Friday, 23 April 2021

Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor: "For the Homeland Ready" Can't Be Both Symbol of Heroism and Evil

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor has said in an interview with Hina that the Ustasha salute 'For the homeland ready' cannot simultaneously be a symbol of heroism and a symbol of evil, and pointed out the good example set by Germany and Austria where the glorification of Nazism is punishable by law.

The issue of the said salute used by Ustasha, allies of the German Nazis in the Second World War, is raised every April, when Croatia observes anniversaries of the breakout of inmates from the Ustasha-run concentration camp in Jasenovac in late April in 1945. The 1941-1945 Jasenovac camp was a site of torture and mass executions of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma and of Croats who opposed Nazism and Fascism.

Since the 1991-1995 Homeland War, the controversial salute, whose abbreviation in Croatian is ZDS, has been permissible at commemorations of fallen defenders who used to be members of the HOS unit and who had that salute on their uniforms during that war of independence. On the other hand, for years, Jewish associations have continued requesting that the use of the salute should be outlawed, just as in the case of "Heil Hitler" salute, as its use carries a prison sentence in Germany and Austria.

"In Vukovar, the 'Za Dom Spremni' salute is considered to be part of heroism of the place, fighting against occupier and in Jasenovac  'Za Dom Spremni' is symbol of evil. So, you have to decide, it can't be the same symbol for totally different points in your history," says the ambassador after he yesterday participated in the commemorations on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the breakout of inmates from the Jasenovac death camp.

Jewish rep expects legislative changes penalising Ustasha salute to be passed by summer

The head of the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities of Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said on Thursday there was a realistic possibility for the parliament to vote in amendments to the Penal Code to penalise the use of the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready" before its summer recess.

"I believe that there will be no problems in voting the changes in if the Prime Minister and the HDZ mean what they say," Kraus said when asked about the possibility of outlawing the Ustasha salute, an initiative he launched earlier this year.

Commenting on this statement, Ambassador Mor says: "You have to do something about it. I am not a lawyer, i am not Croat and can't give you 'yes' or 'no' (on imposing a prison sentence for that salute). In this case, Germany and Austria are very good role model."

Ambassador warns of attempts to downplay the Holocaust

Commenting on some global trends of downplaying the tragedy of the Holocaust, Mor said that a portion of the Croatian society used every opportunity to glorify the Ustasha troops and Ustasha leader Ante Pavelić.

 As if nothing had happened, as if Jasenovac had not been an extermination camp but a labour camp. This is in contradiction with historical facts and the testimonies by those who survived that period, the ambassador said.

Mor went on to say that historians in Croatia and Serbia disagreed about the numbers of Serb victims in Jasenovac, and he said that it was unacceptable to reduce such a tragedy to the issue of numbers.

"If you want to live in peace, you have to do more then producing movies, you have to have real dialogue," he said alluding also to the recent Serbian film ("Dara iz Jasenovca") about this topic which has been perceived in Croatia as well as internationally as part of the nationalistic propaganda of Serbia's authorities.

Mor urged both Croatia and Serbia to let their archives be available to experts and so that they can arrive at a point acceptable to both sides.

The same should be applied when it comes to Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, he said and called for resorting to dialogue to overcome different views on the events in the past.

In this context he mentioned the normalisation of the relations between his country and several Arab countries. Following the 1979 peace agreement with Egypt and the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan, Israel has renewed relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in the past few months.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Croatia's Authorities Strongly Condemn NDH Crimes Against Roma

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday strongly condemned the atrocities committed against 17,000 ethnic Roma during the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH), while he paid a visit to the Roma Memorial Centre in Uštica, situated near Jasenovac.

This centre is in memory of nearly 17,000 Roma killed in the war and we condemn the crimes committed during the NDH regime, Plenković said after visiting the memorial complex.

Plenković and the government's delegation held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Uštica cemetery for Roma victims.

