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Croatian Leaders vs. WWII Revisionism


In May 2015, a Belgrade court quashed the conviction of World War Two Serbian royalist commander Draza Mihailovic, almost 70 years after Partisans executed him for collaborating with the Nazis.

The ghost of Mihailovic's ultra-nationalist Chetnik fighters was revived by some Serb paramilitaries as they fought to carve out a Greater Serbia during Yugoslavia's bloody disintegration. One of the lawyers arguing Mihailovic's case was at the time an aide to current, nationalist Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

In Croatia, the incident with the Anne Frank exhibition followed a dispute in December over a plaque placed near the site of the Ustashe concentration camp in the central town of Jasenovac, where a memorial center bears the names of more than 83,000 Serb, Jewish, Roma and anti-fascist Croat victims.

The plaque, erected by a group of veterans of the 1991-95 war in remembrance of 11 fallen comrades, included the salute Za Dom - Spremni (For the Homeland - Ready), one that was used by the Ustashe and dusted off by Croatian nationalists in the 1990s as they fought to forge a new independent Croatia.

It can still be heard chanted from the stands of Croatian soccer stadiums.

Answering complaints about the plaque, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic called it a "delicate" issue and said he would form a commission to look at how the state should regulate all symbols and slogans of totalitarian regimes - fascist or communist.

"I want to firmly reject all insinuations about the 're-fascistisation' of the Croatian people. That's not the case," said Plenkovic. "This is about certain occurrences that do not represent a trend."

But the small Jewish community was outraged by what they saw as the government's inaction and boycotted the state event marking international Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

Two days earlier, a municipal building in the capital Zagreb had hosted a roundtable discussion entitled Jasenovac-False Myth, at which participants disputed the death toll and whether it was really a concentration camp.

For decades Serbs and Croats have argued over how many people were really killed at Jasenovac.


Analysts said the HDZ reticence evinced a reluctance to alienate a vocal part of its support base.

Zarko Puhovski, a political philosophy professor in Zagreb, said that to change the atmosphere in Croatia, what was needed was a clear condemnation of crimes committed by communists and a greater awareness that the Ustashe "brought no good".

"When all that becomes part of public awareness, when the leftists also realize they must acknowledge communist crimes after World War Two, then we will have a situation that would allow for a rational discussion. I’m afraid we are still pretty far from that,” he said.

Moreover, he said, it is "tragicomic" that the prime minister had cast the dispute over the plaque as "delicate".

"It is anything but a delicate matter.

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