Croatia: You Can Run But You Cannot Hide From Depravity Of Communist Crimes

“Here rest 294 victims of World War II and/or Post World War II period. Gracani” Photo:HINA

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s glaring absence from the burial ceremony of earthly remains of 294 communist crimes victims, recently dug out of mass graves at Gracani on the outskirts of Zagreb, on Friday 23rd August 2019  has thrown a national spotlight on the token, unconvincing and reluctant compassion afforded the victims of communist crimes by official Croatia. According to records kept by parshioner, the late Miroslav Haramija, 738 Croats were murdered by Partisans in 1945 in Gracani area and excavations of mass graves are set to continue.  23 August is European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Totalitarian Regimes and this year central events towards that remembrance were a Mass at St Michael’s church and funeral rites and burial for the 294 victims of communist crimes, of Partisans. The services at Gracani were led by Msgr. Zlatko Koren in conjunction with Don Marko Med, the parish priest, Fr. Marin Matančić, and other priests.

Mons. Koren emphasised that in this place of commemoration, 294 victims of World War II and the post-war period proclaim victory: “The victory of good over evil. Victory over sin. Victory over death.”

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

It would indeed be a complete victory of good over evil had the entire Croatian leadership bowed their heads at the burial place of the remains of these 294 victims. It would indeed be a complete victory of good over evil had Croatia’s leaders announced a plan for fitting monuments for victims of communist crimes to be erected across Croatia, just like the existing monument to the victims of fascism/Nazism/Ustashas at Jasenovac. Certainly, there were countless more victims of communist Partisans than there were victims of Ustashas. Concrete evidence of this exists in the uncovered mass graves that add up so far to 1,700 across Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1000 in Croatia alone!). Much is yet to be done for the good to truly triumph over evil when it comes to the history of Croatians, particularly the 20th Century one. That body of work to be done still pertains to the condemnation of communist crimes and to building of monuments to victims in mass graves rather than marking the mass grave sites with mere crosses and humble plaques! Communist crimes were devastatingly huge in Croatia and this fact must not be marked by small remembrances but giant monuments to the suffering, visible by naked eye from the stars above.

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

“Among the victims there are 63 minors. At least 112 people were killed with a bullet to the head. These bones today, after 74 long years, are finding their peace,” said Croatan Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said at Gracani on Friday 23 August 2019. Stating the obvious would not be my choice of words on this very important occasion for justice.

“Today’s event, like many other events in many other places, confirms not only a totalitarian but also a criminal character of the communist system. We must talk about this, because, like how we condemned the Ustasha regime, just as loudly and clearly we must talk not only about the totalitarian but also the criminal character of communism,” said Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković. To the point, but talk is cheap and Jandrokovic knows it! It blows over with the wind in seconds and all remains as usual – no official declaration of condemnation, no laws passed in parliament to reflect this, no banning of communist regime’s insignia and symbols. No banning of Josip Broz Tito’s birthday celebrations. No banning of Day of Antifascists!

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

“While in the democratic world Fascism, Nazism and similar regimes were morally and politically condemned, their victims places of death and their graves marked, and numerous guilty people convicted, Communism in Croatia, without a proper and complete condemnation, smuggled its way into democracy. Therefore, at this place, I clearly condemn totalitarian regimes, both the Communist and the Ustasha and I clearly condemn Greater Serbian totalitarianism, and its aggression against Croatia,” said President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović at Gracani on Friday. Same as Jandrokovic, really. Grabar Kitarovic failed to spell out how “proper and complete condemnation” of communist regime should be achieved. The President of Croatia has a duty to give practical direction and undertakings for a complete condemnation of communist crimes she refers to. Words are cheap!

To add insult on the injury, the actual wooden cross that marks the burial place of the 294 victims of communist crimes at Gracani says absolutely nothing about who their murderers were! The writing on the cross says: “Here rest 294 victims of World War II and/or Post World War II period. Gracani”.

Absolutely heartbreaking and demoralising!

Their murderers were the communists so say it loud and say it again and again and again, until the truth sinks into every memory and every human heart.

