January 22, 2020 — Washington, DC | A new wave of anti-Jewish sentiment is sweeping through Croatia, fueled by politicians from the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica — HDZ), while supported and funded in part by Croatia’s diaspora in America, Australia, Europe and South America. Croatia’s few independent media groups and international organizations have called out HDZ politicians for their direct roles in fueling Holocaust revisionism including concerted efforts undertaken by its President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Ivo Stier. Through their silence, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic representing the HDZ government and Gordan Jandrokovic, the speaker of the parliament are complicit in whitewashing the Balkan country’s evil past. Worse yet, the West’s diplomats in Zagreb have done very little to address the resurgence of anti-Semitism and brazen Holocaust revisionism.
The Baltimore Sun’s report quoted a high-ranking Nazi official’s statement when viewing the brutality in Jasenovac concentration camp in Sisak County, Croatia: “General Edmund von Horstenau, Hitler’s envoy in the capital city of Zagreb, called the place the epitome of horror.”
In 1939, the Jewish population in Croatia grew to 40,000. Nearly eighty percent of Croatia’s Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, states that “more than 30,000 Croatian Jews were killed either in Croatia or at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
In a scheme to distract Croatia’s electorate and specifically the growing class of the working poor from the impact of illicit financial outflows via crime, corruption and tax evasion, HDZ politicians have been instrumental in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism, extremism and Holocaust revisionism.
HDZ politicians in concert with the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), formerly the League of Communists of Croatia, have enforced the country’s anti-Semitic laws which firstly ignored, and now block, the restitution of private property to Jews, which was confiscated by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha government during World War II.
The pernicious revelations of Holocaust denial in Croatia erodes trust in European Union (EU) institutions which purport to address the scourge of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.
For their source of information, Croatia’s citizens and the inhabitants of the rest of the Balkans solely depend on local media, books and online platforms which are strictly written in the region’s vernacular languages.
The Truth, a film by Croatian director Jakov Sedlar, openly questioned the number of killings at the Jasenovac concentration camp. In the absence of close scrutiny by Western diplomats in Zagreb, Croatia’s HDZ politicians and their cohorts have orchestrated a campaign to whitewash the country’s dark history during the Second World War. The deliberate efforts underway include the following examples found below:
Croatian Wikipedia Article Removes the Title of Jasenovac as “Concentration Camp” to “Collecting Camp” as Proclaimed by the WWII Pro-Nazi Ustasha Government
Journalist Sven Milekic writes, “Articles that refer to the Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa movement and its crimes are criticised as particularly unreliable, ideologically loaded and imprecise, thus downplaying the crimes. The clearest example is the Ustasa’s biggest concentration camp, Jasenovac, which in the title of the Croatian Wikipedia article is referred to as “Jasenovac Collection Camp” — a term which does not have such negative connotations as ‘concentration camp’.
Milekic further explains these concerns in the Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa, “Riding the waves of the rampant historical revisionism which has now become part of mainstream rhetoric in Croatia, Croatian-language Wikipedia has become an advocate — even an inspiration — for revisionist ideas. In a process aimed at a completely uncritical review of the last 70 years in the history of Croatia and the entire ex-Yugoslav area, Croatian-language Wikipedia acts as an incubator of right-wing radicalism. Although managed by the Wikimedia Foundation, Croatian-language Wikipedia operates independently and in recent years has been particularly focused on trying to rehabilitate the Ustasha regime while demonising Yugoslavia, socialism, communism, and everything related. One of the most dangerous aspects of this tendency is the recourse to historical revisionism devoid of any scientific basis, namely the denial of the genocidal nature of the Ustasha regime and the crimes it committed in the Jasenovac concentration camp. Furthermore, the very reality of the Holocaust is questioned.”
For years, extremist elements in Croatia have sought to rehabilitate the Ustasa and downplay the atrocities perpetrated at Jasenovac.
The most recent example of this trend is a column by Milan Ivkosic, “Jasenovac cleansed of ideology, bias and communist forgery”, which was published on August 17 in Croatia’s most-read daily, Vecernji list.
Ivkosic writes admiringly and seemingly unashamedly about a book entitled Labour Camp Jasenovac by Igor Vukic, which, according to Ivkosic, “is in fundamental opposition to the decades-long myth of Jasenovac”.
While acknowledging that conditions there were severe, Ivkosic grotesquely declares that “there was fun in the camp. There were sporting matches, especially football, concerts, theatrical performances, among which were pieces that were created by the inmates themselves.”
Croatia does not have an independent daily English newspaper or online media group reporting objectively on the country’s news and events.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle exposed Croatia’s HDZ politician who appeals to the extreme right, “President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, for instance, publicly appears with known right-wing leaders and even accused war criminals, and she occasionally goes off on hate-filled tirades in TV interviews. She only distances herself from extremists when foreign pressure leaves her no other option.”
According to published reports, HDZ politician Davor Ivo Stier’s grandfather was a WWII pro-Nazi Croatia’s Ustasha regime colonel and the right-hand man of Vjekoslav Luburic, commander of Croatia’s death camp Jasenovac, whereby, Jews, Serbs and other minorities were murdered. After WWII, the Ustasha colonel Stier escaped to Argentina where he continued to nurture a pro-Nazi Ustasha group supported by his family members. Moreover, published reports have stated that Mr. Stier actively advocated for the pro-Nazi Ustasha group while growing up in Argentina. While he apologized to appease an international audience, his actions within the HDZ political party do not indicate any evidence of addressing Holocaust denial within Croatia.
In 2016, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic appointed to the post of Foreign Minister — Davor Ivo Stier.
