Anger at Croatian school’s snub of Anne Frank exhibit
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Anger at Croatian school’s snub of Anne Frank exhibit

Head teacher drops exhibition because it included panels on crimes committed by country’s World War II pro-Nazi regime

Anne Frank's former bedroom in the 'Secret Anne,' the heart of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2012 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)
Anne Frank's former bedroom in the 'Secret Anne,' the heart of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2012 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

A Croatian school came under fire Tuesday for refusing to display an exhibition on Holocaust diarist Anne Frank because it included panels on crimes committed by the country’s World War II pro-Nazi regime.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the school’s head to be dismissed, saying otherwise it signaled that pro-Nazi nostalgia was “perfectly legitimate” in modern-day Croatia.

The exhibition, prepared by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, was due to be displayed at a high school in the coastal town of Sibenik from Tuesday last week.

But the organizers withdrew the same day after the school’s director Josip Belamaric refused to allow six panels explaining the role of Croatia’s wartime Ustasha regime, saying the pro-Nazis were presented as “criminals” while their rival communists’ crimes were ignored.

Croatian leader Ante Pavelic (left) pictured with Nazi German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in June 1941. (CC BY-SA/Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2008-0612-500/Wikimedia Commons)
Croatian leader Ante Pavelic (left) pictured with Nazi German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in June 1941. (CC BY-SA/Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2008-0612-500/Wikimedia Commons)

The Ustasha persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, has written to Croatia’s charge d’affaires in Tel Aviv in protest at Belamaric’s behavior and seeking his immediate dismissal.

“A failure to do so will indicate that Ustasha nostalgia is perfectly legitimate in today’s Croatian school system,” wrote the head of the center’s Israeli office, Efraim Zuroff.

The exhibition, due to be displayed until mid-February, had previously been presented in 23 Croatian towns without any problem, the organizers said.

Frank wrote “The Diary of a Young Girl” while hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic from June 1942 to August 1944. More than 30 million copies have been sold in 67 languages.

Anne Frank, age twelve, at her school desk in Amsterdam, 1941.
Anne Frank, at age 12, at her school desk in Amsterdam, 1941

Frank died in Germany’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp early in 1945, aged 15, less than a year after the Nazis found her and her family members.

Croatia’s conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who came to power after a snap election in October, has pledged to move away from extremism.

Simon Wiesenthal Center's Efraim Zuroff. (Photo credit: JTA via Creative Commons)
Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff. (JTA via Creative Commons)

The previous center-right government was accused by critics of turning a blind eye to a far-right surge in the country, including nostalgia for a pro-Nazi past.

Croatian Jews are planning to boycott an official ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, accusing authorities of downplaying the Ustasha crimes.

Also Tuesday, Zuroff accused Israel of “abdicating its duty” to Holocaust survivors following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to mention Croatia’s poor record towards the genocide in a statement after he met with the country’s prime minister this week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković, January 24, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković, January 24, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Plenkovic arrived Tuesday on an official visit to Israel to discuss boosting ties, as the two countries mark 20 years since establishing diplomatic relations.

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