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Nazi Nostalgia in Croatia


Diana Johnstone

When

I visited Croatia three years ago, the book most prominently displayed in the

leading bookstores of the capital city Zagreb was a new edition of the notorious

anti-Semitic classic, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". Next came

the memoires of the World War II Croatian fascist Ustashe dictator Ante Pavelic,

responsible for the organized genocide of Serbs, Jews and Romany (gypsies) that

began in 1941, that is, even before the German Nazi "final solution".

However,

if the Croatian fascists actually led, rather than followed, the German Nazis

down the path of genocide, that doesn’t mean they have forgotten their World War

II benefactors. After all, it was thanks to Hitler’s invasion of Yugoslavia that

the "Independent State of Croatia" was set up in April 1941, with

Bosnia-Herzegovina (whose population was mostly Serb at the time) as part of its

territory. And the hit song of 1991, when Croatia once again declared its

independence from Yugoslavia and began driving out Serbs, was "Danke

Deutschland" in gratitude to Germany’s strong diplomatic support for

Zagreb’s unnegotiated secession.

In

the West, of course, one will quickly object that the Germany of today is not

the Germany of 1941. True enough. But in Zagreb, with a longer historical view,

they are so much the same that visiting Germans are sometimes embarrassed when

Croats enthusiastically welcome them with a raised arm and a Nazi "Heil!"

greeting.

So

it should be no surprise that this year’s best seller in Croatia is none other

than a new edition of "Mein Kampf".

This

is not a critical edition, mind you, but a reverently faithful reproduction of

the original text by that great European leader, benefactor of Croatian

nationalism and leader of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler.

The

magazine "Globus" reported that "Mein Kampf" is selling like

hotcakes in all segments of Croatian society.

For

those who want to read more, there is a new book entitled "The Protocols of

Zion, the Jews and Adolf Hitler" by Mladen Schwartz, leader of the Croatian

neo-Nazi party New Right, and "Talks with Hitler" by the Fuhrer’s aide

Herman Rauschning, as well as various other memoires celebrating the Ustashe

state whose violent massacres of Serbs shocked the Italian fascist allies and

even German diplomatic observers at the time.

The

dissident Croatian writer Predrag Matvejevic, who has Italian citizenship, has

sent the Rijeka daily "Novi List" an open letter to the Association of

Croatian Writers and the Croatian center of the International PEN club

denouncing their failure to protest at this promotion of the absolute worst of

racist Nazi propaganda. "Passing through the streets of Zagreb, Split,

Dubrovnik and other cities in Croatia, countless Croatian citizens whose parents

took part in the anti-fascist Partisan struggle are ashamed to see the works and

photographs of Hitler and other Nazi and Ustashe criminals displayed in bookshop

windows," he wrote. "Their publication is a disgrace to Croatia and

its culture". This is "no accident", he said, "in Tudjman’s

Croatia."

For

this is the same regime, he noted, that has allowed the destruction of thousands

of monuments to the victims of fascism, from one end of Croatia to the other,

and in which mass is celebrated non-stop in honor of the Ustashe "fuhrer"

Pavelic in the churches of Split and Zagreb, the Italian daily "Il

Manifesto" reported on September 3.

In

another report in "Il Manifesto", Giacomo Scotti reported from Zagreb

that the terrorist campaign by nationalist bands led by the neofascist

"Croatian Party of Rights" has been stepping up its pogroms against

the small number of Serbs now living in the Krajina region. The overwhelmingly

Serb population was driven from the Krajina by the U.S.-backed "Operation

Storm" in August 1995. Officially, under heavy international pressure, the

Croatian government has allowed some Serbs to come back, mostly old farmers.

However, on August 25, the Croatian Supreme Court denied local tribunals the

right to hear complaints from citizens who had not been allowed to enter their

property, thus encouraging lawlessness. With the complicity of the authorities,

armed bands have been breaking into the few homes reoccupied by their Serb

owners, beating and threatening old people and devastating their farms, chopping

down trees and destroying crops to force them to leave. These facts are

contained in two letters to the Croatian government from the Croatian Helsinki

Committee for Human Rights.

By

now, however, it is abundantly clear to everyone that crimes of intimidation,

physical violence, murder, robbery, vandalism or "ethnic cleansing"

are of no interest to Western governments, to international media or to any

court in the world so long as the victims are Serbs.

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