Croatia’s Government Continues Pensions for Pro-Nazi Ustasha Troops While Enforcing Anti-Semitic Laws Blocking Restitution of Private Property to Jews
In 2015, The Jerusalem Post reported on the letter written by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of its Israel Office:
In a letter to Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter who heads the center’s Jerusalem office, blasted the disbursement of pensions to veterans of the Ustasha military force.
Described by Yad Vashem as a “fascist, terrorist movement,” the Ustasha, which was fiercely anti-Semitic, administered a Croatian puppet state on behalf of the Germans during the Second World War. The group was responsible for the murders of over half a million Serbs and the majority of the country’s Jews.
Out of forty thousand Jews in the independent state of Croatia, three quarters were murdered, twenty thousand by the Ustasha in Croatia with another ten thousand deported by the group to Auschwitz.
“In view of the horrendous war crimes committed in the NDH [the Independent State of Croatia] by the Ustasha, we believe that such a policy is inherently mistaken, contrary to the principles of the Republic of Croatia and a horrific insult to the victims of the Ustasha, their families and all Croatians with a sense of morality and integrity,” Zuroff wrote to Milanovic regarding the pensions.
Za Dom Spremni — The Croatian Pro-Nazi Ustasha Salute Continues Despite Being Banned
The Croatian pro-Nazi Ustasha’s salute “Za dom spremni”, which is an equivalent to Hitler-era Nazi salute, “Sieg Heil!”, was heavily used during political rallies by Croatia’s HDZ politicians, since Croatia declared its independence in 1991. In 2017, Croatia’s then-President and HDZ operative Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic brazenly stated that “‘Za dom spremni’ is an old Croatian salute.”
Under international pressure, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic withdrew her statement in February 2019.
Croatia pro-Nazi Ustasha’s salute “Za dom spremni”, was finally addressed by Croatia’s Higher Misdemeanor court in its June 2019 verdict as, “ … an official salute of Ustasha movement in Independent State of Croatia, which came out of fascism and is based on racism, and thus symbolizes hate against peoples of different races, and religious or ethnic identities.”
Despite of the Court’s decision, HDZ politicians and right extremists have continued to use the banned Ustasha’s salute, exploiting the absence of the rule of law in Croatia.
On April 12, 1997, The New York Times observed: “Perhaps no other country has failed as openly as Croatia to come to terms with its fascist legacy. While the French celebrate a resistance movement that was often dwarfed by the wider spread collaboration with Vichy regime, and while the Austrians often act as if the war never happened, the Croats have rehabilitated the Croatian fascist collaborators, known as the Ustasha, sky high.”
Croatia Violates the Charters of the European Union and NATO — Subverting the Rule of Law and Protection of Private Property
Croatia’s politicians from the HDZ political party and its diaspora networks in America and Europe are complicit in whitewashing the evil acts of the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha government.
Croatia’s government has refused to pay any compensation to Croatia’s Jews. In 2017, a lawsuit filed in the US by victims of Croatia’s pro-Nazi WWII regime and their relatives sought $3.5 billion in damages for the properties seized from ethnic Serbs, Roma and Jews during the reign of the Croatian Usatsha government. In this specific case, the Chicago court rejected the suit.
A number of the large companies and industries within Croatia and gold coins were stolen from Jews by the Croatian Ustasha government and later taken over by Croatia’s government from the year of the nation’s independence in 1991. Some enterprises which once belonged to Jews were privatized by Croatia’s government in non-transparent deals to cronies.
The synagogue in Zagreb was demolished by the Ustasha regime in 1942 with a Jewish place of worship in Rijeka destroyed by Nazis on January 25, 1944.
“US intelligence experts concluded after the War that Ustasha leaders at one time had in their disposal more than $80 million (350 million Swiss francs), most composed of gold coins, some of which were plundered from the victims of the Croatian Holocaust.”
The Swiss National Bank was not the only instution receiving the Croatian Ustasha government’s plundered gold; other countries and territories complicit in hiding gold and currencies stolen from Jews included Austria, Argentina and the Vatican. The US House of Representatives report states the following:
“The largest estimate of Ustashi treasury reaching Rome was made in the October 1946 U.S. Intelligence (SSU) report to the Treasury Department, which estimated that 200 million Swiss francs (about $47 million) “was originally held in the Vatican” before moved to Spain and Argentina. Another October 1946 intelligence report summarizing information on the whereabouts of former Ustasha officials identified an “Ustashi Financial Committee” living in Rome with a large amount of gold at its disposal.”
“The enterprises owned by the Jews of Croatia included large manufacturing and textile companies, banks, theaters, jewelry and watch store retailers and major tanneries such as the Royal Licensed Zagreb Tannery, known as Kožara, founded in 1869, considered one of the largest in Austro-Hungary. The Union Factory of Candied Fruit and Chocolates founded by Julije König and Slavoljub Deutsch was confiscated by the Ustasha regime and is known today as Kraš. The Croatian community in Zagreb, Rijeka and other cities owned significant real estate including a number of large commercial buildings in prime locations.”
The West’s stakeholders, including American and European taxpayers - bankrolling Croatia’s government through direct aid, development and military projects via the US Department of Defense, World Bank, EBRD, EU Cohesion Fund must hold to account Croatian politicians and their cohorts.
Implementing Principled International Pressures and Policy Measures
In order to address the resurgence of anti-Semitism and the evil scheme to fuel Holocaust revisionism in Croatia, principled policy measures should include cutting-off development and military aid and denying visas requested by Croatian politicians and their family members to enter the United States and Commonwealth nations. The European Union must freeze EU cohesion funds and the US should halt World Bank funds designated for Croatia until an international monitoring group comprised of US and European civil society groups and elected officials can verify positive changes within Croatia.