federation of states, as opposed to the Kingdom that had crashed as WWII started.
What disappoints and saddens enormously is that Prime Minister Milanovic’s speech at Jasenovac on Sunday did not contain a single word of condolence or sadness for the victims who perished there. He chose to focus on politics! E
How utterly depraved!
There was a march of silence at Auschwitz on Monday 27 January 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of liberation of this Nazi death camp that represents the largest extermination site in human history. In his speech at Auschwitz, after bowing and giving respect to the victims Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski drew a parallel between Nazi Germany and the USSR, recalling the massacre of Polish elites by Soviet forces, BBC reports.

It is our duty to remember for ourselves and for the future,” Komorowski said, concluding his opening speech to loud applause.
And remembering the victims is what Croatia’s President Grabar-Kitarovic did on Wednesday 22 April at Jasenovac. Were she to be present there on the Sunday 26 April, I would imagine she would have been tempted to draw a similar parallel, only, instead of USSR, in the case of Croatia it would be Tito’s communist Yugoslavia. The crimes of the latter have yet to be condemned and judged; their victims have yet to achieve justice and proper remembrance.

To President Grabar-Kitarovic it’s the victims that matter and she has demonstrated the courage to point the finger of condemnation and abhorrence at all totalitarian regimes responsible for murders and extermination of innocent people.
Speaking on Croatian TV news Tuesday 28 April she confirmed that she would go to the Bleiburg commemoration in mid-May but that she would not hold a speech.

I repeat, I think that execution sites must not be used to send political messages and politicking but exclusively as a place of commemoration of the victims and condemnation of all totalitarian regimes,” she said.

 

 

In May 1945, after the victory of Tito’s Partisans, thousands of unarmed soldiers of the WWII Independent State of Croatia and civilians, with women and children and the aged, had walked on foot the great distance, and often rugged terrain on the way to Bleiburg Austria, in order to seek refugee status in the West. Communism was not what they subscribed to. However, they were returned and handed over by British forces to the Yugoslav Communist authorities and hundreds of thousands were killed during death marches on their way back to Yugoslavia, while some were killed by the Partisans without trial in the Bleiburg field. They too, just like the victims of Jasenovac, of Auschwitz of all death camps, deserve remembrance and respect for they were targeted by communists not because of their ethnicity or religion but because of their political beliefs and plight for independence and democracy.
Equalisation of the Nazi/Fascist Holocaust crimes with Communist crimes is and may be and is undoubtedly seen by many scholars, politicians and ordinary people as the greatest threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and that it serves to exculpate populations complicit in the extermination of their Jewish (and other) minorities during WWII. But remembering the crimes of Holocaust must not and should not obstruct or deny the remembering of the crimes of communism and in paying fit tribute to its victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Symbols Of Communist Yugoslavia Totalitarian Regime Evicted From Highest Office In The Land

Removal of bust of Josip Broz Tito from Office of the President - Croatia Photo: Office of the President of the  Republic of Croatia

Removal of bust of
Josip Broz Tito from
Office of the President – Croatia
Photo: Office of the President of the
Republic of Croatia

Blessed are those who act justly,

who always do what is right” (Psalm 106:3)

 

Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has kept her promise and evicted Josip Broz Tito (the bust of Josip Broz Tito and other artifacts, legacy of Tito and his wife Jovanka)  from the Office of the President, Yesterday 19 March 2015.

 

On Tuesday during her visit to Germany, about which I have written in my previous post, Croatian president held a lecture on Croatia and the European Community at the European Academy in Berlin where she participated in a discussion after the lecture and answered numerous questions, said among other things that Tito’s bust from the presidential palace is soon to be moved to another location.

Tito was a dictator”, she said when asked about Tito’s bust, stressing that it will be removed from the presidential palace and, as a work of art, located in a suitable place, probably in the part of Croatia where he was born.

And so the president held her pre-election promise – that she will throw away the bust of Tito from  her office.

Josip Broz Tito was the chief architect of the communist Yugoslavia, a socialist federation that lasted from 1943 to 1991-92 and from its decomposition new states emerged, Croatia being one of them.

“In accordance with the decision of the President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic the works of art in question will be committed to the use of the Museums of the Croatian Zagorje”, statement from the president’s office explained.

Not only the bust of Tito was removed from Pantovcak, however, but also the complete legacy of former Yugoslav President and his wife Jovanka Broz, which consists of more than one hundred works of art.

tito bust removed

Tito’s bust in the highest Office of Croatia was a constant reminder of the oppression and totalitarian regime of communist Yugoslavia, Croatia freed itself from in the early 1990’s. It was a symbol of that to which Croatia should never rub shoulders with but it was also a symbol that also injected wind under the wings of those who remain nostalgic for Yugoslavia. To multitudes Tito’s bust displayed in such an important place was a reminder that one among the top ten mass murderers of the 20th century (Josip Broz Tito) still in a sense captured a respect he did not nor does he deserve and which sent chills through the veins of multitudes of innocent victims of communist regime .

To remove that symbol of communist existence and totalitarian regime from that office symbolises an open window to a new, freer future – a future Tito has no part in except to answer posthumously for his crimes or the crimes of his communist regime. I rejoice today immensely. Congratulations, brave President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian MEP Joins Urge For Stepping-Up Dealing With Communist Crimes

EPP

 

With the new European Union Parliament on the way since elections in May 2014 and the election last week of Jean-Claude Juncker as the European Commission President there is a movement that caught my attention from the European Peoples’ Party (EPP) to make stronger steps forward regarding doing something about communist crimes rather than just sitting inanimately on the EU 2009 declaration which condemned totalitarian regimes.

