Croatia: State officials commemorate Jasenovac victims in polarized climate

Croatian officials recalled 76 on Thursdayth the anniversary of the explosion of prisoners from the Ustasha-run Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II, however the tension was palpable.

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic invited Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to lay wreaths together, but failed. The delegations were divided under the pretext of the COVID protocol.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH) WW2 was one of the most tragic periods in Croatian history, underlining that the government was clearly against the use of Ustasha symbols.

He stressed that they had come to honor all the victims of the NDH regime and the horrific crimes committed in the Jasenovac concentration camp and other camps against Jews, Serbs, Roma, anti-fascists and Croatian democrats.

“This is certainly one of the most tragic periods in Croatian history, and it is important that the younger generations are aware of these facts (); “that this is part of our education system and that the descendants never forget the horrific crimes committed here and throughout Europe in similar camps during World War II and that there is a unanimous and unequivocal condemnation of those crimes.” said the Prime Minister.

He added that he would continue to visit Jasenovac with devotion and awareness that such crimes should never be allowed to be repeated.

Regarding the amendment of the Criminal Code to ban Ustasha signs, Plenković said that these were already banned and it was a matter of aligning the action with the case law.

“This topic has been eavesdropping on us for a long time. “Everyone who knows something about our history, about the Jasenovac camp, who understands what those symbols mean to the Jew, the Serbs, the Roma community or the anti-fascists, understands that these are not symbols that should be used,” Plenković said.

Regarding the initiative by the president of the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia Ognjen Kraus to stop the Ustasha greeting “For the homeland ready”, he said that they had talked about it and would continue to discuss it. Moreover, he stressed that the position of the government was clear and determined when it came to punishing such crimes and symbols.

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic also paid homage, but separately, to the Stone Flowers Memorial. He was accompanied by former presidents Stjepan Mesic and Ivo Josipovic and former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor.

“This was a Ustasha camp; the Ustashas are Croats, and since I am a Croat, I can not claim that I do not care. This was a controversial place, and it still is. One side exaggerates and says 700,000 people were killed here, but that is not possible. “I was here as a high school student and they told us the same thing,” Milanovic said.

He added that the movie “Jasenovac Dara” was based on a stolen script. “I did not bring a crown; I brought a rose and a pebble. I’m sorry there have been no common reminders, this is not a matter of passivity. The statesman must show emotion, but also act in accordance with expectations. “What I have heard are weak excuses,” Milanovic said, commenting on the prime minister’s refusal to place a wreath next to him.

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