Neo-Nazism in Croatia


Neo-Nazism in Croatia

Neo-Nazism in Croatia, sometimes called Neo-Ustashism [IWPR: Dragotin Hedl: [http://www.iwpr.net/?p=bcr&s=f&o=246286&apc_state=henibcr1999 Croatia's Willingness To Tolerate Fascist Legacy Worries Many] ] , is a post-World War II political movement influenced by the Ustaša, a Croatian far-right organization supported by the Nazis during the war.

The movement has included people who were either involved with the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) during World War II; sympathizers; and people who utilise their symbolism. The movement mainly arose from a combination of the residual hatred from the Yugoslav wars and Croatian nationalism, and is considered the far-right of the Croatian political spectrum.

Pro-Ustaša symbols and actions have been restricted by law in Croatia since 2003. The most common venue for expressing these beliefs is graffiti, which mostly targets ethnic Serbs.

De-Ustashification

At the end of World War II, the Communist authorities pursued a strict set of policies which could be deemed as a form of denazification, only more similar to the Soviet style than to the American style. People who collaborated with the Ustaše were often court-martialled at the end of the war, and the Bleiburg massacre was committed. After the war was over, there were trials against suspected collaborators, and secret service control over citizens with links to the Ustaše.

The modern Croatia was formed long after World War II was over, and aside from occasional exceptions, there was no desire by the Croatian political elite to associate the new country with the former Independent State of Croatia, or to revisit the status of Croatia as a member of the winning side of that war. While significantly more courtesy was shown to the Ustaše for their desire to make Croatia independent, they were neither rehabilitated nor explicitly banned. Most people wished to leave that part of the past behind. Subsequently, no laws were ever passed that specifically targeted the issues of Nazism or fascism.

President Franjo Tuđman, who had been a Partisan general who had fought the Ustaše, claimed that the Ustaše state was an expression of the desire of Croats to regain their independence after centuries. Such a notion could be considered true in view of Croatia's long historical struggle for independence, but does not give enough consideration to the puppet-state status of the NDH.

In the absence of a specific policy or laws against it, instances of pro-Ustaše sentiment and hate speech were rarely sanctioned, to the dismay of the left-leaning public, as well the Serbs of Croatia who were the most common targets. Anomosity towards Serbs had a lot to do with the Yugoslav wars in which notorious Serbian Paramilitaries committed numerous massacres in Croatia.

On July 11, 2003, the Ivica Račan coalition government passed amendments to the penal code which outlawed hate speech, in a new section titled "Praising fascist, Nazi and other totalitarian states and ideologies or promotion of racism and xenophobia". On June 20, 2006 Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader issued a message ahead of the Antifascist Struggle Day (an official holiday in Croatia), in which he rejected extremism and radicalism, and said that "antifascism was a commitment weaved into the foundations of independent, democratic Croatia". [http://www.vlada.hr/default.asp?gl=200606200000016]

Croatia has no laws against historical revisionism or Holocaust denial. This can be attributed to the change of political system, and the entire system of values as the country became independent. Revisionism was not frowned upon because priority was placed on the re-evaluation of history as recorded during the Communist era, which was therefore deemed almost implicitly tainted.Fact|date=March 2007 The re-examination of the number of victims of the Independent State of Croatia, particularly the Jasenovac concentration camp, was fairly common, as well as fairly controversial.

Expressions of neo-Ustashism

Since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia has often been accused of ignoring the crimes committed by the World War II-era fascist Ustaša regime, and of tolerating the symbols and the activities of individuals sympathetic to that regime. This has led to criticism of Croatia, particularly among Serbs.

The primary reason for the disregard of past fascism has been a lack of priority and care taken by the Croatian public and the mainstream politics towards the issue, because numerous other issues plagued the country at the time. The late president of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, was a champion of reconciliation (Croatian "pomirenje"), whereby Croats of all political views should unite against the shared threat from Serbia. This had the effect of also bringing pro-Ustaše Croats into the fray, their philosophy and ideas no longer taboo. After the war more anti-fascist-inclined people were no longer willing to set aside political differences with the more fascist-inclined. Fact|date=November 2007

In recent times, mainstream Croatian politicians, such as Stjepan Mesić, brought more focus to anti-fascist stances and veterans groups. Remembrance ceremonies at the site of Jasenovac concentration camp resumed, with support from the highest levels of government. Fact|date=November 2007

Emigration

As Croatia emerged from communism in SFR Yugoslavia, and a multi-party system was being established, the Croatian Democratic Union ("Hrvatska demokratska zajednica", HDZ) emerged as the dominant party. Their politicians, including its president Franjo Tuđman, actively lobbied for the financial support of the Croatian diaspora during the late 1980s and 1990s. Some of the most prominent members of the party were former emigres, such as the late Gojko Šušak).

