Croatian soldier of the Ustasha, 1942.
(photo credit: WILLY PRAGHER/BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG STATE ARCHIVES/WIKIPEDIA)
The idea to erect a monument dedicated to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust is usually applauded by Jewish people around the world.
However, a recent decision in Zagreb, Croatia to erect such a monument has earned the displeasure of many Jewish bodies, including the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
On June 4, Zagreb City Assembly elected to build a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Zagreb city center, and has faced a backlash for its decision.
The WJC said in response that erecting a monument to all Jewish victims diminishes the role in the Holocaust played by the fascist Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a German-allied state in existence from April 1941 until 1945, that was led by dictator Ante Pavelic.
Pavelic's organization, known as the Ustasha, set up a number of concentration camps throughout Croatia that murdered hundreds of thousands of opponents of the regime.
Around 29-31,000 Jews in the NDH were killed, and estimates state that around 75% of deaths were at the hands of the Ustasha, compared to around 25% by the Germans.
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: “The authorities in Croatia have continuously attempted to rewrite history and absolve the Ustasha regime of its indisputable complicity in the brutal mass murders of Jews, Roma, and ethnic Serbs." adding that erecting such a memorial is a "distortion of the historical record and an insult to the memory of the men, women and children who perished."
Lauder continued, "The Croatian authorities are once again making every effort to conceal the monstrous crimes of the Ustasha by giving the false impression that Nazi Germany alone was responsible for horrors of the Holocaust."
He also called on the city assembly to "scrap its plans for this memorial and begin again from scratch, this time in full coordination with the local Jewish community.”
The Jewish Community of Zagreb (ZOZ) also said in a statement that the aim of the monument is to downplay the role of the Ustasha and the gravity of the atrocities committed against tens of thousands of Croatian Jews.
ZOZ President Ognjen Kraus expressed the community's opposition to erecting the monument in a letter to the Zagreb City Assembly, saying that this decision should not have been adopted without respecting their opinion, and called on the assembly to rethink its "shameful" decision.
Croatia today has a Jewish population of around 1,700, most of whom live in Zagreb.
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