Croatian Activists Target Fascist Slogan Near WWII Camp

As reported in Balkan Insight, 12/29/16

Police questioned youth activists who covered up a controversial plaque which includes a fascist slogan near the Croatian WWII concentration camp in Jasenovac.

The plaque in Jasenovac was covered by a poster by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

Three activists from the Zagreb-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO were taken to the police station in the town of Novska in central Croatia for questioning on Thursday after they pasted a poster over the plaque with the fascist slogan in the nearby municipality of Jasenovac, not far from the former concentration camp.

The NGO said that the police then forwarded the case to the state attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file a criminal report about the alleged vandalism of a memorial.

The plaque, commemorating 11 soldiers who died during the 1990s war, includes the ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) slogan, which was used by the World War II Croatian fascist Ustasa movement, which also ran the nearby concentration camp in Jasenovac, where over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists were killed.

The slogan is also part of the legally-registered coat of arms of the Croatian Defence Forces, which fought in the 1990s war and whose veterans installed the plaque.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights said in a statement that the slogan represents “a manifestation of a racist ideology and glorifies the fascist regime of the NDH [the Nazi-aligned Independent State of Croatia]”.

In a letter on the poster that the activists pasted over on the plaque, they said that Croatia respects human rights and that its institutions are based upon democratic principles.

“Our republic is established in accordance with these values and is clearly defined against any and all non-democratic, non-free, racist, fascist and totalitarian attempts,” the letter said.

It also accused the Croatian Defence Forces veterans’ association which put up the plaque of mocking the victims of fascism and flouting democratic principles.

“With this plaque of yours, you have, by emphasising symbols of hatred, stood against the basic postulates of our shared country. Furthermore, perhaps unintentionally, you have had used the killed [soldiers] by using their deaths for the promotion of efforts that oppose the constitutional principles of Croatia,” it said.

After Croatian weekly newspaper Novosti reported about the plaque in December, it was condemned in both Croatia and Serbia, with critics saying its proximity to the former concentration camp was an insult to the victims of the Ustasa regime.

A parliamentary committee discussed the issue and also found that it insulted the victims and that “necessary actions need to be carried out for the removal of the plaque”, but no more was done.

The Croatian Defence Forces were founded in 1991 at the beginning of the war in Croatia as a paramilitary unit and the military wing of the far-right Croatian Party of Rights, then integrated into the regular Croatian Army in 1992.