Some emigrants who advocated Ustaša ideas were able to freely return to Croatia in the 1990s Fact|date=May 2007, although the relatively few remaining living Ustaše were elderly and attempts to restore Ustaše iconography were generally unsuccessful. Fact|date=November 2007

Defacement of monuments

In the early 1990s, during the Croatian War of Independence, numerous anti-fascist monuments (erected in honour of the Partisans) have been damaged or destroyed throughout the country, and these incidents were generally not censured by the authorities at all. Furthermore, the devastation of WWII partisan monuments also often extended to those erected in honour of civilian victims of war, also with little or no intervention from the police. The defacements occurred during a period when communist parties lost power in much of Eastern Europe.Fact|date=November 2007

National symbols

There were some objections to the name of the internationally accepted currency of Croatia - kuna, introduced in 1994, which was also flagged for use in 1939 Banovina of Croatia established within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and subsequently used in the NDH (1941-1945). Using the same logic, a sizeable portion of Croatian cultural heritage would also be tainted because the Ustaša misappropriated numerous national symbols.

The Croatian government points to the historical continuity of the use of the kuna (marten in Croatian) on the territory of Croatia, from the use of marten skins during Roman times, the use by Croatian bans (viceroys) of a marten-adorned silver coin between 1260 and 1380, to its reappearance in 1939 for the proposed currency of the Banovina of Croatia ( [http://www.mfa.hr/MVP.asp?pcpid=958] ).

In an interview for "Slobodna Dalmacija" ( [http://iportal.net.hr/vijesti/page/2004/09/13/0140006.html] ), the leader of the Dubrovnik branch of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Dr. Zdravko Bazdan proposed renaming the currency as a "final phase of de-ustashafication". He described it as an act of urgent need for the "spiritual health of the Croatian people".

Names of squares and streets

A square in the central part of Zagreb which was named the "Square of the victims of fascism" ("Trg žrtava fašizma") because during WWII over sixteen thousand people were deported via the square to concentration camps, was during the early 1990s renamed to "Square of great Croats" ("Trg hrvatskih velikana"). This decision was later reverted in December 2000 during Milan Bandić's mayoralty of Zagreb.

In several Croatian cities, streets were renamed after Mile Budak, a prominent Ustaša ideologist, on the basis that he was otherwise a poet. The moves to hail Budak this way, were supported by 120 university professors, scholars, and other public figures ( [http://www.index.hr/clanak.aspx?id=219120] ). Conversely, the leftist newspaper "Feral Tribune" regularly satirized the Mile Budak streets, and its journalists explicitly criticized this trend.

The renaming of streets and squares after Budak (and other Ustaša-related people) has mostly been reversed by recent governments. In 2003, Ivo Sanader's government decided to finally deal with the issue which resulted in renaming all the streets bearing Budak's name. In 2004, a plaque commemorating Budak's birth in the village of Sveti Rok was removed by the same authorities. Fact|date=November 2007

Popular culture

In the world of popular culture, the pop/folk/rock singer Marko Perković ("Thompson") caused a scandal when the media obtained a copy of the fascist WW2 song "Jasenovac i Gradiška Stara" apparently sung by him. Perković was reportedly not prosecuted for this due to uncertainty as to whether it was really he who sang the song. [ [http://www.index.hr/xmag/clanak/thompson-na-maksimiru-trijumf-iz-drugog-pokusaja/351246.aspx Thompson na Maksimiru: Trijumf iz drugog pokušaja - Showbiz - XMag - Index.hr ] ] [ [http://www.index.hr/clanak.aspx?id=178032 Vijesti.net - Thompson - domoljub ili fašist? Konačan odgovor je ] ] [http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/hrvatska-mrznja/351450.aspx] [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/01/europe/croatia.php?page=1]

Perković has appeared on public television, and can still sometimes be seen on it, even though mainstream TV stations do tend to avoid him in order to avoid controversy. He has performed a few concerts that have attracted tens of thousands of people, particularly in areas that were most impacted by the Yugoslav wars. It has been widely alleged that he achieved such large attendances with the support of right-wing political organizations who helped rally people to the concerts. He has been banned from performing in Netherlands and other states that do not allow display of Nazi symbols and celebration of the Holocaust, although his group (Thompson) performed at SS Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic church in Manhattan in November 2007, despite well-reported controversy, after the Archdiocese refused to order the engagement's backers to cancel the production. Fact|date=November 2007 Thompson himself has denied he has anything to do with Nazism numerous times.Thompson calls the campaign against him cheap propaganda. He calls himself a proud Croatian.. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Jbb3EKoKk - Thompson: I am not a Nazi! ] ]