The Roma Memorial Center was built to permanently commemorate ethnic Roma members killed in the genocide committed by the Nazi and Ustasha regimes during World War II.

Plenković recalled that this memorial complex was unique in Europe, and that the construction of the centre had cost eight million kuna, and that the Croatian government had covered nearly 90% of those costs.

According to the Croatian premier, in this way, a contribution was made to efforts to enable dignified marking of the suffering of ethnic Roma in Croatia and to build a memorial centre where all others can come to pay tribute to war victims.

The parliamentary deputy of ethnic Roma, Veljko Kajtazi, said that constructing this memorial centre was the least one could do for killed Roma.

He also called on Roma from other parts of Europe and the world to visit this centre and thus pay tribute to war victims.

The Uštica memorial centre was officially opened last August, and its formal opening coincided with the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, or the Samudaripen, observed on August 2.

This memorial complex is set up in Uštica, located about 110km southeast of Zagreb, which used to be the site of mass executions of Roma who were deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp during the Second World War. The Memorial Centre includes a cemetery with 21 mass graves.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Thursday, 22 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: NDH is One of Most Tragic Periods in Croatian History

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the WW2 Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was one of the most tragic periods in Croatian history and added that the government was clearly against the use of Ustasha symbols.

The prime minister made this statement on the occasion of the 76th anniversary anniversary of the breakout of inmates of from the Ustasha-run World War II concentration camp Jasenovac.

Plenković laid a wreath, and on this occasion he was accompanied by the three deputy prime ministers Tomo Medved, Davor Božinović and Boris Milošević and several ministers.

He underscored that they came to pay tribute to all victims of the NDH regime and the horrific crimes committed in the Jasenovac concentration camp and other camps against Jews, Serbs, Roma, Croat antifascists and democrats.

"That is certainly one of the most tragic periods in Croatian history and it is important that young new generations of today are aware of these facts, (...) that this is a part of our education system and that all generations never forget the terrible crimes that were committed here and across Europe in similar camps during World War II, and that there is general and unequivocal condemnation of those crimes," the prime minister said.

He added that he would continue to come to Jasenovac with piety and awareness that we must not allow such crimes ever happen again.

As for amending the Criminal Code to ban Ustasha insignia, Plenković said that they were already banned and that it was a question of aligning action with court practice.

"This topic has been with us for a long time. Everyone who knows something about our history, about the Jasenovac camp, who understand what those symbols mean for members of the Jewish people, members of Serbs, Roma, antifascists, understands that these are not symbols to be used," Plenković said.

Regarding the initiative of the president of the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, to ban the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready", he said that they had talked about it and would continue to discuss it. Also, he said that the position of the government was clear and firm when it came to condemning crimes and such symbols.

He denied claims by the Jewish representative that not enough had been done on the issue.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Five Delegations to Pay Tribute at Jasenovac Successively

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - Commenting on a commemoration for the Jasenovac victims and his non-acceptance of President Zoran Milanović's invitation to pay tribute to them together on Thursday, PM Andrej Plenković has said the Public Health Institute has recommended that visiting delegations pay tribute successively.

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Plenković clarified his recent statements on the topic.

"I was referring to my position on the president's office contacting the government and parliament to lay wreaths together. I made it clear that there is no reason to put on an act and that the government and the parliament will lay their wreaths on their own. There is no need to fake friendship, cooperation or unity considering what has been said and what has happened," Plenković said.

There will be no joint wreaths because "that is something that we benevolently wanted and attempted to do several times," he said, recalling that President Milanović laid a wreath in Vukovar on Vukovar Remembrance Day on his own.

Plenković added that the Jasenovac Memorial Area had scheduled visits by five different delegations, of the government, parliament, the office of the president, the victim peoples and foreign embassies, who were all given different time slots.