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

 

In addition to the commemoration and the burial of the remains at Gracani last Friday, the actual locations of mass executions were presented to the public for the first time; with shocking, disturbing photographs of the innocent victims! If this wasn’t enough for the Croatian leaders mentioned above to give to the public a real sense of determination that communist crimes will be utterly and completely condemned, I don’t know what will be. Milan Bandic, the Mayor of Zagreb, was present there also. While he generally boasts of beautifying Zagreb with lots of grand fountains and statues, he did not announce any fountain or statue or monument to be built in condemnation of communist crimes. His past is in a communist family, as is for most at the top echelons of Croatian current leadership, including the president’s.

The politicians in Croatia who walk on eggshells when it comes to condemning communist crimes, spread cheap and empty words in acknowledging the victims of communist crimes, ensuring that the burial places of the victims don’t name their murderers, create an atmosphere where such crimes are further pushed into insignificance as such atmosphere encourages unjustifiable justification of communist crimes –  can run (in such ways) but they cannot hide. When faced with the enormity of communist crimes in Croatia, with the overwhelming number of mass graves – nothing these politicians in power can mitigate or lighten the horrendous weight of those crimes.

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

Croatia is abound with victims of communist crimes – almost every second family with its descendants has a horror story of its own to tell, where loved ones had been murdered, imprisoned for speaking against communism, simply being related to an anti-communist,  forced to flee and emigrate to avoid persecution or personal properties confiscated and given to communists; the communists even chased those who emigrated  across the world, assassinating dozens and blackening the names of all, maliciously, evilly, labelling them as extremists and terrorists. A large portion of the victims of communist crimes were not conscious enemies of the communist regime. They were punished according to their belonging, as “socially dangerous elements”. These were mostly family members of people who have been branded opponents of the regime because they sang no praises to Tito and his communists; women, children and elderly persons. Victims of communism have to be remembered as innocent victims of regimes founded on communist ideology and also as people who stood up to regimes of terror in the name of democracy, the rule of law, and independent statehood, or for other motives.

And those who committed these heinous crimes and atrocities have not faced justice nor have the stolen properties been restored to original owners. There is no real remorse nor condemnation for these acts of communist depravity within the corridors of power. The words spoken at occasions such as the one in Gracani on Friday are cheap and frankly, without real demonstrations of legislative work (such as banning communist symbols, removing from the Constitution the claimed credit given to antifascism as part of the foundation of today’s independent Croatia) that would cement condemnation of communist crimes these words are insulting.

Gracani, Zagreb 23 August 2019 – burial of remains of 294 victims of communist crimes recently dug out of mass graves. PHOTO: HINA

Denial of the Holocaust has been criminalised and listed as hate speech etc., almost worldwide. Are then victims of communist crimes less worthy of such dignity because they were not Jewish! All victims are equally victims and the time has come when denial of communist crimes must be criminalised.

The resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism passed in the European Parliament in April of 2009 recommended declaring 23 August the day of remembrance for victims of communism and Nazism and this has been done in many European countries and in North America. The remembrance of the victims of the Nazi regime, first and foremost victims of the Holocaust, and of the victims of communist regimes on one and the same day has been called an attempt to deprive the Holocaust genocide of its historical uniqueness. Eastern European countries are accused of attempting to hide the collaboration of their own peoples with the national socialists at that time behind the remembrance of victims of communism. Politicising tends to always confuse and bias issues but in 21st century we should be free to say that a victim of the Holocaust is in no way more unique than a victim of communist regimes. Each are a side of the same coin – the coin of power usurpation by brutal force and disregard for human life.  It is time to rip out of the ground the monuments raised during the times of former Yugoslavia to honour the WWII communist Partisans and raise instead, monuments to victims of communist crimes! Ina Vukic

 

 

 

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: Franjo Tudjman’s Prudent Legacy

Franjo Tudjman visits Vukovar 8 June 1997 during the process of peaceful reintegration of the Serb-occupied Croatian Danube region into the Croatian constitutional and legal system

Franjo Tudjman visits Vukovar
8 June 1997 during the process
of peaceful reintegration of
the Serb-occupied Croatian
Danube region into the
Croatian constitutional and legal system

Fifteen years ago today – Franjo Tudjman, Croatia’s first president and the acclaimed father of the modern, sovereign and democratic Croatia – died from a terminal illness on 10 December 1999.

