Wiesenthal Center: Croatia Must Act To Counter Veneration Of Fascist Ustashe Past

June 28, 2007

WIESENTHAL CENTER: CROATIA MUST ACT TO COUNTER VENERATION OF FASCIST USTASHE PAST

Center says, “…This kind of behavior, left unanswered, will not only mock the victims of the past, but threaten the future of democracy.”


The Simon Wiesenthal Center protested to the Croatian government over the open display of WWII-era fascist symbols, banners and uniforms by fans at a recent concert in Zagreb. The headliner act, “Thompson”, proudly promotes Croatian ultranationalism in their music, sometimes celebrating heroes of the Ustashe--the fascist party who sided with Hitler during WWII--and heroes of the 1991 Balkan war, some of whom are suspected war criminals. Especially alarming to the Center was a song expressing nostalgia for the concentration camps Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska, where at least 90,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croatians perished at the hands of the Ustashe.
       
In a letter to Neven Jurica, the Croatian Ambassador to the U.S., Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, expressed alarm at the concert, saying that while the Center respects Croatia’s democracy, “…it is clear that this kind of behavior, left unanswered, will not only mock the victims of the past but threaten the future of democracy.”
       
Cooper urged the Ambassador that Croatia’s youth need to fully understand the horrors of the past by adding significant revisions to the current exhibition at the Jasenovac camp site to name those who ran the camp and to “directly and fully explain that it was Ustashe’s racism, antisemitism and xenophobia that spawned Jasenovac.”

Cooper also urged the Croatian government to push legislation that would ban the use of Ustashe symbols, much in the same way that Germany and Austria ban the use of the swastika. Such a bill had been previously rejected by the Supreme Court on a technicality.

The Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Director, Efraim Zuroff, also protested to the Croatian government. Zuroff, who heads the Center’s efforts to bring WWII war criminals to justice, played a key role in the arrest, deportation and conviction of Dinko Sakic, the commandant of Jasenovac, in 1999. The Wiesenthal Center was also instrumental in the 1984 arrest of Ustashe Interior Minister Andrija Artukovic.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.

For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036.