"We have gone there for years, and will go in the years to come. Not to spend time in somebody's company there but to pay tribute to the victims of the Ustasha camp of Jasenovac," said Plenković.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

No Joint Ceremony to Pay Tribute to Jasenovac Victims

ZAGREB, 20 April, 2021 - There will be no joint commemoration for victims of the World War II concentration camp Jasenovac on Thursday, representatives of the victims will lay wreaths separately from the state leadership while President Zoran Milanović will do so separately from the prime minister and parliament speaker.

President Milanović's spokesman Nikola Jelić confirmed to Hina that Milanović and his delegation will lay wreaths at the Stone Flower monument at Jasenovac at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Office of the President did not receive reply from gov't, parliament

"President Zoran Milanović and his delegation will pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims on 22 April, at 11 a.m., as agreed with the organiser, the Public Institution Jasenovac Memorial Area," Jelić said.

He added that the Office of the President had not received a reply from the government or the parliament to its invitation to pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims together.

"As early as last Friday the President of the Republic proposed to the Prime Minister and the Parliament Speaker that they all pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims together, but we have not received any reply," Jelić said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that a government delegation would lay a wreath at Jasenovac at 9 a.m., again dismissing the possibility of paying tribute together with Milanović, noting that "there is no reason for us to put on an act."

"As regards any joint laying of wreaths or flowers, I said yesterday.... there will be no putting on an act," he told reporters during a visit to Rijeka.

Plenković: We were not the ones to start with insults

"The President of the Republic or his staff are now launching an initiative for the Parliament Speaker and myself to lay a wreath with him in Jasenovac. We were not the ones to start with the 'animal farm', we were not the ones to start with insults or a number of other things that are most inappropriate, so there is no reason to put on an act, let that be clear to everyone," said Plenković.

He added that the organiser of the commemoration was the Jasenovac Memorial Area, not the government or anyone else, and that this year's commemoration would be held in line with epidemiological restrictions.

The government's delegation will arrive at 9 a.m. and the parliament's delegation at 10 a.m., he said.

"This has nothing to do with representatives of the victim ethnic groups. We met with them last week, we hold meetings regularly, we respect the victims and went to Jasenovac in the past four years as well. We will go this year again, next year, in 2023, 2024. This has to do with the protocol, but putting on an act is out of the question," he said.

Reporters asked Plenković if he should ignore his relationship with Milanović, regardless of how bad it may be, in situations such as commemorations, to which he said: "No, there's no need for that. In this case it is not envisaged and is out of the question."

Representatives of Serbs, Jews, Roma and antifascists to form separate delegation

The Serb National Council (SNV) said earlier in the day that representatives of ethnic groups that were victims of the Ustasha terror would have a separate, four-member delegation in Jasenovac.

SNV president Milorad Pupovac, the leader of the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities of Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, Roma association "Kali Sara" representative Veljko Kajtazi, and the leader of the SABA association of antifascist fighters and antifascists, Franjo Habulin, will lay a joint wreath at the Stone Flower monument at noon on Thursday.

Kraus confirmed to Hina that this decision was made yesterday, after it became evident that there would be no joint delegation comprising top state officials.

"After we realised that there would be separate delegations, we decided on a separate delegation as well. As you can see, a single delegation does not depend on us. We cannot support the use of commemorations for political one-upmanship," said Kraus.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Jasenovac Victims' Representatives Comment on Joint Commemoration

ZAGREB, April 22, 2020 - The head of the Jewish Community of Zagreb, Ognjen Kraus, said on Wednesday that his attendance at a state-level commemoration for the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp was an act of readiness to cooperate with the government in dealing with issues that harm Croatia's international reputation.

"I came to extend the hand of friendship and good will and to show that I'm prepared for serious talks on the situation in Croatia and the government's attitude to history," Kraus told reporters covering the event commemorating the 75th anniversary of a breakout of inmates from the World War II Ustasha-run concentration camp.

Kraus confirmed that he saw some progress in the government's attitude to history but that he was more interested in results.

"I'm more interested in results, in finally doing away with the issue of insignia, the issue of historical revisionism and everything that disgraces this country, and I want us to finally start respecting its laws and constitution," said Kraus, noting that he would not attend the state-level commemoration next year if no changes happened by then.

