Friday, 25 January 2019

Croatian Parliament Pays Respect to Holocaust Victims

 ZAGREB, January 25, 2019 - The Croatian Parliament began its session on Friday with a minute of silence to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on January 27. "On that day the whole world pays deep respect for the victims of the Nazi persecution and genocide of the Jews and minorities, as well as for all the victims of the Nazi and fascist regimes during World War II," Speaker Gordan Jandroković said at the start of the session.

Recalling the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp 73 years ago, he said that that infamous place also symbolised all other places where genocide had been committed against Jews and where other undesirable groups had been systematically exterminated by the Nazi and fascist regimes. "Auschwitz symbolises the death of six million innocent people whose only guilt was that they were different from the chosen ones," Jandroković said.

"Today we also respect the memory of all those who suffered and died at the hands of people who were blinded by fear and hatred. We also remember their families, as well as those who survived those atrocities and who were and are forever marked by the memory of the days of horror and shame they survived and who, despite the immense trauma, tried bravely to return to normal life. It is our debt to them," Jandroković said.

He recalled brave people who had risked their own life and the lives of their children, their safety and freedom, to unselfishly help the Jewish people. Among them are 117 Croatian 'righteous among the nations'. "Those were people of different religious, political and other convictions, but first and foremost they were morally upright. They can be an example to us today that everyone can and must be righteous among the nations," he stressed.

Jandroković said that the lessons learned from the Holocaust were especially important four young people as future leaders and opinion makers. "That's why it is of vital importance for them to fully understand the meaning of the Holocaust and how a learned experience can help in creating a more tolerant, more just and inclusive society in the future. They need to be taught to be against hatred and intolerance of any kind and to respect other people and their diversity," he said.

"Today we remember not only the victims of the Holocaust but also the victims of Vukovar, Škabrnja, Srebrenica and all other places of war crimes, and we send a message of hope that we have learned from the past and that in our societies we want human values to triumph over human destructiveness," Jandroković concluded.

Before the Parliament meeting, Jandroković laid a wreath in the Jewish section of Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb.

More news on Croatia’s history can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Commemoration for Holocaust Victims Held in Front of Zagreb Cathedral

ZAGREB, January 25, 2019 - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, on Thursday organised a prayer event in front of the cathedral to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and on that occasion he 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.

During the prayer, a 60-metre-long and 5-metre-wide banner was displayed on the cathedral's walls with the text from Biblical verses written by Isaiah about the remembrance of victims saying "I will give them – within the walls of my house – a memorial and a name far greater than sons and daughters could give. For the name I give them is an everlasting one. It will never disappear!".

Today, we are encountering the secret of the evil, and we do not look at it only within the frames of the past but we are also aware of the present day," said Bozanić who added that the ideology of racism was directed against God and the human beings and was "created on the untruth about the man and about the Jewish people."

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War when tan estimated 6 million Jewish people were killed. The day is observed in memory of 27 January 1945 when Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

The cardinal calls for giving special attention to what had happened in Croatia and pointing out the truth, without any reservations, about the horrors in the Jasenovac death camp and other camps where innocent people lost their lives.

"We are here to recognise the evil and hate speech and to resist them and to build together mutual respect and love, to the well-being of our Croatian society and the whole humankind," Bozanić said.

The dignitary spoke about the Jewish community in Croatia and especially in the City of Zagreb and their contribution to and integration in the life and culture of city. He recalled that the data show that less than 2,000 Jews survived WW2 from the 11,000-strong community in Zagreb.

He says that he sympathises in his prayers and thoughts with the Jews who survived and who have borne the burden of their personal experiences of human cruelty and he also extended his sympathies to the whole Jewish people.

The Zagreb Archbishop also underscores that the descendants – children and grandchildren – of the perpetrators of war crimes should be mentioned in prayers and that they also need the purification by truth. Christianity excludes any hatred towards the human being and other people, he said.

