After the Axis powers overran Yugoslavia in 1941, they divided parts of it among themselves while granting independence to an expanded Croatia. Governed by its own homegrown fascist party, the Ustasha, Croatia began slaughtering Jews and Serbs. The country’s current government is now trying to rehabilitate the Ustasha’s reputation, and the organized Jewish community has responded by boycotting state-sponsored Holocaust commemoration events. Menachem Rosensaft writes:
The present stand-off between the Croatian Jewish community and the Croatian government (which celebrated Croatian independence on Sunday) over the manner in which the Holocaust is commemorated—or not commemorated—and the effective rehabilitation and glorification of the Ustasha came to a head after a March 2016 Israel-Croatia soccer match, where Croatian spectators shouted the notorious Ustasha slogan Za dom spremni, or “Ready for the homeland,” in the presence of the Croatian prime minister, who apparently sat by without reacting. . . .
It is true that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic had . . . condemned the Ustasha’s role during the Holocaust during a 2015 visit to Israel. . . . On a subsequent trip to Canada, however, Grabar-Kitarovic sent a far different message when she posed with a group of Croatian émigrés holding a flag bearing the Ustasha symbol. . . .
Even President Grabar-Kitarovic’s description of the Ustasha as a “collaborationist” regime [in her Yad Vashem statement] falls far short of the mark. . . . While the Holocaust in most parts of Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe was carried out predominantly by Nazi Germany, albeit with the assistance and often eager participation of nationals of the respective countries, Croatia is in a separate category, together with Ion Antonescu’s fascist regime in Romania. The genocide in the Independent State of Croatia, headed by the Ustasha leader and ideologue Ante Pavelić, was carried out not by Germans but by Croatians without direction or even participation by the SS or other German genocidaires.
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