Jews in Croatia Boycott Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, members of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities, a Croatian organization dedicated to Holocaust education and remembrance, boycotted the government’s Holocaust Remembrance Day activities due to the government’s downplaying of Croatian collaboration with the German Nazi regime during World War II.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked around the world every year on January 27 to commemoratethe liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. This year, Jews in Croatia are protesting the commemoration, alleging that the government has not done enough to counter right-wing glorification of the Ustasha regime. The Ustasha regime, a Croatian fascist organization in power during World War II, was complicit in the killing of 83,145 Serbs, Jews, Roma, anti-fascists, and other dissidents.

A memorial plaque near the sight of the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia reads “Za dom spremni,” which translates to “Ready for the Homeland,” a slogan popular with the Ustasha regime. The plaque is a controversial topic, even among Croatian lawmakers. Members of the Parliament’s Constitutional Committee say the plaque is an "insult to the victims of the Jasenovac camp," and criticized the installation of the plaque and government inaction. Despite these statements from the government, local officials have taken no actions to amend or remove the plaque. Furthermore, plaques similar to the one in Jasenovac have appeared in other towns across the country. Escalating the controversy is the contrast between the state allowing the slogan, while banning the red star that symbolizes the communist-led Yugoslav Partisan army. Another reason for the boycott is anger after the director of a high school in the town of Sibenik removed an exhibition on Anne Frank.

Last year, Holocaust Remembrance Day was also boycotted due to what was perceived by Croatian Serbs and Jews as both a casual and state-sponsored resurgence of World War II nationalist values, and an inadequate portrayal of the horrors within the concentration camp.