His political drive in the creating of independent Croatia, tearing it away from communist Yugoslavia, rested on his idea of reconciling contradictory elements of Croatia’s WWII and post-WWII past. Like all political leaders of note he understood the power that the past has and the power collective memory has on life as we know it and on the collective memory we pass on to future generations; he also had the impressive courage to face and deal with the unpleasant truths that shaped those contradictory elements from Croatia’s history – the pro-fascist Ustashe WWII regime and the anti-fascist communist regime that followed but albeit unseated was equally strong in WWII.

As a stepping-stone in the reconciliation of the past that would solidify democracy and freedom in Croatia he voiced the idea of turning Croatia’s largest WW II concentration camp in Jasenovac into a memorial for all victims of fascism, communism and the 1990’s Homeland war. This idea had in 1997 come under sharp criticism from elements of both Croatia’s and international community. Suffice to say this move had intensified a worldwide push that maliciously branded him as an ultra-nationalist inclined towards WWII fascist ideals and gave the domestic self-proclaimed anti-fascists, such as Stjepan Mesic, a platform to speed-up anti-Tudjman, anti-Croatian independence sentiments in Croatia and wider. It was an era that was utterly cruel to the man (Tudjman) who wanted freedom and democracy for Croatia. Without doubt, the cruelty dressed in lies and deceit, came from the place from which the so-called anti-fascists aimed to protect the perceived positive reputation of the communist regime and it’s role in stamping out fascism, regardless of the fact that such a role was riddled with equally heinous crimes, if not greater, than those committed by the so-called fascist or pro-fascist regime. Humanity was not a factor in their reasoning.

It’s essential to remember that Tudjman’s efforts in reconciling Croatia’s past by way of acknowledging all victims of the past totalitarian regimes as equals occurred against the backdrop of the movement of the “Europeanisation of the Holocaust” – which did not recognise victims of communist regimes as victims of equal weight and equally deserving of human dignity. Post-WWII Europe is often compared to a collective that has a common destiny with developed shared structures in order to avoid a recurrence of the catastrophe of the Holocaust. The Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (ITF) – founded in Sweden as a network of politicians and experts in 1998 – aroused much interest from most European countries and some outside it. In 2000, in Stockholm at the International Holocaust conference Holocaust Memorial Day for 27 January was proclaimed and today observed worldwide.

So, a re-narration of history in former-communist European countries from 1989 onwards and in particular the concept of a “golden era” before Communist rule had run parallel to the “Europeanisation of the Holocaust” and Tudjman’s ideas of reconciling the past had been a part of this process, although, those opposing Croatian independence chose not to see it as this. Although he did not succeed in raising the victims of the Yugoslav communist regime and of 1990’s Croatia’s Homeland War to the same deserving level as victims of the Holocaust, today, fifteen years after his death, Tudjman would direct a wide smile at the world. Despite the cruel antifascists’ attempts to prevent the truth from surfacing, the  promoted “heroic” anti-fascist struggle has been gradually delegitimised along with the communist regimes and the trauma of communist crimes placed at the core of memory – not only Croatian but also European memory and memory of the wider world.

Representatives of post-communist countries in the EU demanded that communist crimes be convicted “to the same extent” as those of the Holocaust. In reaction to the conflicting memories between “East” and “West”, the European Parliament recommended in 2009 that another memorial day be introduced on 23 August, the date of the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939, in which the victims of Nazism and Stalinism are commemorated together (the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism/ Victims of Totalitarian Regimes).

 

In the face of this reality one may indeed ask: why did Franjo Tudjman suffer such terrible vilification when in fact, all that he wanted is now actually solidified in the European Union’s canon! The whole Europe is like a monument to all victims of violence and inhumanity, just like he wanted Jasenovac to be! The only thing missing is a fuller criminal prosecution of communist crimes.

Rest in peace Franjo Tudjman – rest proud!
Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

 

Franjo Tudjman in memoriam

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