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.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Serb Leader Accuses Parliament of Unequal Treatment of Jasenovac and Bleiburg

ZAGREB, April 9, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) parliamentary deputy Milorad Pupovac on Tuesday accused the national legislature, under whose auspices the commemorative events at Jasenovac and Bleiburg are held, of treating the commemorations of victims at those two sites differently.

Pupovac said that when it comes to the Jasenovac commemorations, "the Parliament behaves as if it is not the sponsor" while at Bleiburg "it behaves like a true and dedicated sponsor."

"After the decision of the Austrian authorities that the Bleiburg commemorative event should be banned in the form it has been held to date, all the authorities in Croatia - the government and the church authorities as well as the parliament - have done their best to negotiate terms for the commemorative event to be held (this May), promising compliance with Austrian laws banning the glorification of Fascist and Ustasha ideas, symbols and messages," Pupovac said.

He went on to say that in Croatia, too, laws banning Fascist and Ustasha symbols were in force. Pupovac, however, insists that Croatia "is readier to honour the laws of another country than its own".

He also mentioned the case of the municipality of Slatinski Drenovac where there used to be a street named after the date when the Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established and the 2017 ruling of the Constitutional Court declaring that name to be contrary to the Constitution.

In 2017, the Court concluded that the street name "April 10" in Slatinski Drenovac, a village in the Slavonia region, was unconstitutional, underlining that it was "a well-known historical fact" that the NDH was a Nazi and Fascist entity and that present-day Croatia was not its successor on any grounds.

Pupovac's speech was interrupted on several occasions by MP Željko Glasnović who also later claimed that in that municipality in the 1990s "some 500 skulls of Croats (killed in World War II) were unearthed from the basement of the local Orthodox Church", insisting that that was "the first Partizan-run concentration camp".

Pupovac then said that those killed at Jasenovac "were not responsible for the death of any person killed at Tezno, Kočevski Rog or Macelj, whereas many killed there were guilty of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people slain across the NDH."

Pupovac said that instead of applying Croatian laws, "we tolerate in our country the revival of conflicts based on topics relating to the Second World War."

Deputy Parliament Speaker Milijan Brkić, who chaired the session, warned Glasnović against interrupting another deputy's speech, and called on Pupovac and other MPs not to argue over the topic of paying tribute to war victims.

"A crime is a crime regardless of who has committed it," Brkić said, calling for not making a distinction between victims.

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

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Serb Minority Party SDSS Remains Part of Ruling Majority

ZAGREB, March 26, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said Monday that a meeting with the president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, was good and that the SDSS would remain part of the ruling majority, reiterating that it would be good to hold a single commemoration ceremony at Jasenovac and adding that the government was still considering whether or not the restructuring of the Uljanik dock was sustainable and if not "other solution will be found."

"We talked about all aspects of cooperation and the functioning of the parliamentary majority. Clearly, certain things concerning the implementation of operative programmes of minority issues can me further advanced, I am open to that. We will do our best to have everything on the level of individual departments done faster and more efficient and the SDSS is still part of the ruling majority," Plenković said commenting on his meeting with Pupovac held earlier in the day, which he described as "good."

Plenković also commented on two commemorations in Jasenovac. "Because of the reverence the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp deserve and the condemnation our government and I personally made with regards to the Ustasha regime, it would be good if all of us went to Jasenovac together, because the commemoration is whole only is representatives of the Serbs, Jews, Roma, Croats and anti-*fascists associations are there. I see that as an effort to try to take a stand towards all totalitarian regimes without any dilemmas. I will again go to Jasenovac," Plenković said.

Plenković also said he did not have time to read about what Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said about Operation Storm, adding however that Operations Storm, Flash and the Homeland War were the foundations of modern-day Croatia which enabled the reintegration of areas that had been occupied for over four years.

Reporters also asked the PM about the situation in the Uljanik and 3. Maj docks, adding that the government was still considering whether or not the restructuring of the Uljanik dock was sustainable and if not "other solution will be found."

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

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Prime Minister Regrets There Won't Be Joint Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 24, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with Croatian Television (HTV) that he had been in touch with Milorad Pupovac, leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), which is part of the ruling majority, and that they had agreed to hold a meeting next week. He added that he regretted there will not be joint Jasenovac commemoration.

In the interview, Plenković commented on a number of current topics, including his relationship with Pupovac. Pupovac has said on several occasions that his party is considering leaving the ruling coalition and recently he said that this had to do with hate speech that was being encouraged by the ruling structures.

