Antifascism is not a platitude and any downplaying of fascism and equating it with any other form of totalitarianism is absolutely unacceptable, Antifascist League representatives said on Saturday, adding that the promotion of the worst parts of Croatian history in the works and statements of new Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic was absolutely unacceptable for a minister.
"Hasanbegovic's works show a continuity in the promotion of the worst parts of history which happened in the 20th century and some recently discovered articles have stirred it up again," Civic Committee for Human Rights president Zoran Pusic told a news conference at the Croatian Journalists Association.
The reasons for the demonstrations and protests against Hasanbegovic's appointment as culture minister do not lie in photos and articles he published 20 years ago because "we all know they began before anyone knew about that," he said.
"The main problem is that Hasanbegovic gave similar statements not 20 but two years ago, that he said that until the end of the Homeland War, Croatia had never won in the 20th century, that he spoke of the SS division and its Hauptsturmfuehrer with great respect and admiration," Pusic said.
The minister speaks as a man who is consistent in his belief that Croatian history began on 30 May 1990, but he says so on his and not the behalf of many Croatian citizens, he added.
"We respect every man's right to his opinion, but we think that a man with such positions has no place in the government as a minister," Pusic said, adding that the state leadership was "trying to minimalise Hasanbegovic's unambiguous apologias of Ustashism and unambiguous animosity towards antifascism and portray it as something ephemeral."
Pusic said that Hasanbegovic's statement on Thursday, "in which he renounced his apologist views of Ustashism," was "extorted" so that he could remain in office.
A representative of the Zagreb Jewish minority, Sanja Zoricic Tabakovic, said that "any downplaying of fascism and equating it with any other form of totalitarianism elicits doubt and even fear... Fascism cannot and must not be equated with any other regime because it was a criminal organisation, a regime created on crime based on racial laws whose application wiped out nearly 50 percent of Europe's Jewish population."
"In Croatia, in four years of the Second World War, 80% of Jews were disempowered and killed, and those who survived did so thanks to their links with the antifascist movement. That's why to us antifascism isn't a platitude but a constant repetition to leave history up to historians and turn to the future," she said, adding that "fascism was the worst crime in the history of mankind."
Speaking on behalf of the Serb National Council, journalist and activist Sasa Milosevic said Hasanbegovic "carries a too heavy burden of his statement to successfully act as a Croatian government minister... This government will be better without him."
As for Hasanbegovic's announcement that he would soon visit the Jasenovac Memorial, he said the Antifascist League awaited the visit "with hope and trepidation... hope that (he) will pursue the direction announced with his apology, and trepidation as to how he will treat his two previous statements about Jasenovac, when he said that the Yugo-communist regime is celebrated there, which simply isn't true, and that state sponsorship of that ceremony should be abolished."
Jasenovac was the site of a concentration camp in the Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia (1941-45).