BELGRADE, Serbia — Belgrade’s Jewish community on Monday denounced comments from a Serbian opposition leader that appeared to embrace supporters of a Nazi collaborator who helped oversee the murder of thousands of Serbian Jews during World War II.
The blowback came after political activist Sergej Trifunovic told local media that the opposition should unite supporters from across the spectrum, saying it is “totally irrelevant” whether people “keep at home a picture of… Dimitrije Ljotic or (Josip) Broz Tito.”
Ljotic is notorious for aiding the WWII Serbian puppet government that brutally sought to make the country “free of Jews”, killing more than 80 percent of the 33,000-strong community that existed before the war.
Tito, on the other hand, was the leader of the anti-fascist movement during the war who went on to lead communist Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.
“We address you on behalf of 11,000 Belgrade Jews who were killed in camps and execution places throughout Belgrade thanks to the propaganda machinery of Nazi collaborator Dimitrije Ljotic,” the Serbian capital’s small Jewish community, who today number less than 1,000, wrote in an open letter to the political leader.
The community accused Trifunovic of “heinously equaling those who fought against fascism and those who were helping occupiers in making Serbia a ‘Jewish free’ state.”
“Do you think that it should be ‘irrelevant’ if in a German house there is a photograph of chancellor Willy Brandt or of Adolf Hitler?” the letter added.
Trifunovic, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, is an actor who has become one of the main faces of weekly opposition protests that are challenging the government of President Aleksandar Vucic.
The marches, which bring thousands to the streets of Belgrade every Saturday night, have drawn an eclectic patchwork of participants, from progressive groups to far-right nationalists.