The Centre for Dealing with the Past "Documenta" has issued a statement ahead of Saturday's Bleiburg commemoration to be held in tribute to victims executed by Tito-led Partizans in the aftermath of the Second World War, calling on the Croatian public and politicians to cherish the memories of all victims from the Second World War, and warning that the recent three commemorative events at the site of the Ustasha-run death camp in Jasenovac are the obvious example of deep divisions in Croatian society.
It is believed that thousands of NDH (Independent State of Croatia) soldiers and civilians were killed at Bleiburg in May 1945. They wanted to surrender to the allies, but the British army turned them over to the Yugoslav army. Some were killed in the field and many died in the following months on death marches back to the then Yugoslavia known as the Way of the Cross marches.
Concerning the commemoration and Mass which will be held on Saturday in Bleiburg, the Documenta civil society association recalls that in the Bleiburg field Partisans captured Ustasha soldiers, conscripted Home Guard soldiers, the Serb Chetnics, Slovenian collaborationist paramilitaries and other collaborationist forces as well as members of their families.
"We must not forget retaliatory executions at Tezno (Slovenia) and other sites of mass murder in Slovenia and Croatia as well as impermissible abuse of those who survived those death marches," the NGO said in the appeal issued on Friday.
"We still feel the consequences of the crimes committed during the Second World War and in the wake of that war as well as of numerous politically-motivated processes after the war, notably now when we bear witness to the spreading of hate speech and democratic regression. Nevertheless, the current deep social polarisation might serve as an opportunity for change in treatment of the political history and for showing respect to all victims," Documenta says in its appeal.
The NGO believes that in order to ensure a nuanced attitude towards the past, it is necessary to build a culture of remembrance so as to condemn war crimes committed in the WW2 and its aftermath without discarding positive achievements of the people's resistance (in WW2) and Socialist-era modernisation.
Documenta activists say it is a failed attempt to reduce Croatia's democratic political tradition to only last 25 years, ignoring the freedom-loving traditions since the medieval peasants' revolts through to anti-Fascism towards the promotion of pluralistic democracy.
The NGO calls on political actors to distance themselves and condemn any form of revision of history.