Friday, 28 June 2019

Israeli Ambassador Comments on Controversial Monument to Jews Killed in the Holocaust

ZAGREB, June 28, 2019 - Israel's Ambassador in Croatia, Ilan Mor, said on Friday he believed the Jewish Community of Zagreb (ŽOZ) would manage to find a solution for the erection of a monument to Holocaust victims, noting that it was important that every country in which Jews had been killed, including Croatia, face its own history without trying to embellish it.

The ŽOZ recently condemned the decision by the Zagreb City Assembly to build a monument in tribute to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The World Jewish Congress has joined it in denouncing the decision, saying that its purpose is to conceal the truth about the killings of Jews in the Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

Mor said that although the idea to commemorate the Jews who perished in the Holocaust was always a positive sign, it was also important that every country in which Jews were murdered face its own history without trying to embellish it.

We need to look history in the eye and say that we are responsible. We must remember because the Jews in Croatia, Hungary and Poland were part of our society and were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, Mor told Hina.

He said that the Holocaust was an important and sensitive issue which the Jewish community in Zagreb had to deal with together with the authorities, adding that it was up to the Jewish community in Zagreb to find a solution to this issue and that he had no doubt that it would be found in consultation with Mayor Milan Bandić.

Mor said he appreciated the mayor's efforts over the years to commemorate the Holocaust as such and the Holocaust in Croatia.

We visited Jasenovac together, and no one should doubt his commitment to dealing with the past. How that will be done, I leave it to Mayor Bandić and the Jewish community and I am sure that they will find a proper solution, Mor said, adding that he would support ŽOZ president Ognjen Kraus's decision whatever it may be.

Mor stressed the importance of remembering that Croatian Jews were part of Croatian society, that they contributed a lot to Croatia's prosperity in the past and that they were murdered because of anti-Semitism.

Mor noted that the Holocaust did not start in Auschwitz or Jasenovac, but that it started with anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism should be fought with education, and erecting monuments is part of that process, he concluded.

More news about the status of Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

WJC Denounces Attempts by Croatian Authorities to Whitewash Holocaust History

ZAGREB, June 23, 2019 - The World Jewish Congress has denounced the plan to build a monument to Holocaust victims in Zagreb as an attempt to downplay the role of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in the war crimes, and called on the city's authorities to scrap the plan.

"The World Jewish Congress (WJC) joins our affiliated community in Croatia in denouncing the decision of the Zagreb City Assembly to erect a monument to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust that blatantly ignores the active role taken by the Independent State of Croatia under the Ustasha regime in perpetrating these crimes during World War II," the organisation said in a statement emailed to Hina on Saturday.

The Jewish Community of Zagreb (ZOZ) said on Wednesday it had requested an annulment of this "shameful decision" because it aimed to conceal the truth about the killings of Jews in the NDH.

The Zagreb City Assembly decided on June 4 that a monument would be erected in Branimirova Street near the Central Railway Station to commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

In response to the decision, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: “The authorities in Croatia have continuously attempted to rewrite history and absolve the Ustasha regime of its indisputable complicity in the brutal mass murders of Jews, Roma, and ethnic Serbs during the period from 1941 to 1945. While there is always enormous value to honouring all victims of the Holocaust, the city of Zagreb’s new monument is a distortion of the historical record and an insult to the memory of the men, women and children who perished at the hands of the Ustasha and its leader, Ante Pavelic. The Croatian authorities are once again making every effort to conceal the monstrous crimes of the Ustasha by giving the false impression that Nazi Germany alone was responsible for horrors of the Holocaust.”

“One cannot speak of the Holocaust in Croatia without highlighting the central role of the Ustasha regime in enacting and implementing the racial laws that subjected Jews, Roma, and ethnic Serbs to persecution, torture, and death. In addition to publicly commemorating the victims of Hitler’s war against the Jews, Croatia must also pay specific tribute to the victims of the Ustasha regime,” Lauder said. “We call on the Zagreb City Assembly to scrap its plans for this memorial and begin again from scratch, this time in full coordination with the local Jewish community.”

More news about Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Jewish Community: Zagreb Monument to Holocaust Victims to Conceal Truth

ZAGREB, June 20, 2019 - The Jewish Community of Zagreb (ŽOZ) has called for an annulment of the "shameful" decision by the Zagreb City Assembly to erect a monument to Holocaust victims in Zagreb because it believes that its purpose is to conceal the truth about the killings of Jews in WWII Croatia.

