The Wiesenthal Center, named after Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, has expressed "its shock and indignation at several actions taken, and comments made, by newly-appointed Croatian Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic" and calls on the Croatian government to immediately dismiss Hasanbegovic. due to his comments on Croatia's history during World War II.
"We urge the Croatian government to replace Mr. Hasanbegovic with a person suitable for the post of Minister of Culture who will bring honor and prestige to the post, rather than embarrass his country before the entire world," reads a statement issued by this Israeli-based organisation on Saturday.
The statement signed by the Center's Israel and Eastern European Affairs Director Dr. Efraim Zuroff reads that "the Center sought to express the outrage caused by Minister Hasanbegovic's publication of the notorious book about Holocaust commemoration by the universally-discredited American (Jewish) author Norman Finkelstein and his baseless and totally inaccurate comments regarding the history of Croatia during World War II and the Holocaust."
"The mere fact that Hasanbegovic publishes such trash, which he advertises on the website of the well-known white supremacist organization Stormfront, is sufficient reason to disqualify him from serving as a minister in the government of a European Union member in good standing."
Zuroff also criticises Hasanbegovic for his "blind refusal to recognize the genocidal nature of the Ustasha regime, and his disdain for the brave Croatian anti-fascists who fought against it."
Hasanbegovic's appointment has angered the Croatian Opposition and a part of non-governmental organisations that find some of his comments on Croatia's history controversial. Hasanbegovic, a historian, has rejected those objections as unfounded.
On the other hand, dozens of Croatian historians responded to what they describe as an unprecedented public campaign against a government minister in Croatia, expressing concern about "distorted reports and uninformed interpretations" of some statements by the new Culture Minister.
"As historians we express deep concern about the way some statements made by Dr Zlatko Hasanbegovic, the Culture Minister, have been used for his political, professional and moral discrediting," reads a statement signed by 77 historians.
Such distorted reporting and uninformed interpreting, primarily of Hasanbegovic's statements in the political talk show Otvoreno in May 2015, has taken the place of well-argumented discussions, which are crucial not only for historiography but for every public policy and has narrowed the arena for public debates in a rarely seen way, the historians said.