A commemoration for the victims of the WW2 concentration camp at Jasenovac, organised by the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, started on Friday with prayers, and this was one of the three separate commemorative events that will be held this month on the site of the former Ustasha-run concentration camp.
"We are here to pay tribute to all victims of the Jasenovac Camp," said Coordinating Committee chairman Ognjen Kraus in his brief address at the start of the commemoration, after Rabbi Lucijano Moše Prelevic led the prayer.
Apart from the Jewish organisations, Croatian Serb representatives - parliamentarians Milorad Pupovac and Mile Horvat - as well as a former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, in his capacity as the leader of his non-parliamentary party "Naprijed Hrvatska", also lit candles and laid wreaths.
Also in attendance were Israeli Ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman, Austrian Ambassador Andreas Wiedenhoff, and representatives of the embassies of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Canada, the USA and Serbia and a few Croatian parliamentarian and activists.
The state-level official commemoration, which will be organised by the Jasenovac Memorial Centre, is scheduled for 22 April, but the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities decided to boycott that event and organise one on its own.
The committee has opted for the boycott of the 22 April commemoration because of "political inactivity" with regard to changes made to the exhibits at the Jasenovac museum and "political events regarding the downplaying and revitalising of the Ustasha movement," according to the explanation provided by the committee's leadership last week.
The Federation of Antifascist Fighters and Antifascists (SABA) will organise its commemoration on April 24.
Surviving former inmates and top Croatian officials hold commemorations in late April every year, commemorating the breakout of inmates from the Ustasha-run Jasenovac camp on 22 April 1945 and paying tribute to 83,000 victims of this WW2 camp.
Of the 1,073 inmates who were in the camp on 22 April 1945, six hundred attempted to escape and only about a hundred survived. The remaining 473 inmates who did not try to escape were killed and their bodies were cremated.
The Jasenovac camp was the largest forced labour and concentration camp set up by the Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in marshland at the confluence of the Sava and Una rivers near the village of Jasenovac in the second half of 1941. It operated until the breakout in 1945.