He added that some progress had been made, notably by the ministries of culture and education and that student visits to Jasenovac had been included in school curricula for this year.

A member of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Boris Milošević, said in parliament today that his party was glad that this year a single commemoration was taking place after separate commemorations in the past few years.

He said that the joint commemoration was an act of good will but that that did not mean "giving up the fight against historical revisionism and negation of crimes."

Hrvoje Zekanović of the Croatian Sovereigntists party remarked that one should learn the real and full truth about Jasenovac but that he would also like all participants in the Jasenovac commemoration to start having a proper attitude to the crimes committed in Škabrnja, Vukovar and Bleiburg.

The head of the SABA association of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said that some progress had been made in the authorities' attitude to antifascism and victims of fascism even though problems accumulated over the past 30 years were not being dealt with at the pace at which SABA would want them to be dealt with.

Habulin recalled that last year's commemoration of the Battle of Sutjeska was held under the prime minister's auspices and that the prime minister delivered very strong messages while opening an exhibition on the Holocaust in Zagreb earlier this year.

Habulin said that this year funds had been secured for visits by 200 classes to Jasenovac and that next year student visits to Jasenovac should become an obligatory part of the history curriculum for all schools.

Activists of the non-parliamentary Workers' Front (RF) party on Wednesday night paid tribute to the Jasenovac victims at a ceremony held near Zagreb's central railway station.

The activists screened an image of the Jasenovac Stone Flower monument and the number of the camp's victims on a locomotive put on display by the central station. The locomotive was used by the Ustasha regime for the transport of people to concentration camps, the RF said.

The party said its commemoration for the 83,145 victims of the camp and its inmates who in 1945 mounted an escape attempt was a symbolic contribution to the culture of remembrance and the fight against historical revisionism, an example of which, it said, was the fact that there was no description of the history of the locomotive on it but only technical details.

More Jasenovac news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

State Leadership, Victims' Representatives Pay Tribute to Jasenovac Victims

ZAGREB, April 22, 2020 - The state leadership and representatives of ethnic minorities and antifascists on Wednesday laid wreaths and flowers at a monument in Jasenovac, paying tribute to the victims of the concentration camp that operated there in WWII and marking the 75th anniversary of an outbreak of its surviving inmates.

Early in the morning of 22 April 1945, the last group of 600 inmates decided to try to break out of the camp, where pro-Nazi Ustasha authorities interned and killed people because of their religion, ethnicity or ideological affiliation. Only 92 inmates survived.

The Jasenovac concentration camp existed 1,337 days during the Second World War, and the Jasenovac memorial centre has identified and gathered information on 83,145 victims - 39,570 men, 23,474 women and 20,101 children aged up to 14 years, who were killed.

This year's state-level commemoration was attended by the entire state leadership, which has not been the case since 2014, as well as by representatives of ethnic minorities and antifascists, who since 2016 had organised separate commemorations, arguing that Croatia is trying to rewrite the history of the Second World War.

A joint wreath was laid at the Stone Flower monument in Jasenovac by President Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

The parliamentary delegation also included Deputy Speaker Sinisa Hajdaš Dončić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and SDP leader Davor Bernardić, while the government delegation also included Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek. Attending the commemoration was also Ivo Žinić, head of Sisak-Moslavina County where Jasenovac is located.

The head of the Jewish Community of Zagreb, Ognjen Kraus, the head of the Serb National Council advisory board, Milorad Pupovac, Roma minority member of parliament Veljko Kajtazi and the head of the SABA association of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, each laid a flower at the monument.

Due to the current coronavirus epidemic, participants in the ceremony only laid wreaths and flowers, complying with rules of social distancing.

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

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

State Leadership and Representatives of Victims to Attend Commemoration at Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 21, 2020 - The 75th anniversary of a prisoner breakout from the Jasenovac concentration camp will be marked on Wednesday with senior state officials and representatives of ethnic minorities and antifascists attending a ceremony at the Jasenovac memorial centre.