The head of the Jewish Information and Education Centre Hatikva, Julija Kos, sad that the event being held in front of the cathedral was of extremely great importance. "Each sentence of the cardinal's speech has a single message about what we should do to make our society healthy," she added.

Some descendants of the perpetrators are aware what their ancestors did, and some are not aware, and they are not to blame for that, she said.

Kos said that only a small portion of the descendants of perpetrators in Croatia still glorified their ancestors. There are only few of them but they are loud, she added.

Kristijan Lepešić commented that the banner on the cathedral's walls was the biggest of this kind in Europe. This is a great step forward made by the Catholic Church, he said.

In attendance at the commemoration were Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and envoys of top state officials.

More news on the World War II as it happened in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Parliament to Debate Historical Revisionism in Croatia on Thursday

ZAGREB, November 28, 2018 - Parliament will debate the SDP-sponsored interpellation on the work of the government on Thursday, in which the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) accuses the government of not confronting historical revisionism in Croatia.

SDP requests a parliamentary debate on that topic and asks the government to undertake actions that will prevent the use of symbols and salutes that are banned in Croatia by the Constitutions, laws and obvious court practice.

SDP proposes that parliament should adopt a conclusion defining the said salute as the official salute used by the Ustasha and WWII Independent State of Croatia (NDH) totalitarian regime.

The opposition party asks the government to remove the plaque for HOS volunteer fighters, which has the salute "For the Homeland Ready," incorporated in it. The plaque has been put up in Jasenovac, the site of a WWII death camp, among other things.

The plaque erected for eleven HOS Homeland War defenders with the salute was taken down in September 2017 in Jasenovac and relocated to the Trokut memorial site in the nearby town of Novska.

In September last year, the government said that it proposes to the parliament not to endorse the conclusions put forward by SDP. The government said then that the claims by the SDP that the government was downplaying Ustasha crimes were not correct.

The government wholly rejects the arguments in the SDP interpellation and one of the fundamental starting points of its programme for the 2016-20 period is the condemnation of all undemocratic systems which in the past century caused the persecution and execution of political opponents, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said then, adding that the government had clearly said that on many occasions.

For more on historical revisionism in Croatia and the events during the Second World War which are still often debated in Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ombudsperson Warns against WWII Historical Revisionism

ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 - The Office of Ombudsman has warned in an analysis that attempts to downplay the crimes committed during the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) led by the Ustasha regime undermine the fundamental values of the Constitution, while failure to respond to those attempts of WWII historical revisionism creates space for hatred.

"Denying the character of the NDH and the extent of the crimes committed by the Ustasha regime, posting (NDH) symbols in public space or using the syntagms showing sympathy for the regime have become so frequent in the Croatian society that they seem to be almost tacitly accepted," the ombudswoman Lora Vidović said in the analysis published on the website of the Office of Ombudsman.

Vidović calls for education and for fostering tolerance and culture of historical memory among school-age children and in this context mentions findings of a September 2015 survey conducted among senior students of secondary schools that showed that a half of respondents were not sure if the NDH was a pro-Fascist state.

Vidović recalls that European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended in a report this year that "the (Croatian) authorities should introduce compulsory human rights education as part of civic education into all school curricula, especially as regards the right to equality and the prohibition of discrimination."

The ombudswoman calls on all stakeholders in the society to play an important role in permanent response to attempts to downplay the nature of the Ustasha state so as to make it impossible for such phenomena to participate in creating public opinions. She insists that it is full responsibility of the authorities to ensure the compliance with the Constitution and implementation of the laws so as to counter the phenomena "that symbolically or directly support or glorify the NDH and deny or downplay the crimes that regime had produced."

Vidović calls for putting an emphasis on the fact that the NDH was in contravention with the present-day Croatia.

In 2005, the Croatian Parliament adopted the declaration on anti-Fascism reaffirming Croatia's roots in and commitment to anti-Fascism and democracy and calling for nurturing anti-Fascist values, the Ombuswoman recalls.

