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Croatia’s main Serb organisation will again boycott the annual state commemoration at the WWII concentration camp Jasenovac because a plaque with an Ustasa fascist slogan was installed near the site.
The Serbian National Council, SNV, the biggest organisation representing Croatia’s Serbs, announced on Sunday that it will boycott the state commemoration of the Croatian World War II fascist concentration camp at Jasenovac on April 22.
Like last year, the SNV will boycott the commemoration because the state authorities have not removed a plaque dedicated to 1990s Croatian soldiers which feature the Ustasa slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’), which was installed in the Jasenovac municipality.
SNV president Milorad Pupovac, who is also a Croatian MP, explained that “the plaque bearing [the words] ‘Za dom spremni’ and the commemoration of the Jasenovac victims can’t go together”.
“Minorities made a great contribution to Croatia’s accession to the EU. However, after the official entry, certain circles have appeared who believe that the state doesn’t have to fulfil its obligations [to minorities]. Those who today can’t endure a minority don’t want the best for Croatia or its citizens,” Pupovac said.
Representatives of the Alliance of Anti-Fascist Fighters and Anti-Fascists of Croatia also said on Sunday that they will boycott the state commemoration.
Both groups will hold a service at an Orthodox church in the village of Mlaka near Jasenovac and organise an alternative commemoration.
In mid-March, the Coordination of Jewish Communities, the larger of two Jewish groups in Croatia, said that it will boycott the commemoration due to the government’s alleged leniency towards those sympathetic to the WWII Croatian fascist Ustasa regime, which ran the camp.
The Coordination also mentioned the plaque as one of the reasons for its boycott.
It will commemorate the Jasenovac victims on April 24, thus marking Jom HaShoah, Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Coordination also boycotted the state-organised commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January.
The country’s second Jewish organisation, the Bet Israel group from Zagreb, confirmed later in March that it will not attend the state commemoration at Jasenovac either.
The country’s various Roma communities have still not voiced their opinion on the issue.
Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi-aligned Ustasa movement killed over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists in the camp.
Every year, representatives of victim groups and state officials come to pay their respects and mark the last attempted breakout by camp inmates in April 1945.
During a visit to Croatia last week, the US State Department envoy for Holocaust issues, Tom Yazdgerdi, warned the authorities that symbols of the WWII fascist Ustasa movement are offensive to victims and their families.
“I think that symbols are important, we know that this plaque is especially offensive to the Holocaust survivors and their family members… It is hard, especially for the Holocaust survivors, to watch those symbols,” Yazdgerdi told Croatian news agency, HINA on Thursday.