Politics

Anniversary of Partisan Operation on Petrova Gora Marked

By 14 May 2018

ZAGREB, May 14, 2018 - A ceremony was held on Mount Petrova Gora on Sunday to mark 76 years since Partisan resistance fighters broke through the siege at Biljeg laid by pro-Nazi Ustasha forces and saved tens of thousands of civilians.

Delegations of the Croatian parliament and government laid wreaths and lit candles at the devastated monument commemorating the event. Serbian Ambassador Mira Nikolić also lit a candle.

The ceremony was organised by the Serb National Council and the Alliance of Antifascist Fighters and Antifascists of Croatia (SABA), whose representatives called on the government to reinforce the values of antifascism through cultural, educational and political institutions.

During the night between 13 and 14 May 1942, about 700 Partisans mounted an operation to break through the lines held by several thousand Ustasha and Home Guard soldiers, forcing the Ustasha forces to withdraw. Petrova Gora was also the location of a Partisan hospital that operated throughout World War II.

Speaking of that event, Ratimir Bošnjak of the SABA said that the operation at Biljeg was a reaction to months of persecution, killing and deportation of civilians – women, children and elderly people in the Kordun region – to death camps set up by the fascist regime of the Ustasha-led Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

"How is it possible that no one has been called to account for 3,500 devastated monuments to the glorious antifascist struggle, that the authorities in Zagreb and Karlovac have renamed the squares named after Marshal Tito, that the Ustasha salute has been made legal by decision of a government commission, and for how long will the authorities in Croatia raise young generations on the lies of a distorted history, religious fanaticism and hatred of antifascists and other democratic forces?" Bošnjak asked.

He called on the government and state institutions to "change this retrograde policy into a modern, people's democracy that will be at the service of all and not just a select elite of reactionary pro-fascist groups."

"Croatia will not survive unless such retrograde policy is changed, and politicians will continue to refuse to see the real reasons why young people are leaving the country," he added.

The head of the Serb National Council Milorad Pupovac said that the purpose of this gathering was to save from oblivion the glorious victory over the fascist regime of the NDH, which had started to set up concentration camps from its inception and clearly showed that its aim was to exterminate the Serbs, Jews, Roma, left-wing Croats, communists and left-leaning members of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).

Pupovac said that memorial ceremonies like this were not enough and that it was necessary to work through educational, cultural and political institutions to ensure that "antifascism gets back the strength that belongs to it." He called for renovation of the devastated memorial complex at Petrova Gora.

Speaking to the press after his address, Pupovac said that the Partisans' struggle had put Croatia on the victorious side against fascism. Asked about the five-point star as a symbol under which Croatia had been attacked in the 1991-1995 Homeland War, Pupovac said that people had also been killed under the sign of the cross but that was no reason to ban the cross.

"These symbols brought much more positive than negative. In the Homeland War, it was not the five-point star that led the war, the war was led by those who belonged to ultranationalist and pro-fascist groups, who used guns, violence and crime. These things need to be distinguished," Pupovac said.

According to police estimates, about 800 people attended the event. Among them were also representatives of antifascist organisations from Velika Kladuša in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Petrova Gora is located about 100 kilometres south of Zagreb.

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