She goes on to say that it is necessary to honour the requests of the representatives of the Roma, Serb and Jewish communities and anti-Fascist associations and create prerequisites for organising a single commemoration for victims of the Ustasha regime at the Jasenovac Memorial Centre, thus showing solidarity for the communities of the victims of those war atrocities.

Attempts to deny the crimes committed during the NDH regime and denying their extent are actually attempts to deny the past marked by hatred and violence against Roma, Serbs and Jews and opponents of the Ustasha regime, she says adding that attempts to deny crimes actually encourage hate speech that could lead to the violence against the members of the above-mentioned groups. In that way, the continuity of hatred is being fostered, which harms the values of equality, the rule of law and human rights on which the Croatian Constitution is based, Vidović writes in the conclusion of her analysis.

For more on the dark days of Croatia during the Second World War, click here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Croatia and US Sign Agreement on Searching for WWII Dead

ZAGREB, November 14, 2018 - The Croatian Minister of Veterans' Affairs Tomo Medved and the Director of the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Kelly McKeague signed a memorandum of understanding in Zagreb on Tuesday on investigating, locating and transferring the remains of US military personnel gone missing in Croatia during World War II. The memorandum on WWII formalises and reaffirms the excellent cooperation between the two ministries and defines their mutual relations and methods of cooperation in investigating, locating and transferring the remains of US personnel presumed to have gone missing in Croatia in WWII at the expense of the United States, the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs said in a statement.

"I am confident that this memorandum will be a good basis for the further investigation of 61 sites and for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the search for the missing persons," Medved said, adding that Croatia already had similar agreements in place with Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

McKeague said that this visit was a very important opportunity showing cooperation between the two countries, adding that the cooperation would not have been successful without the effort of the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs and the faith that war casualties would be traced.

Tracing those who made the greatest sacrifice in battle is a value that the United States shares with Croatia. This is a search for answers that we can give to the families of those missing, which is a very humane goal, McKeague said.

The US is looking for 161 pilots who went missing in the territory of Croatia during WWII. Their families are grateful to Croatia for signing the memorandum, which is a good indicator of cooperation, McKeague said.

The two countries began working on this issue in February 2017.

Croatia has already provided assistance in locating remains of the crew of a B-24J aircraft, known as the Tulsamerican, that crashed off the southern island of Vis on its way from a combat mission in December 1944.

For more on the cooperation between Croatia and the United States, click here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Kristallnacht Anniversary Commemorated in Zagreb

ZAGREB, November 10, 2018 - The Croatian Antifascist League and the Jewish Community of Zagreb observed on Friday the 80th anniversary of the pogrom against German Jews, known as Kristallnacht, calling for not equating Ustashism and anti-fascism and warning about xenophobia and nationalism.

On the night between 9 and 10 November 1938, the Nazis organised a pogrom against Jews throughout Germany and Austria. Hundreds of Jews were killed, 30,000 were arrested and sent to death camps, 177 synagogues were burnt, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and more than 7,000 Jewish-owned shops were destroyed.

That was the beginning of the darkest period in human history, the Holocaust, said Ognjen Kraus, president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia. He called for putting an end to the making up of a new history of Croatia and WWII.

"In Germany, Austria and every West European country, it's not possible to downplay or negate the existence of the concentration death camps, to equate the victims of Nazism and anti-fascism, the Axis Powers and the Allied Powers. One must not downplay what Nazi Germany was, the victims of Nazism, what happened in the death camps. In Croatia, that's possible," said Kraus.

He called for not equating the antifascist and Ustasha movements, "the throat-cutters and the victims," and warned about the danger nationalism and xenophobia. He asked the interior and justice ministers, the chief state prosecutor, the prime minister, the parliament speaker and the president if they had read the constitution and if they were familiar with the penal code. "How much longer will you sell the honour of this country which, after the Ustasha movement, did itself proud with the antifascist movement?"