ŽOZ said in a statement that the aim is to downplay the significance and gravity of crimes committed against tens of thousands of Jews based on racial laws in the Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941-1945 by insisting on the theme that covers six million Jews killed worldwide.

ŽOZ said it had suggested building a monument in tribute to Holocaust victims who perished in the NDH and that it would also support a monument to all victims of NDH racial laws, including Roma, Serbs, Jews, antifascists and opponents of the Ustasha regime.

"There is no place for a monument to six million Jewish in Zagreb and Croatia because such a monument already exists in Berlin. Respecting this fact, European countries have marked the killings of Jews on their respective territories with monuments and memorials, always and without exception with the consent of and through cooperation with the local Jewish community," ŽOZ said, calling on the Zagreb City Assembly to repeal its "shameful" decision.

In a letter addressed to Zagreb City Assembly chairman Drago Prgomet, ŽOZ president Ognjen Kraus expressed their opposition to erecting such a monument, saying that this decision should not have been adopted without respecting their opinion.

ŽOZ said they had discussed the matter with Mayor Milan Bandić several times and that he had promised to respect their view, adding that the matter had also been raised at their meeting with the prime minister. They recalled that they had issued several public statements about the matter clearing expressing their disagreement with the idea.

On June 4 the Zagreb City Assembly decided to erect a monument in Branimirova Street near the Central Railway Station to commemorate six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

More news about Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Zagreb to Get a Monument to Holocaust Victims

If the City Assembly accepts the proposal, a monument to Holocaust victims should be built at Branimirova Street in Zagreb. The memorial, designed by Dalibor Stošić and Krešimir Rogina, would serve to keep the memory of six million Jews killed during the Holocaust with a message that the past must not be repeated, reports Večernji List on May 27, 2019.

Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić proposed the decision to be made at the next session of the city assembly that will be held on June 4. The proposal points out that the City of Zagreb will construct the monument to the Holocaust victims according to the urbanistic-architectural solution proposed by sculptor Dalibor Stošić and architect Krešimir Rogina, who won the public competition. The memorial will be financed from the city budget and be erected on the land in the city centre owned by the Croatian Railways Infrastuktura company, which has given its consent.

“The monument to Holocaust victims is a gesture of memory for six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust with a message that the past must not be repeated. Holocaust was a systematic and organized persecution of the Jews, committed by the Third Reich and their allies from 1933 to 1945,” explains the draft decision.

The monument is conceived as a wall made of suitcases, creating a strong associative link with the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. “Before deportation, the Jews were told to pack a suitcase and carry only the most essential things with them. After arriving at the train station, the Nazis would order them to leave them there, with the promise they would be sent later.” The explanation says that the idea of a monument with about three hundred suitcases at the Zagreb Main Station as the place of departure and arrival is a metaphor for lives taken. One of the steps in the deprivation of humanity was the seizure of personal belongings, valuables and memories. The suitcases are a reminder of people’s stolen humanity.

The site will consist of two essential elements of a concrete base and the iron monument itself. It will comprise of a solid, horizontal, dark grey concrete surface measuring 12 x 24 metres, 35 centimetres thick, raised 5 centimetres above the walking level. The concrete will be impressed by a multitude of stars of David.

The base will allow people to sit along its edge, making the whole monument an integral part of the urbanity of the location. The memorial will also have special lighting.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Translated from Večernji List.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Bet Israel, Religious Communities Mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jasenovac

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - The Jewish community of Bet Israel and other religious organisations in Croatia paid tribute to the Holocaust victims at Jasenovac, the site of a World War II concentration camp, on Thursday marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ceremony commemorated "six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as victims of Nazi Germany and its helpers" and "Jews who took part in armed resistance across war-torn Europe," Bet Israel's president Aleksandar Srećković said.

He said that Jasenovac was the site of the worst atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the region during WWII.

"Racial, ethnic and other biological differences are irrelevant, but society creates them and often uses them to justify hatred, oppression and killing of others, using racism as an argument in promoting stereotypes and prejudices along the lines of 'us and them'," Srećković said.

"It is our duty to keep reminding ourselves of that time. It is our duty never to forget what one person is capable of doing to another in the name of higher causes and in the name of an ideology that forgot the ethical values which we all invoke," he added.

The Serb Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porfirije Perić, said that people, regardless of their differences, belong to the same, human species.

