The Independent State of Croatia was a quisling marionette state formed from the territories of present Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1941 to 1945 in support of the Third Reich. Its supporters have been out in force in recent weeks.
Several small far right parties, historically connected with Ustasha regime, get together in the last week of December of 2011 to commemorate the death of Jure Francetic, a Ustasha commander. He responsible for thousands of deaths in concentration camps formed on Croatian territory. Just a days after the pro-Francetic celebration, same political groups with large crowds of supporters gathered at a church in the city of Split, where they celebrated mass for the leader of the NDH (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska/ Independent State of Croatia), Dr. Ante Pavelic. Last but not least, a relatively well-known columnist for the Zagreb Vecernji newspaper, Josip Pavicic, called for the Croatian public and literary community to compare Miroslav Krleza, a poet and author Communist, with Pavelic’s minister responsible for racial laws, Mile Budak (also known as minor writer and author of several books).
What’s striking in first two events is that Church and far right neo-Nazi political groups have succeeded in engaging large crowds of fairly young people, most of whom were born at least forty years after the end of the Second World War. They come out dressed in uniforms with flags and crests of the quisling state which claimed at least half a million lives in less than five years of it’s existence.
Besides singing ultra-orthodox songs celebrating the “bravery” and “heroism” of Francetic, they expressed their pride for what was done under the leadership of Poglavnik (Furher or leader) Pavelic. Young Neo-Nazis came in to fight with police over a decision to cancel their celebration. Following the mass for Poglavnik Pavelic, Simon Wiesenthal Center representative and onetime Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff called the mass: “a disgrace for the Croatian people.” He called on the newly elected government to ban commemorations of Pavelic’s death. In his media statement, Zuroff called the mass a total repudiation of Christian values and an insult to Pavelic’s vitims. So far none of Croatia’s official authorities have reacted to Zuroff’s statements. But knowing the new government is formed from as wide social-democratic coalition, a ban could actually happen.
In 2011 one of the last surviving (but now deceased) Hungarian Nazi commanders, Sandor Kepiro, was found not guilty of all accusations for crimes committed in city of Novi Sad in Serbia. In times like these, it’s not surprising to see mass for war criminals like Francetic or Pavelic in Croatia.
The most worrying fact is that many young people are ready to come out armed with Ustasha memorabilia and to celebrate war criminals as their heroes; presumably, they feel ready to continue their work sometime in the future. Croatia is not sole example of rising Neo-Nazism in Europe. Communities all over Central and Easter Europe are concerned for the future. Elements like these are allowed to live and promote their “values” without any consequences or actions from official authorities. For the Balkans region the danger is not only the rising number of Ustasha supporters in Croatia. Serbia is under the influence of Chethnik supporters and followers of Draza Mihailovic’s ideology. In Bosnia, there is a small but significant group of supporters for these groups; but in Bosnia, there is also an active Wahhabi movement that was involved with the recent attack the US Embassy in Sarajevo. There’s no shortage of old hatreds to go around.