For the first time after 2014, an official commemoration of the event will be attended by the President of the Republic, the Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister, as well as by representatives of the Serb and Roma minorities, the Jewish community and the Alliance of Antifascist Fighters of Croatia (SABA).

Among those to pay respects to the victims of the Ustasha-run camp will be President Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Jewish community leader Ognjen Kraus, Serb National Council president Milorad Pupovac, MP for the Roma minority Veljko Kajtazi and SABA president Franjo Habulin.

In the past five years, former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović sent her representative to the commemoration, while she herself paid respects to the victims alone, mainly several days before the state commemoration.

Since 2015, the ethnic minorities and antifascists have refused to attend state commemorations arguing that Croatia is trying to rewrite the history of the Second World War, and have organised separate commemorations instead.

The Jasenovac concentration camp existed 1,337 days during the Second World War, and the Jasenovac memorial centre has identified and gathered information on 83,145 victims (39,570 men, 23,474 women and 20,101 children aged up to 14 years), who were killed because of their religious, ethnic or ideological affiliation.

According to the Jasenovac memorial centre, after allied bombings of the camp in March and April 1945, in which many of the camp facilities were destroyed, the camp's commander Vjekoslav Maks Luburić ordered that all the prisoners be killed and the camp be burned down to cover up the crimes.

The last group of about 700 women were executed on the evening of 21 April 1945, when an order was given for the remaining 1,073 men to be relocated to a women's building in the eastern part of the camp.

Sensing what was going to happen to them, about 600 men led by Ante Bakotić decided to try to break out of the camp on the rainy Sunday morning of 22 April 1945. Only 92 inmates survived. A few hours afterwards, 167 prisoners working in a tannery mounted an escape attempt, with only 11 of them managing to escape.

Since this year's commemoration is being held amid the coronavirus pandemic, strict social distancing measures will be observed. The state leadership will lay a wreath at the Stone Flower monument, while other delegations will each lay a flower, and there will be no other activities.

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

Monday, 20 April 2020

Virtual Museum About Humanitarian D. Budisavljević in Preparation

ZAGREB, April 20, 2020 - The film "The Diary of Diana B." will premiere on TV on April 22, commemorating the escape of the last group of internees from the WW2 Jasenovac camp, and a project "From Film to Museum", dedicated to Diana Budisavljević, a great humanitarian who helped save children during the war, is underway.

The Hulahop production company said that the film would premiere on TV on the first channel of the Croatian Radio Television (HRT), on the occasion of the remembrance day for all victims and survivors of that Ustasha camp, and the same evening it will be broadcast on the first channel of Radio Television Serbia.

The future virtual museum will showcase unpublished material collected and created over many years of historical research and work on the film, and the completion of the project is planned for autumn.

"The Diary of Diana B." is a feature-length documentary "about the best people in the worst of times", among whom was certainly Diana Budisavljević, who together with a few friends organised an action that saved over 10,000 children from certain death by the end of World War II.

"The Diary of Diana B." premiered at last year's Pula Film Festival, where after eight minutes of applause from the audience it won as many as six awards, including the most important one - the Grand Golden Arena for Best Festival Film.

The film has so far won a total of 15 awards, and it played in cinemas all over Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it was viewed by over 65,000 people.

More Jasenovac news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Jasenovac, Operation Flash Commemorations to Be Held

ZAGREB, April 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp would be commemorated appropriately in Jasenovac on April 22, and that the anniversary of the 1-3 May 1995 Operation Flash would be commemorated as well.

Plenković said at the beginning of his cabinet's meeting that the culture minister and other ministers were working on the organisation of the Jasenovac commemoration while the ministers of the interior, war veterans and defence were working on organising the commemoration of the military and police operation that liberated the areas of western Slavonia held by Croatian Serb rebel forces.

Plenković noted that the commemorations would be held in line with restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

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