September 12, 2017
Croatia government under fire for failing to tackle pro-Nazis
Far-right group put up a memorial plaque to its members at former extermination camp of Jasenovac.
Marko Skejo, the president of the Croatian paramilitary veterans group HOS, speaks during a press conference in Zagreb, after a memorial plaque with an Ustasha pro-Nazi slogan was moved from the vicinity of the WWII extermination camp of Jasenovac, to a Croatian memorial site near Novska on September 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER
ZAGREB, Croatia (AFP) — With his Hitler-style toothbrush moustache, ex-fighter Marko Skejo leaves no doubt about his politics: the now-disbanded paramilitary unit he fought for displays open nostalgia for a pro-Nazi past that Croatia is struggling to tackle.
The unit, the Croatian Defense Forces (HOS), last week said it would continue to display a memorial plaque for its comrades killed in Croatia’s 1990s independence war which bears the pro-Nazi slogan “Za dom spremni” (“For the Homeland, ready”).
It was the official motto of the fighting group — which disbanded in the early stages of the war — and appears on their coat of arms.
The phrase was used by the country’s World War II Ustasha regime, which persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and anti-fascist Croats.
Ex-paramilitaries had put up the plaque last November by the site of the former Jasenovac camp, known as “Croatia’s Auschwitz,” sparking outrage from the country’s ethnic minorities, rights groups and centre-left opposition.
A memorial plaque with an Ustasha pro-Nazi slogan is pictured after it was moved from the vicinity of the WWII extermination camp of Jasenovac, to a Croatian memorial site near Novska on September 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
After days of negotiations with authorities, HOS agreed to remove the plaque from the camp’s immediate vicinity — only to display it in another location around 10 kilometres (six miles) away.
“No one can touch this… We achieved our goal,” an HOS leader, Ivan Friscic, told a press conference as his comrades chanted their controversial slogan.
Skejo said authorities had failed to remove the slogan from the plaque — “we would be the biggest good-for-nothings if we ceded that.”
Many Croatians were indignant about Conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s handling of the episode.
“Plenkovic caved in to glorifiers” of the slogan, said a comment piece in the Jutarnji List newspaper, while Davor Bernardic, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said the authorities were “inciting fascism.”
‘A different view’
Although the Ustasha’s so-called Independent State of Croatia was a Nazi puppet state, their modern sympathizers such as Friscic and Skejo see the regime’s leaders as the nation’s founding fathers.