The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said on Friday that they had organised a separate commemoration of the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp from the one to be held on April 22 because they wanted to warn the state authorities and everyone in Croatia of "the revitalisation of Ustasha ideology in society" and the downplaying of crimes committed during the WWII Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH), adding that this feeling was shared by others at the commemoration.
The official commemoration for the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp will be held next week. After today's commemoration at which Rabi Mose Prelevic conducted prayers for the dead, Kraus underscored that other Jewish communities in Croatia had attended today's commemoration. "We have come to commemorate the Jasenovac victims and all Jews who were killed in this Ustasha camp based on the racial laws of the NDH," he said.
"We have come here because the revitalisation of Ustasha ideology is indeed present in Croatia and is only condemned in passing. It is like an avalanche that has been rolling for more than a year," Kraus said, recalling what occurred in the NDH and had begun in 1933 in Germany.
He expressed dissatisfaction because condemnation of the Ustasha regime by top state officials came only after the decision for a separate commemoration was announced and because it was done on April 10, the anniversary of the day NDH was founded.
"As far as Deputy Prime Minister Karamarko is concerned, he has never condemned this camp. He absolutely downplays things and has never mentioned racial laws or the Ustasha ideology. An extreme right party which until now has never had any significance in society has in fact become the mouthpiece of the ruling party," Kraus said.
"I hope Croatian society got the message the Jewish communities have issued about not attending the commemoration to be held on April 22." Kraus confirmed that they would not attend the commemoration on April 24 either, which is being organised by the Alliance of Anti-Fascist Fighters (SABA), because the Passover starts then.
The Serbian National Council (SNV) joined today's commemoration and as has been earlier announced it will not attend the official commemoration or the one organised by SABA. SNV leader Milorad Pupovac underscored that they were there today because "they should be."
"We decided to be with our brothers in calamity, the Jews, and to be with anti-fascists who fell victim here because of their beliefs and with all those other victims here," he said.
Pupovac and Kraus underscored that they had made the "painful decision to separate themselves from the state commemoration" because they wanted it to be known that it was high time "to stop the downplaying of Ustasha atrocities committed here and elsewhere," as well as the "revival of Ustasha values in Croatia."
Pupovac believes that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's condemnation of the Ustasha regime was not sufficient because she did not condemn the events occurring today. "Instead she has accused us of allegedly not respecting the victims. Yet we haven't heard condemnation of those who negate and downplay the victims, who should be condemned, except in the form of condemnation of totalitarian regimes," Pupovac said.
For a single commemoration to occur again in Jasenovac it is necessary, he said, to condemn events that are present now and to apply the law. "It is necessary to start working on education, to remove those who introduce the so-called truth into schools and books and are in fact pardoning crime and are establishing lies as the truth," he said.
What is most important however, he said, is "that they invite us for talks." He said that two months ago all organisations of victims sent Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic a letter to meet with him, but the meeting was never held. "He didn't deem it necessary to explain what sort of commemoration he envisaged and what we thought it should look like and what he means by depoliticising this place," Pupovac said.
The former President and leader of the Forward Croatia - Progressive Party, Ivo Josipovic, said that the three commemorations in Jasenovac were a sign of division between "those who know what occurred in Jasenovac and who know who was on the right side and who on the wrong side, from those who only pay lip service to Croatian anti-fascism and actually have a hidden agenda."
That is a grave situation, he stressed, because it changes values. He recalled his stance on the "revival of the Ustasha snake" which he was lambasted for. "They claimed that that was mere propaganda. I think that it isn't and over the past few months, events in Croatia are proving me right," he claimed.
Leader of the Croatian People's Party - Reformists Radimir Cacic said that Jasenovac was a "matter people should be unequivocally clear about", warning that today there was "a sick revitalisation of crimes committed by the Ustasha regime," a regime that functioned on racial laws.
"Naturally, homage has to be paid to the victims of all forms of totalitarianism, including communism, but the Ustasha ideology cannot be compared to anything," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Anti-Fascist League, Zoran Pusic said that today there is a "shameful" silencing and rejection of the political context that led to the Jasenovac victims. "Symbols and greetings that are characteristic of those who committed these crimes are today spreading throughout Croatia," he said.