"We observe the Kristallnacht anniversary not just because it's a significant historic event but also because it's a significant warning on the path of every society. In Croatia, it's a warning about where systematically incited intolerance can lead to," said Zoran Pusić, president of the Croatian Antifascist League. "No matter how shallow the lies on which that intolerance is built, little by little they shape public opinion," he added.

The speakers noted that Croatian director Jakov Sedlar's film "100 years of Serbian terror in Croatia" premiered tonight, with Pusić saying that similar films, aimed at fomenting intolerance towards one minority, used to come out of Goebbels's Nazi propaganda ministry too, and Kraus adding, "That's how Kristallnacht happened."

They said it was a disgrace that no senior state official had attended the commemoration.

Israeli director Nitza Gonen's documentary "The Forgotten Ones", about the Holocaust against Jews in the former Yugoslavia, was shown as part of the commemoration.

For more news on Jews in Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Vandal Attacks Antifascist Monument, Ends Up in Hospital with Broken Leg

Early on Wednesday morning, at around 4.40 am, a monument to antifascist hero Rade Končar was damaged in a park at the Bačvice neighbourhood in Split, reports on November 7, 2018.

“A man knocked down the monument together with the pedestal,” reported the local police. They further confirmed that the monument fell on the vandal’s leg and injured him, so he ended up in a hospital for medical treatment, which has delayed the criminal investigation.

Rade Končar was shot by Italians in May 1942 for organising the antifascist resistance in Dalmatia.

The Split-Dalmatia County Police Administration knows the identity of the attacker but did not want to release it publicly. According to unofficial sources from the Split hospital, the perpetrator is a man in the mid-sixties. The monument fell on his leg and broke in, and he ended up in hospital.

President of the SDP branch in Split Goran Kotur said that the demolition of the monument was a shameful, cowardly and criminal act. “Unfortunately, this reflects an unhealthy climate that is persistently created in a part of our society. When the president says that the Ustasha slogan is an old Croatian greeting, and when there is no street dedicated to the partisans in Split, it is no wonder that pro-fascist vandals are taking things into their hands in such a miserable way. This is not the first anti-fascist monument to be demolished in Croatia. ‘Unknown perpetrators’ have destroyed some 3,000 monuments since 1990, with no fear that anyone will ever discover and punish them. Anti-fascism as a civilization value is not a thing of the past, but it is very much needed today, when fascism, which has done so much evil to Split, Croatia, Europe and the world, is strengthening again,” Kotur wrote.

The incident was also condemned by the office of Split Mayor Andre Krstulović Opara. “We strongly condemn the demolition of the monument to Rade Končar. We are sure this is an act done by an irresponsible individual and does not express the opinion of citizens of the free and tolerant Split who condemn such vandalism and savagery. We believe that the competent institutions will appropriately punish the perpetrator. The town of Split has hired a company which will, after the police investigation is over, repair the damage to the monument,” said the mayor’s office.

Translated from (reported by Damir Petranović).

To read more about Split, click here.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Children Killed in WWII Commemorated

ZAGREB, October 6, 2018 - A memorial ceremony was held at Children's Cemetery in Sisak on Saturday to commemorate the children who had perished in an Ustasha-run children's concentration camp in the town between 3 August 1942 and 8 January 1943 and to thank people who had saved many of the children.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Jasenovac Memorial Site Warns against Historical Revisionism

ZAGREB, September 29, 2018 - The Jasenovac Memorial Site said on Friday it was concerned about the launch of Roman Leljak's film and book "The Jasenovac Myth" which reduce the number of victims of the WWII concentration camp and sympathise with the Ustasha movement and the 1941-45 Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

Friday, 14 September 2018

Two Croatians Named Righteous Among the Nations

ZAGREB, September 14, 2018 - The late Antun and Katarina Šragalj of Vrbovsko, who saved Jewish girl Lea Gostl in World War II, were named on Friday as Righteous Among the Nations, the highest honorific bestowed by the State of Israel on non-Jews who during WWII saved Jews, risking their own lives.

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