War of Independence

When Croatia began its portion of dissociation from SFRY in the 1990s, there was widespread and growing antagonism between the Croats and the Serbs. The Croatian-Serbian animosity during the Yugoslav wars has been viewed as an Ustaša-Chetnik rivalry. Fact|date=March 2007 To some extent, it is a consequence of wartime propaganda, in the course of which such moralistic debasement is common. Among the organizations formed during wartime which were most commonly associated with neo-Ustashism was the Croatian Defence Forces ("Hrvatske Obrambene Snage", HOS), which emerged as the de facto paramilitary wing of the Croatian Party of Rights. Their symbols included dressing in black (reminiscent of blackshirts to Serbs) and using the phrase "Za dom spremni".

With respect to processing war crimes, both in WWII and in the Croatian war of independence, the Croatian Government has had a rather spotty record for processing those committed by Croats. Fact|date=November 2007 Pressure from the European Union has helped rectify this in recent times. In 1999, Croatia extradited Dinko Šakić from Argentina, one of the commanders of the Jasenovac concentration camp, and he was subsequently tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison.The highest penalty under Croatian law.Croatia has been cooperating with the ICTY in the legal prosecution of all war criminals, which has included Croatian officers. Fact|date=November 2007

Nationalism and neo-Ustashism in mainstream politics

The conservative parties such as the Croatian Party of Rights and the Croatian Democratic Union permeated in their support for heightened nationalism; particularly in the latter, which had a large membership and voter base, it was unclear whether actions of party members were part of actual party policy or result of factioning. Fact|date=November 2007

Parties like the Croatian Party of Rights which are most commonly associated with Ustašism generally aren't able to attract support from more than a few percent of the population. Fact|date=November 2007 In recent times, the Party's image of "pro-Ustaša" was repetitively shunned by its leaders in an attempt to sway more votes. Fact|date=November 2007 Neo-fascist symbols are by and large paired with nationalist ones. In recent protests, supporters of Ante Gotovina and other suspected war criminals sometimes carried nationalist symbols together with pictures of Ante Pavelić.

This kind of conflation sometimes produces bizarre inconsistencies, as shown at picture on the right: at the time when the ICTY wanted Croatian general Janko Bobetko, the right-wing part of the public was adamant in its demands to prevent that, and some extremist painted graffiti saying so, together with neo-fascist symbols. At the same time, Bobetko was quite clearly not a neo-fascist himself, because his family was killed by the Ustaše Fact|date=November 2007, and he fought against them as part of the First Sisak Partisan Brigade.

Catholic clergy

Controversy was caused on June 2008 when Croatian military bishop Juraj Jezerinac recitated a song of Marko Perković Thompson, the controversial singer mentioned above, during a sermon in a church in Vukovar. [ [http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/Hrvatska/tabid/66/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/12498/Default.aspx Državni vrh protiv fašizma, Crkva protiv podaništva > Slobodna Dalmacija > Hrvatska ] ] The song contained also the NDH motto "Za dom Spremni". [ [http://www.bljesak.info/content/view/12187/159/ Bljesak.info - Biskup Jezerinac na misi recitirao Thompsona ] ]

Simon Wiesenthal Center director Efraim Zuroff complained to the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić about the funeral of Dinko Šakić, one of the leaders of the army of the Independent State of Croatia, who died on July 2008. At that funeral, Croatian Dominican priest pater Vjekoslav Lasić held a speech in which he said that "the court that indicted Dinko Šakić indicted Croatia and Croatians", and that "every Croat should be proud of Šakić's name". [ [http://www.nacional.hr/articles/view/47685/2/ Zuroff Mesiću: Osudite organizatore Šakićevog sprovoda (Dnevne vijesti) – NACIONAL ] ]

erbophobia

There are instances of explicit anti-Serb hate speech: the phrase "Srbe na vrbe!" (meaning "hang Serbs on the willow trees!") frequently appears in graffiti and as slogans of Croatian football hooligans.