"The line that divides good and evil does not run between nations, states or races. The line that divides good from evil is in the heart of every one of us. It is there that the battle is fought and where a decision is made on whether we are human or not," Perić said.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Požega, Antun Škvorčević, said that several million Jews had been killed during WWII as part of an inhumane system of violence and persecution, and that a certain number of them had met their end in Jasenovac.

"Feeling the full gravity of misused human freedom and impotence in the face of the destructive irrationality of crime, we stop at the challenge of innocent victims. It is precisely because of them that any word of revenge, any expression of hatred or manipulation with their number is inappropriate for commemorations in Jasenovac. It would be a testimony of being captured by evil, yet another humiliation of the victims," Škvorčević said.

Writer and scientist Jasminka Domas, who conducted the commemoration, said that respects should be paid out of humility. "Forgiveness is individual, just as is responsibility for the world we live in. Without hiding behind politics and ideologies, we should turn to the good and dignity of every person while we still can," she said.

The prayer service began with pupils from a Jewish primary school from Zagreb and a Catholic primary school from Požega lighting six candles for six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and remembering the names of people killed in the genocide in WWII Croatia.

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Yom HaShoa Commemorated in Osijek

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - On the occasion of Yom HaShoa or Holocaust Remembrance Day, representatives of the Jewish Community of Osijek, Osijek-Baranja County and the Town of Osijek on Thursday laid wreaths at the "Mother and Child" memorial by Jewish sculptor Oscar Nemon in that eastern Croatian city.

A representative of the Jewish community of Osijek, Željko Beissman, said Yom HaShoah commemorated the suffering, martyrdom and heroism of Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from mid-April to mid-May 1943.

"By commemorating that day, we remember the victims and warn of the great evil that happened, the 20th genocide that claimed the lives of more than six million Jews," said Beissman, adding that the main message of Yom HaShoah was that something like that must never happen again.

The secretary of the Jewish Community of Osijek, Dragutin Kohn, said they had hoped that this year the Holocaust would be commemorated differently.

"We had hoped for a single commemoration at Jasenovac, but unfortunately that did not happen. That's not good and everyone should understand that one does not go to Jasenovac to listen to political speeches but to pay tribute to the victims of that camp. I hope that next year we will go to Jasenovac in a single, dignified column," Kohn said, stressing that the past must not be forgotten but that it was time to turn to the future.

He added that the Osijek Jewish Community now has around 150 members and that before World War II around 3,500 Jews lived in Osijek.

More news about Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 April 2019

U.S. Holocaust Envoy: Issues in Jewish Property Restitution Remain

ZAGREB, April 19, 2019 - There are still outstanding issues in Croatia regarding the restitution of Jewish property, and the United States would like to see a solution which is "financially sustainable" for Croatia and which will redress the injustices inflicted on Holocaust victims, the U.S. Special Holocaust Envoy, Tom Yazdgerdi, said in Zagreb on Thursday.

Yazdgerdi, who arrived in Croatia this past Monday at the helm of a delegation that included representatives of the World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO), met with Croatia's top officials this week, including President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

He is expected to brief the U.S. Congress in November about progress which countries have made in the restitution of Jewish property and in implementing the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, which deals with issues such as welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution, the status of Holocaust-era confiscated communal and private immovable property by country and preservation of Jewish cultural property and archival materials, as well as education.

The legally non-binding document was approved by 46 countries at the conclusion of the Prague Conference in 2009, and Croatia was one of the signatories.

Although Yazdgerdi visited Croatia in the past, too, he told a press conference in Zagreb today that this year was special owing to the Just Act under which his office is supposed to submit a report on the state of affairs in the countries-signatories of the Terezin Declaration.

Ten years after the declaration was signed is a good period to inspect what has been done, the U.S. envoy said, adding that it is not a secret that there are outstanding issues regarding property restitution in Croatia as well as in other countries, particularly in central Europe.

Yazdgerdi said that Croatia had legislation regulating property restitution, but the shortcomings of that law lie in the fact that it focuses on the restitution of property confiscated since 1945 and fails to take into account the property confiscated before 1945, that is during the Holocaust.

The WJRO organisation, whose representatives were in the delegation led by Yazdgerdi, notes that the process of the restitution of private property in Croatia "suffers from a number of problems".

Apart from the fact that property confiscated prior to May 1945 is not covered by the law, "only partial compensation is provided (in inverse proportion to the value of the property) in 20-year government bonds and no payment provided for demolished buildings," the WJRO says on its website.