At a party meeting held on March 11, the SDSS decided that it would not leave the ruling coalition, authorising Pupovac and the party's parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners.

"I think that I, this government and the HDZ have been committed to enhancing the protection of the rights of all ethnic minorities in Croatia," Plenković said in the interview, adding that it was excellent that minorities were part of the ruling majority, which, he said, had been the ambition of his government from the very start.

Plenković said he and Pupovac had developed a kind of dialogue and relationship in which they could discuss matters openly, see if they understood each other and if there were elements of which he, as prime minister, was not entirely aware, which, he added, was also possible. "If there are such elements, we will discuss them and deal with them together," said Plenković.

Responding to the interviewer's remark that this year again there would be two separate commemorations at Jasenovac, the site of a WWII concentration camp, Plenković said that he would be glad if there was one, joint commemoration. "Unfortunately, judging by the current situation, that won't happen," he said.

The SABA alliance of antifascist fighters and antifascists of Croatia, the Serb National Council (SNV), the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities and the Kali Sara Croatian Roma Alliance will organise a separate commemoration for the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp on April 12.

This will be the fourth year in a row that separate commemorations are organised at Jasenovac.

Speaking of the reasons for the separate commemoration, SNV vice president Saša Milošević said recently that "the state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism."

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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

President to Visit Jasenovac Memorial on Her Own

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - Commenting on statements by representatives of ethnic minorities that again this year again they would not attend the government-sponsored commemoration of victims of the World War II Jasenovac concentration camp, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said that she regretted "ideological divisions and that we are constantly going back to the past instead of focusing on issues of everyday life" and that she would therefore go to Jasenovac "to pay tribute to the victims in silence" again this year.

Speaking of the problems of everyday life one should focus on, Grabar-Kitarović said: "They are the problems of 3. Maj dock workers and their families, subcontractors, the Uljanik Group, and all other businesses in the country - micro, small and medium-sized - as well as big state-owned companies, let alone pensioners' problems."

"I'm quite upset that we are putting those divisions in the centre of political debate," she said during a visit to Rijeka.

Grabar-Kitarović went on to say that everyone had recognised that regimes such as Fascism, Communism and Nazism were criminal. "Tribute should be paid to all victims," she said.

"I said that I would attend the Jasenovac commemoration if we all go together. We all commemorate the victims and everyone does it in their own way, which makes no sense. I will go there to bow in silence to the victims because they deserve that," Grabar-Kitarović said.

Asked about the situation in the ailing Uljanik shipbuilding group, the president said that analyses were being made as to whether the group should file for bankruptcy or be restructured. "I hope a restructuring of some kind will be chosen because... the shipbuilding industry is one of the strategic Croatian industries, however, it cannot continue the way it has operated so far," she said, adding that Croatian shipyards evidently could not compete with Asian shipyards and had to specialise and find a niche, to rely on domestic experts and know-how and to start building smaller vessels.

As for announcements that Zagreb University would grant an honorary doctorate to Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, which has been strongly criticised by some political parties, Grabar-Kitarović said that the decision concerned "the relationship between Bandić and Zagreb University, and universities are autonomous."

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

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Serbs Join Boycott of Government’s Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 20, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Monday joined the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia in boycotting the official commemoration for the victims of the WWII Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac for the fourth year in a row, scheduled for April 14.

"The state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism," SNV vice president Saša Milošević told the Serb minority newspaper Novosti.

Milošević said that by tolerating hate speech, downplaying the suffering of the people and implementing an inadequate education policy, the state had directly helped that such incidents become dominant in Croatia's society.

Given the great difference in opinion, we cannot and should not go to Jasenovac together. Milošević said adding that the Serb, the Jewish and the Roma minority, as well as the anti-fascists would hold their own commemoration on Friday, April 12.

The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said earlier in the day he would not attend the government commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept.

"Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened," he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government's stance on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready."

"There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it," Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful.

"It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn't good," he said.

An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jewish Community Will Not Attend Joint Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said on Tuesday he would not attend together with the government this year's commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept.

"Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened," he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government's stance on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready".

"There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it," Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful.

"It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving through talks the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn't good," he said.