It is well established that the European Parliament emphasises the need to keep alive – through remembrances etc. – memories of Europe’s tragic and horrendous past in order to keep paying respect to the victims, condemn those who perpetrated the crimes and to thus build foundations for reconciliation, which foundations are to be based on truth and remembrance. It also holds that Nazism was the dominant historical experience in Western Europe while Central and Eastern Europe had experienced both Nazism and Communism to equally dominant proportions that affected nations.

Regardless of what the EU Parliament may hold, the fact remains that the “original” EU, prior to expansion into Eastern Europe, had existed, and in many instances still does, quite comfortably under the conviction that World War II was good because it fought against fascism and Nazism. Along came Eastern Europe countries that do not fit this formula, that do not share this European memory – they brought to the EU the memory of Communism in its ugly robes, the robes that can perhaps be weighed through arguments of conservative European intellectuals and historians, particularly from Germany, who in the second half of 1980’s articulated their convictions that the Holocaust was not fundamentally different to other experiences of state terror and mass extermination in the 20th century, such as Stalinism, Communism. As one may expect such claims and views were strongly repudiated by mainstream left-wing intellectuals who insisted on the uniqueness of the “Final Solution” and denounced the historians’ writings as politically charged and revisionist, despite the fact these were founded on historical truths of horrendous crimes. Ten years later, in 1997, “The Black Book of Communism” was published in France – a critique of blindness among both intellectual and political elites towards Communist crimes due to focusing entirely on the Holocaust; a critique that was immediately rebuffed by a broad front of left-wing French writers and politicians who rejected outright any direct comparison between Nazism and Communism.

In April of 2009 the EU Parliament passed its Resolution on European Conscience and totalitarianism, condemning all totalitarian regimes crimes including communist regime ones.

Meanwhile and counting, over 850 mass graves of communist crimes victims had been discovered in Croatia alone – a horror story equally as atrocious as the Holocaust.

The achievements of European post-WWII integration are often described as a direct response and a real alternative to the suffering inflicted by two world wars and the Nazi tyranny that led to the Holocaust and to the expansion of totalitarian and undemocratic Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. And, indeed, a united Europe shall never be achieved until the EU recognises Nazism, Fascism and Communism as a common legacy and persists on dealing with their crimes thoroughly. While the crimes of Nazism and fascism have been dealt with strongly ever since the Nuremberg trials immediately after WWII such justice has conspicuously eluded the communist regimes’ crimes.

Remembrance debates at the EU level over the last decade can be seen as the replication of previous struggles in EU member states over how best to deal with the past and, as such, these debates remain just that – debates. Unlike in Western European Member States, where the notion of the historical uniqueness of the Holocaust still takes centre stage as an identification-marker, I believe, due to the lack of other viable founding narratives for European integration, at the more generalised European level the idea of Nazism and Communism as equally damnable is gaining acceptance particularly in the process of EU enlargement into the Eastern European countries. The latter have thus brought into the EU different cultures of remembrance where Communism joins Nazism at the helm of condemnation.

Full integration of EU will depend on the success of the process dealing with Communist crimes; lifting these to the level the Holocaust occupies in the collective psyche and historical memory and remembrance in the EU. Perhaps the relevant EU member states will see a more visible platform for dealing with communist crimes in the coming few years especially given the contents in the EPP letter to Jean-Claude Juncker and the possibility of actions, rather than declarations, to follow on the matter.

The European project is based on common values of democracy, truth and reconciliation. The EPP Group emphasises the need to increase public awareness about European history and the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes. The EPP Group believes that the European Institutions, and notably the European Commission, should encourage a broad, European-wide discussion about the causes and consequences of totalitarian rule. This is not merely an historic or emotional problem. It is a problem for a truly comprehensive integration of Europe”, the 17 July EPP letter to Juncker states.
I strongly believe that the European project can be built only on truth and reconciliation. The European Parliament has already condemned crimes committed by totalitarian regimes. But still, we are witnessing the relativisation of these crimes, especially in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore the new Commission should continuously address this issue and support projects related to promoting European remembrance and conscience“, said Croatian Andrej Plenkovic MEP.
I am convinced that it is of key importance to raise public awareness and to encourage a broad, European-wide discussion led by the European Commission about the causes and consequences of totalitarian rule to achieve historical conciliation. It is a question of reasserting and defending European values, which are being challenged by those countries outside the EU that have not yet come to terms with the past and are using falsified history to justify aggression against their neighbours“, emphasised Latvian Sandra Kalniete MEP, Vice-Chairwoman of the EPP Group.
Unaddressed and neglected heritage of totalitarian crimes has proved to be a real obstacle to deepened European integration and remains a fertile soil for Euro-scepticism and extremism. Integrating different historic experiences of 28 member nations and sharing them mutually is the best guarantee of our common future“, underlined Estonian Tunne Kelam MEP.
The European Parliament emphasised in its Resolution on ‘European Conscience and Totalitarianism’ of 2 April 2009 that the goal of disclosure and assessment of the crimes committed by the Communist totalitarian regimes is reconciliation which can be achieved by admitting responsibility, asking for forgiveness and fostering moral renewal.
In order to attain the objectives of the EP 2009 Resolution, EPP Group MEPs believe that it is necessary that one of the new European Commissioners in Juncker’s team also includes in her/his portfolio topics related to European history and remembrance. More than 20 EPP Group MEPs signed an appeal to President Juncker in this regard.
The EPP Group is also of the opinion that the European Commission should find the most appropriate means to ensure an adequate degree of institutional and financial support for the work of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience which assumed a key role in promoting the prevention of intolerance, extremism, anti-democratic movements and the recurrence of any totalitarian rule in the future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.; M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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