Ultranationalist Croats use to shout the slogan "Kill the Serb" frequently during public events.Fact|date=May 2008 According to some Croatian media, a group of youths chanted this during a concert by Marko Perković Thompson. [ [http://dnevnik.hr/bin/article.php?article_id=48080&page=5&p_all_items=44 60 tisuća ljudi po nevremenu dočekalo Thompsona, vikalo se i 'Ubij, ubij Srbina!' - Dnevnik.hr ] ] [ [http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/thompson-pozdravio-norca-rulja-uzvikivala-ubij-srbina/388987.aspx Vijesti.net - Thompson pozdravio Norca, rulja uzvikivala "Ubij Srbina!" ] ]

ports

Some Croatian football supporters or other sports fans regularly display Ustaše symbols. In 2007, Croatian football fans formed the letter U in a stadium during a match in Bosnia. [ [http://fildzan.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1651&Itemid=32 www.fildzan.info - Koševo: Navijači Hrvatske formirali "U" ] ]

In October 2007, the Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija reported that NK Imotski's official clothing items featured Ustaša-related symbols (The letter U and the Independent State of Croatia-resembling coat of arms inside the letter. That was, in fact, the logo of the club's leading sponsor, the edile company gUj (meaning "Gojko Und Jure"). Some historians and critics claim the symbols display is an open praising of the Ustaše. [ [http://www.jutarnji.hr/dogadjaji_dana/clanak/art-2007,10,28,imotski_U,95909.jl Imotski nogometaši nose na dresovima ustaško znakovlje - Jutarnji.hr ] ] The club's president, Nediljko Tolo, said: "As long as the sponsor finances our club, we will carry those symbols on our dresses". [ [http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/20071028/novosti02.asp Slobodna Dalmacija ] ]

In early November 2007, the Croatian Second League Association announced that NK Imotski violated FIFA, Croatian Football Federation rules and laws of the Republic of Croatia. NK Imotski had to end a sponsorship deal with gUj until the company changes its logo. NK Imotski had to find new uniforms for the players and remove all gUj advertisements around the stadium. [ [http://dnevnik.hr/naslovnica/vijesti/hrvatska/20071101_29476.php NK Imotski s 'ustaškim' majicama prekršio zakon - Dnevnik.hr ] ]

In November 2007, it was reported that members of the Hajduk Split supporters' group, Torcida Split, were wearing black T-shirts featuring the words "Hajduk jugend" (alluding to Hitlerjugend) in Fraktur and an eagle atop Hajduk's logo (resembling a Nazi Party symbol). The T-shirts were also being sold on Torcida's website. Stipe Lekić, the secretary of Torcida said to reporters that "Torcida has always been leaning to the right", but rejecting accusations that the T-shirts have connections with Nazism. He said that he was wearing the T-shirt because he liked the symbols. [ [http://www.jutarnji.hr/dogadjaji_dana/clanak/art-2007,11,2,torcida_nacizam,96530.jl Torcida blati Split nacističkim orlom - Jutarnji.hr ] ] [ [http://www.torcida.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=848&Itemid=134 partnersuche travel media shopping computers at torcida.org ] ]

Also in November 2007, a Swastika appeared on Osijek's Gradski vrt football field, together with the slogan "Play, fags!". That was, reportedly done before the match with Međimurje. NK Osijek's and their Kohorta fan association condemned the acts. [ [http://www.net.hr/sport/page/2007/11/06/0623006.html Net.hr ] ]

Footnotes

External links

* [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/01/europe/croatia.php A Croatian rock star flirts with Nazi past] , July 1, 2007, International Herald Tribune
* [http://www.iwpr.net/?p=bcr&s=f&o=246286&apc_state=henibcr1999 "Croatia's Willingness To Tolerate Fascist Legacy Worries Many"]
* [http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/news/opendoc.htm?tbl=NEWS&id=42f38b084&page=news "Home again, 10 years after Croatia's Operation Storm"]
* [http://www.novilist.hr/Default.asp?WCI=Rubrike&WCU=286028632859285A2863285A28582858285C286328962897289E286328632859285A28592861285C286028632863286328582863W Article detailing an example of a man from Zadar carrying Ustasa symbols]
* [http://www.index.hr/clanak.aspx?id=301266 Tabloid article reporting the alleged playing of an Ustasha song during the interval of a club (European) volleyball match]
* [http://www.novilist.hr/default.asp?WCI=Pretrazivac&WCU=285A28582863285D2863285A28582858285E2863286328632859285A28592860285A286028632863286328592863R Article on war veterans march in Zadar with some participants sporting Ustasha memoriabilia ]
* [http://www.novilist.hr/default.asp?WCI=Pretrazivac&WCU=285A285C2863285D2863285A28582858285E2863286328632859285F2859285F2861285828632863286328592863V Tabloid article reporting the sale of Ustasha memoriabilia in Zadar]
* [http://www.vaticanbankclaims.com "Link to information about the ongoing lawsuit to recover the Ustasha treasury and post war money laundering by the Ustasha]


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