Croatian Jews, Serbs, anti-fascists, Roma gather at WWII death camp
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Croatian Jews, Serbs, anti-fascists, Roma gather at WWII death camp

Groups hold own commemoration at Jasenovac, boycotting official ceremony for fourth year because authorities tolerate nostalgia for country’s pro-Nazi past

Hundreds gather at the memorial center to pay their respects for tens of thousands of people killed in death camps run by Croatia's pro-Nazi puppet state in WWII, in Jasenovac, Croatia, Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Nikola Solic)
Hundreds gather at the memorial center to pay their respects for tens of thousands of people killed in death camps run by Croatia's pro-Nazi puppet state in WWII, in Jasenovac, Croatia, Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Nikola Solic)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Jewish, Serb, anti-fascist and Roma groups came together Friday to commemorate the victims of a World War II death camp in Croatia, boycotting upcoming official ceremonies for the fourth year in a row over what they say is government inaction over neo-Nazi sentiments in the country.

Hundreds gathered in silence at the memorial center at Jasenovac to pay their respects to the tens of thousands of people killed in death camps run by Croatia’s pro-Nazi puppet state. Commemorations mark the attempted escape in April 1945 of 1,073 prisoners from the Jasenovac camp when hundreds were killed.

Though the Croatian government will hold a separate commemoration ceremony on Sunday, minority and anti-fascist groups have snubbed an invitation to attend and criticized the authorities’ failure to prosecute those downplaying the crimes of the Ustasha regime in WWII.

A religious service is held at the memorial center for tens of thousands of people killed in death camps run by Croatia’s pro-Nazi puppet state in WWII, in Jasenovac, Croatia, Friday, April 12, 2019.

“Nothing has changed in the past year, the situation is even worse,” the head of Croatia’s Jewish Community, Ognjen Kraus, said in Jasenovac. “The extreme right is getting stronger and more aggressive.”

Kraus said a recent march of a right-wing group in the coastal Croatian town of Split and the continued use by some of the notorious salute used by the pro-Nazi Ustasha troops during WWII were examples of the government’s failure to punish the promoters of right-wing ideology.

“It is time to move from words to deeds,” said Kraus. “It should be clearly stated that crimes and the Holocaust took place here in Croatia and that those who deny it must bear the consequences.”

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, and several foreign ambassadors also attended the commemoration.

Ustaše militants execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp in 1942 or 1943. (Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade/Public domain)

“There are politicians and public figures in Croatia who minimize the responsibility of perpetrators, glorify them or outright deny the occurrence of past crimes,” Mijatovic warned.

“The history of Jasenovac shows very clearly why this is a very dangerous road. Historical revisionism should have no place in today’s Europe.”

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