US Warns about Ustasha Glorification and Holocaust Denial

By 30 May 2018

ZAGREB, May 30, 2018 - Glorifying the WWII Ustasha regime, downplaying and denying of the Holocaust as well problems with the restitution of the Jewish property are the main objections to Croatia in the latest US State Department report on religious freedoms in 2017, released on Wednesday.

The State Department releases the annual report based on information gathered from government officials, NGOs, representatives of the Church, the academic community and the press.

The part referring to Croatia cites a number of cases of the glorification of the Ustasha regime and denial of the Holocaust in 2017 – from the placement of the controversial plaque at Jasenovac to far-right rallies in Zagreb and a concert of controversial pop singer Marko Perkovic Thompson in Slunj.

"Some Jewish community leaders said there were incidents of significant historical revisionism and downplaying of the country’s role in the Holocaust, and expressed dissatisfaction with how the government responded to cases of anti-Semitism, such as the placement of the controversial plaque at Jasenovac," reads the report.

The report also cites attacks on Croatian Serbs and the desecration of Serb Orthodox churches in the country. The report also notes that Serb Orthodox Church (SOC) Patriarch Irinej called on the Croatian government and Catholic clergy to respond to crimes against Croatian Serbs and to address what he described as the desecration of SOC churches in the country.

A large portion of the report is dedicated to the official commemoration for victims of the WWII-era Jasenovac death camp. For the second year in a row, Jewish and Serb (largely Orthodox) leaders announced they would not participate in the official ceremony, but would hold separate commemorations, the report said. "The leaders cited dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of response to a veterans group's placement of a plaque, in November 2016, bearing the Ustasha-era salute 'Za Dom Spremni' (For the Homeland, Ready, ZDS) near the site of the camp," the report said.

"Following the boycott, Prime Minister Plenković said he regretted the placement of the plaque and that it was the lasting task of the government to develop a tolerant and democratic society. In September, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Plenković both condemned the plaque, and the government relocated it to a veterans' cemetery in the nearby town of Novska; the government did not make a determination on the legality of the use of the controversial Ustasha salute," the report said.

The report also notes that in February the far-right extra-parliamentary Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) staged a march in Zagreb during which party members waved flags bearing an unofficial coat of arms associated with the fascist Ustasha movement. The procession of approximately 30 participants also flew an A-HSP party flag emblazoned with the ZDS Ustasha salute.

The report underlined that, in August, singer Marko Perković Thompson led pro-Ustasha chants during a concert in Slunj commemorating the country’s Victory and Homeland Day. Police filed misdemeanour charges against him for violating public peace and order, but the court later acquitted him saying that the singer did not promote hate based on nationality or religion.

The report also focused on the restitution of Jewish communal properties such as cultural centres, synagogues, and cemeteries, as well as private property, and creation of a claims process for victims. The law does not allow citizens whose property was confiscated during the Holocaust era to seek compensation or restitution, as it excludes the period of 1941-45 from claims. The law also does not allow noncitizens to file new property claims, since a legal deadline for such claims expired in 2003 and has not been renewed, the report said.