SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A leading Jewish human rights group has called on Bosnia’s authorities to ban a memorial Mass for Croatian pro-Nazis killed at the end of World War II.
The controversial gathering of Croatia’s far-right supporters has been held annually in the southern Austrian village of Bleiburg, but had to be moved to Sarajevo and the Croatian capital, Zagreb, for next Saturday because of travel restrictions and a ban on mass gatherings during the coronavirus crisis.
Honoring “the genocidal Ustasha state (NDH) is not only an insult to its victims and their families, but also to all those who opposed the crimes committed by the Ustasha,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement on Thursday, referring to the World War II Croatian puppet pro-Nazi regime.
Tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats perished in the Ustasha-run death camps during World War II and the Bleiburg massacre of pro-Nazis is seen by historians as revenge by the victorious communist partisan fighters immediately after the war ended.
For Croatian nationalists, the controversial annual event symbolizes their suffering under communism in the former Yugoslavia before they fought a war for independence in the 1990s.
The central commemoration ceremony in Sarajevo is scheduled to be performed by Archbishop Vinko Puljic, the highest-ranking clergyman of the Catholic Church in Bosnia. A parallel event is to be held at a graveyard in the Croatian capital.