"Claimants are required to be Croatian citizens or citizens of a country with a bilateral treaty with Croatia, and Croatia has no law for the restitution of confiscated heirless property," the organisation says on its website.

The organisation also underscores that "the Jewish Communities in the Republic of Croatia submitted claims for 135 communal properties under the Act on Restitution/Compensation of Property Confiscated During the Yugoslav Communist Rule (1996, amended in 2002)."

Before the Holocaust, an estimated 40,000 Jews lived in Croatia, and today there are about 1,700 Jews in the country, and most of them live in Zagreb, the WJRO says.

Concerning the restitution of confiscated heirless property, Yazdgerdi told the press conference that many countries took over such property, but the WJRO does not think that this is a good idea.

He recalled that under the Terezin Declaration, "heirless property could serve as a basis for addressing the material necessities of needy Holocaust (Shoah) survivors." This means that the property formerly owned by such Jewish families should be used, in part, to meet the growing and urgent needs of the living victims of the Holocaust.

Yazdgerdi underscores that the U.S. wants property restitution to be financially sustainable for Croatia and to give Holocaust survivors a feeling of justice.

He went on to say that emphasis should be put on taking responsibility for what had happened in the past.

The WJRO does not want to do injustice out of injustice. If somebody bought property in good faith, being unaware that the former owners were Jews, there is no point in evicting new owners, the U.S. envoy said.

More news about the status of Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Visits Croatia

ZAGREB, April 17, 2019 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Tuesday received Thomas K. Yazdgerdi, the U.S. State Department's Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, and representatives of the World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO), the parliament said in a press release.

Jandroković and Yazdgerdi held talks on Croatia's support to Jewish communities' efforts to preserve the Jewish heritage and observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.

In this context they recalled that this year, the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, organised a prayer event in front of the cathedral to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On that occasion the dignitary paid tribute to victims of inhumane conduct in the past and condemned attempts aimed at annihilating the Jewish people, while representatives of the local Jewish community welcomed the cardinal's move as a historic event.

Jandroković and Yazdgerdi also discussed the activities within the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, which was approved by over 46 countries at the conclusion of the Prague Conference in 2009.

The declaration deals with issues such as welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution, the status of Holocaust-era confiscated communal and private immovable property in individual countries and preservation of Jewish cultural property and archival materials, as well as education.

More news about the status of Jews in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 15 April 2019

GLAS and HSS Support Criticism of Government over Revisionism

ZAGREB, April 15, 2019 - GLAS president Anka Mrak Taritaš said on Sunday "it's necessary to deal with the past so that we can have a future," while Croatian Peasants Party leader Krešo Beljak called out the government, saying it "tolerates flirting with fascism."

Both opposition officials supported Ognjen Kraus, president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, who said on Friday that historical revisionism in Croatia was continuing and that, because of the inaction of state institutions, the extreme right was becoming increasingly aggressive, calling on the government to stop that and respect Croatian laws.

Speaking in Rijeka, Mrak Taritaš said "the prime minister wants to find favour with everyone" and that it was "unacceptable" to have two commemorations for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp. There will be two commemorations as long as the government doesn't ban the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready," she added.

She said President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited the Jasenovac Memorial Site alone on Saturday "because she evidently doesn't want to go with either side because she wants the votes of both."

Beljak said that Kraus's appeal to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković "to respect Croatian laws in the way he will respect Austrian laws" was frightening and that "for this to pass without consequences is a disgrace for the Croatian prime minister."

Beljak said today's state commemoration for the Jasenovac victims was "ridiculous when open flirting with fascism is tolerated more and more every day." The government is doing nothing and it's sad that minorities, people who were killed in WWII, have to ask the government to respect Croatian laws, he added.

He said the constitution cited antifascism and that "allowing such rampant revisionism of WWII, the Ustasha etc shows what kind of people are at the helm of the state."

Mrak Taritaš and Beljak were in Rijeka to present their Amsterdam Coalition's platform for the European Parliament elections, which highlights tolerance, freedom, equality, EU enlargement and Croatia's joining the euro area.

Commenting on the questioning of parliament deputy speaker and HDZ vice president Milijan Brkić in connection with the fake text messages case, Beljak said that "in any normal state, such a party would be banned and everyone participating in such scandals would be eliminated from any public activity."

Mrak Taritaš said it was unacceptable that the ruling party "is using state institutions to settle scores within its ranks." Plenković should run the country and not settle scores with opponents in his ranks via institutions, she added.