An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

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

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Zagreb Mayor, Israeli Ambassador Pay Tribute to Jasenovac Victims

ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 - A delegation of the City of Zagreb, led by Mayor Milan Bandić, and Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor, on Wednesday visited Jasenovac to commemorate victims of the WW2 Ustasha-run concentration camp.

During the visit, Mayor Bandić said that the Nazi-style Ustasha regime "was neither independent nor democratic or Croatian" and that it was "a dark stain in Croatia's history".

Bandić underscored that during the Second World War, most Croatians sided with the anti-Fascist coalition, explaining that a majority of anti-Fascist units in the area of former Yugoslavia were actually set up in Croatia.

The newly-appointed Israeli ambassador said that this was his first visit to the Jasenovac Memorial Site.

The diplomat added that Jasenovac should be a place of education of young generations so that evil was not repeated.

From August 1941 to 22 April 1945, Jasenovac operated as a death camp where men, women and children were killed because of their religion, ethnicity or ideology. The list of victims contains the names and other information on 83,145 people - 39,570 men, 23,474 women and 20,101 children under the age of 14. The most numerous victims of the camp were Serbs, Roma, Jews and Croats.

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Catholic, Orthodox, Islam and Jewish Leaders to Pray Together at Jasenovac?

The Catholic Church leadership in Croatia is continuing with the initiative to bring various religious communities together in paying respects to the victims of World War II. After the recent commemorative prayer event for Holocaust victims held in front of the Zagreb cathedral, led by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the archbishop of Zagreb, there is now a new initiative for the organisation of the first joint prayer meeting at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, which should bring together Orthodox episcopes, Catholic bishops, rabbis and muftis from Croatia, and was launched by the Bishop of Požega, Antun Škvorčević, reports Večernji List on February 11, 2019.

Bishop Škvorčević visited recently the rabbi of the Bet Israel Jewish Religious Community, Kotel Da Don, with whom he spoke about the issue of remembering the victims of the Jasenovac camp and the participation in the commemorations organised by the Croatian government. The bishop informed the rabbi about the programme that the Požega Diocese organises each year at Jasenovac. He suggested the possibility of the joint participation of several religious communities in the event at Jasenovac. Rabbi Kotel Da-Don accepted this proposal, according to a report by the Catholic Information Agency.

This means that leaders of religious communities would hold a separate gathering, i.e. they would not participate in the traditional political commemoration of Jasenovac victims. The Catholic and Orthodox sides also support such an initiative. As soon as he became the Orthodox bishop of Pakrac, Jovan Ćulibrk made it clear that the Jasenovac liturgy should not have anything to do with the politics. "When we approach Jasenovac with sincere respect for the victims, without ideological, national or political exclusivity or manipulation, with openness to the truth, then it can become the place of our encounter.”

“I am glad that Jovan is acting in this way, giving hope that it will not be long before we start remembering not just the victims who belonged to own people but also the victims belonging to other peoples killed under any flag and because of any reason,” said Bishop Škvorčević. “The Požega diocese tries to serve this goal”, said Škvorčević, who has built excellent relationships with the Pakrac bishop Jovan.

The first gathering of religious leaders at Jasenovac, also involving leaders of the Islamic and Jewish community, would send a joint message to their faithful and the world.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Darko Pavičić).

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

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Pupovac Commends Minister's Initiative for School Visits to Jasenovac

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - The MP of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday commended Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak's initiative to make it an obligation for primary schools to organise visits to the Jasenovac memorial complex, and condemned attempts at restricting freedom of the press.

"In 2017, only nine schools visited that awful World War II execution site, and last year there were more visitors from Italy than Croatia," Pupovac said in parliament.

"Today, children don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore and whether the salute 'For the Homeland Ready' and the glorification of the Ustasha regime is allowed or not," he added.

Speaking of freedom of the press, Pupovac said that some MPs were "trying to stifle it from parliament benches."

He was alluding to the opposition Živi Zid party, whose conflict with the owner of a daily newspaper turned into a conflict with one of its journalists who in her article about the party's finances quoted from a report by the State Auditor's Office. "You're settling accounts with the employee and not with the employer. You should attack flaws in the system and not employees," Pupovac said.

He expressed concern over the fact that the HRT public broadcasting service had brought 33 lawsuits against other media outlets in recent months. "Why? Because they were fighting against fake news or hate speech? No, but because someone noticed elements of censorship in certain cases. That's why we are considering prohibiting (the HRT) from mentioning our name."

More news on the Jasenovac memorial complex can be found in the Politics section.

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