Croatian Jews to boycott WWII death camp commemoration
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Croatian Jews to boycott WWII death camp commemoration

Jewish community says authorities not combating resurgence of pro-Nazi ideology, plans separate ceremony

A man looks at the World War II Jasenovac memorial camp model on April 26, 2015, during a ceremony to remember the tens of thousands who were killed by Croatia's pro-Nazi regime. (AFP/Stringer)
A man looks at the World War II Jasenovac memorial camp model on April 26, 2015, during a ceremony to remember the tens of thousands who were killed by Croatia's pro-Nazi regime. (AFP/Stringer)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian Jews said Monday they would boycott a commemoration ceremony for victims of the country’s most notorious World War II death camp, accusing authorities of failing to respond to a revival of pro-Nazi ideology.

“Jewish municipalities in Croatia decided not to take part in the commemoration for the Jasenovac camp victims,” the country’s main Jewish association said in a statement.

Instead of attending the event planned for later this month, a separate commemoration “in line with the Jewish tradition” will be organized, it added.

The association said “daily political events related to relativization and revitalization of the (WWII pro-Nazi) Ustasha regime” were among the reasons for the boycott.

The association’s chief, Ognjen Kraus, pointed to the chanting of pro-Ustasha slogans during a January protest of thousands, including deputy parliamentary speaker Ivan Tepes, in the capital.

Similar slogans were also chanted during a football friendly match between Israel and Croatia in March which was attended by top officials including Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic, said Kraus, who also warned against “hate speech in the media.”

“The state is simply not doing anything about it, and does not want to,” he added.

Since the new conservative government took over in January, rights groups and prominent intellectuals have been urging the dismissal of Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, whom they accuse of sympathizing with the Ustasha regime in the past.

Every year at Jasenovac a commemoration ceremony, attended by the country’s top officials, is held in April to mark an attempted escape of some 600 camp inmates in 1945.

The camp, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of the capital Zagreb, was set up in 1941 by the Ustasha regime and was known as “Croatia’s Auschwitz.”

The total number of people killed at the camp — mostly Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians — remains disputed, varying from tens of thousands to 700,000, according to Serbian figures.

Some 75 percent of around 40,000 Croatian Jews were killed by the Ustasha.

Jews now make up less then one percent of Croatia’s population of 4.2 million.

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