More news about historical revisionism can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Jewish Leader Accuses Foreign Ministry of Dissuading Ambassadors from Going to Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 12, 2019 - The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, on Friday accused "high-level officials at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs" of having phoned ambassadors to Croatia to talk them out of going to the commemoration held today at the site of the Jasenovac World War II concentration camp by ethnic minority groups and antifascist organisations which boycotted the official state commemoration for the fourth consecutive year.

"It happens even that high-level officials at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs called ambassadors not to attend our commemoration," Kraus told reporters after the commemoration for the victims of the Ustasha-run concentration camp.

He confirmed that he stood by these grave accusations because "he was informed of that," however, he would not say who they referred to because he "could be sued."

Despite the alleged phone calls not to attend the commemoration, representatives of foreign embassies did attend. The ambassadors of Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Serbia, Slovenia, Germany, France and Australia and the Council of Europe's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, attended the commemoration.

"I think that the number of people who came to Jasenovac today should make us ask ourselves if we are pursuing the policy that needs to be pursued," Kraus said.

Serb National Council president Milorad Pupovac confirmed that he had heard of the alleged calls to ambassadors not to attend the unofficial commemoration.

"I heard that that had occurred and if that did indeed occur and was done by representatives of state authorities, it does them no credit and shows how deeply they misunderstand the meaning of this gathering and what their job is," Pupovac said.

"We didn't gather here to cause harm to our country and to celebrate this disgrace. We gathered here so we can free our country of those who spread that disgrace and cause harm to Croatia," Pupovac said.

Kraus warned Croatian authorities that historical revisionism in Croatia is continuing and that, because of the inaction of state institutions, the extreme right is becoming increasingly aggressive, calling on the authorities to stop that and respect Croatian laws.

Kraus said the associations of the descendants of the victims of the criminal NDH (1941-45 Independent State of Croatia) were alone at the commemoration for the fourth year and that they would not attend official commemorations "until the salute 'For the homeland ready' is outlawed."

Addressing the surviving inmates as well as families, guests, ambassadors and Council of Europe human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović, Kraus said the situation had deteriorated over the past year.

"Two days ago, an Ustasha party was held in Split on the occasion of April 10, the anniversary of the HOS unit Rafael Vitez Boban and the NDH, with all the honours and the presence of the HDZ-led town government as well as police protection. On the same occasion, an MP published a letter which ended with the familiar salute 'For the homeland ready.' There's been no response," Kraus said.

"Until when, police minister? Mr prime minister? Are we here to file complaints at the prosecutor's office based on Croatian laws?"

He told the authorities they "probably would have been in Jasenovac together" this Sunday for the official commemoration had they made the same effort with the associations commemorating the victims today as they had concerning the commemoration for the Bleiburg victims.

Kraus said the organisers of today's commemoration had never equated the Croatian people with the NDH, Ustashism and genocide, but that they would never accept the equation of the victims of Jasenovac, Bleiburg, Tezno and Macelj.

"The Ustasha army, which did not surrender on May 9, when the Third Reich capitulated, was killed there. Other Quisling armies of the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia were killed at those places too, the Chetniks, White Guards and other such units. Nobody talks about that and nobody commemorates those victims," Kraus said, adding that "only Croatian victims are talked about."

"Only one thing should be done, respect and enforce Croatia's constitution and laws, which you don't abide by, but you will respect and abide by Austrian laws," he told Croatian authorities, referring to the Bleiburg victims commemoration to be held in Austria next month. He told politicians, MPs, government members and the president that their actions should speak louder than words.

"It's time to look each other in the eye and if we agree, as you yourselves say, that the NDH was a shameful and criminal entity, the display of its symbols should be banned and any attempt at its revision prevented. Let it be clear that it was a state with racial laws which had on its territory concentration camps where people were killed under those laws because they were of different faith, ethnicity or political affiliation, that both the Holocaust and the Samudaripen happened here, in Croatia, not somewhere else. And that those who negate that must suffer the consequences. Let's look up to Germany, at how it resolved this and how it applies adopted laws," said Kraus.

He recalled that according to data established by March 2014, 83,145 people were killed at Jasenovac, and said he expected Croatia to be a country where the constitution and laws were respected and enforced.

"We expect our homeland to be a modern European country and not to be ashamed of the country we live in," Kraus said on behalf of the associations which organised the commemoration which drew thousands of people: the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters and antifascists of Croatia, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, the Serb National Council and the Kali Sara Croatian Roma Alliance.

More news about historical revisionism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

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