Restaurant honours mass murderer (Herald Sun, April 13, 2008)

An acclaimed Melbourne restaurant has sparked multi-ethnic outrage for paying homage to a fascist warlord and mass murderer.

The plush Katarina Zrinski restaurant attached to Footscray’s Croatian Club has been branded “disgusting” for its celebration of genocidal World War II Croatian leader Ante Pavelic.

Pavelic, who historians say was responsible for the deaths of up to 500,000 Jews, Serbs, Muslims and gypsies, has been described as the Heinrich Himmler of the Croatian nation.

The popular restaurant during the week displayed a big portrait of Pavelic on its wall and T-shirts depicting Pavelic for sale at the bar.

The T-shirts also showed two commanders of the Ustashe’s notorious Black Legion, which murdered thousands of civilians, and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, who was jailed for collaborating with the Ustashe.

Drinkers at the bar were also toasting “The Poglavnik” - the name fascists use for their Fuhrer - and on Thursday the restaurant commemorated Hitler’s establishment of the puppet state of Croatia on April 10, 1941.

On Tuesday the restaurant was reviewed in a Melbourne newspaper’s food section, with its “large, airy downstairs dining room perfect for large, extended family groups”.

Dr Bob Miller, a Balkans expert at the Australian National University, has hit out at the club’s feting of Pavelic.

“It’s disgusting. This would be the equivalent to the German community honouring Himmler,” he said.

“Even the Nazis found the Ustashe regime’s actions so brutal as to be counter-productive.”

Serbians in Victoria have also expressed their distress.

“How can they do this?” George Marinkovic, publisher of the Serb Voice, said.

“Can someone explain this? We are in one beautiful country and you are going back and promoting fascists from the Hitler era. I cannot understand it.”

Dr Colin Rubinstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said: “While it is entirely understandable that Croatian Australians would want to celebrate the self-determination of modern democratic Croatia [as if it’s not the direct legacy of WWII Croatia], to celebrate a fascist World War II Nazi puppet state and its war criminal leader is totally contrary to the norms of multicultural Australia and should be condemned by Australians committed to a tolerant, diverse and democratic society.”

Club president Tony Juric acknowledged the restaurant honoured Pavelic, but said the leader had nothing to do with the Nazis.

“What the Nazis did was a disgrace and we had nothing to do with that,” he said. “I have never received one letter of complaint from a Jewish or a Serb organisation.”

One is left too speechless after that last line to offer intelligent commentary. But to echo Dr. Miller, it was the Nazis who ultimately wanted nothing to do with the Ustashe, as the latter were far too brutal.

Serb returnees, priest under attack in Croatia (B92, Tanjug, March 23, 2008)

ZADAR, ZAGREB — Ethnic Serbs in the vicinity of Zadar, in Croatia, have once again been targeted Saturday. Unknown perpetrators broke into and robbed a house in the village of Ceranje Donje near Benkovac. The house, which belongs to late Gojko Čubrilo, and is now used by his daughter Ksenija J., both Serb returnees, was then vandalized. The attackers also spilled some 500 liters of wine from the barrels inside the house. Beside this incident, Croatian MUP in Zadar also said a car belonging to Orthodox Serb priest Ljubomir Crnorak was stoned in Benkovac, when all the windows on the vehicle were smashed.

The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Dalmatian Eparchy condemned the incidents, and said the priest’s vehicle likely came under attack because of false allegations, printed in a local newspaper, that Crnorak “had erased the Croatian coat of arms from his license plates”.

The vice-president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in Croatia, Milorad Pupovac, also condemned the attacks, which happened in his native village, where six returnee houses were vandalized last year.

Some 250,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed from Croatia during Operation Storm in the summer of 1995. Official Croatian government data says that 50,000 of them have since returned.

Serb Basketball Fans Hurt in Croatia (Balkan Insight, Jutarnji list, Tanjug, March 17, 2008)

Five Serbian citizens were beaten up while taking a break at a service station in Croatia, local media reported Monday.

The five, fans of the Vojvodina basketball team, were driving in a car with Serbian plates on their way back from Split where they had attended a match between Serbia’s Vojvodina and Croatia’s Split basketball teams.

They had stopped to rest in Dobra in central Croatia early Sunday when they were attacked by a group of masked people.

Croatian police confirmed the incident. The Jutarnji list daily said no one was seriously injured but other sources reported that two were hospitalized while other three suffered minor injuries.

(If the victims had traveled in order to cheer the Vojvodina team, there’s a good chance that, ironically, they were ethnic Hungarian citizens of Serbia, another group that’s looking for a piece of Serbia for itself. But all it took to get hurt was a Serbian license plate.)

On this very weekend in 2008, we also saw the following Croatian epiphany:

Croatian Breakthrough: This Year, Let’s Not Give Less Money to the Holocaust Memorial than to the Memorial for the Nazis who Killed People There

Oh but here’s post-EU Croatia:

Wiesenthal Centre urges Croatia to end pensions to Nazi [veterans] (AFP, May 19, 2015) (It’s actually a double pension, according to the article above, enacted within two years of Croatia starting its secession war.)

And full-circling back to this week, from Jerusalem Post, by Simon Wiesenthal’s Efraim Zuroff, April 13, 2016:

…Earlier this week, Croatian army veterans (of the war of the Nineties against Yugoslavia) of the Ninth Division gathered to celebrate their unit’s 25th anniversary, but also to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) which was governed by the fascist Ustasha movement and pursued genocidal policies against Serbs, Jews and Roma. The veterans’ call to legalize the Ustasha salute of “za dom spremni” (the Croatian equivalent of the Nazis’ “sieg heil”) is an attempt to legitimize the murderous policies of the NDH and whitewash that regime’s crimes.

Another typical initiative, but one which is much more dangerous, is a new documentary movie entitled Jasenovac-Istina (Jasenovac - The Truth), which had its world premiere this past February 28 in Israel, of all places, most probably to help deflect potential criticism of its highly controversial content. Jasenovac, which was established in August 1941, was the largest of the concentration camps created by the Ustasha regime of the NDH in order to rid their country of its minority populations, as well as their Croatian political opponents…

…[T]he film claims that Jasenovac was actually only a labor/concentration camp, not one at which there was any attempt to commit genocide of any sort, and that the number of Ustasha victims there was less than the number of innocent people murdered by the Yugoslav partisans after the war on the same site. In other words, it was the Communists who set up a “death camp” in Jasenovac, not the Ustasha, a totally unsubstantiated claim without any hard evidence to back it up.

…In addition, the film accuses former Croatian presidents Mesic and Josipovic, both known for their opposition to fascism and Ustasha nostalgia, as well as several left-wing journalists, of keeping alive the [”]Communist myth[”] of Jasenovac, and covering up the full truth about postwar Communist crimes. Needless to say, recently-appointed Croatian Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic, who is well known for his support for right-wing causes, was quick to praise the film. [See Wiesenthal Center Shocked by Appointment in Croatia of Fascist Culture Minister Hasanbegovic and Calls for his Immediate Replacement, Feb. 5.]

Given these circumstances, the Serb and Jewish communities, along with the Croatian anti-fascist organizations, have decided to boycott the official government memorial ceremony annually held at Jasenovac on April 22. Instead, the Jewish community announced that it would hold its own memorial ceremony a week earlier on April 15, as a form of protest against the government’s failure to act against the revival of fascism and anti-Semitism in the public sphere.

The only good news in that respect these days was a declaration by both the Croatian president and prime minister (separately) that the Ustasha government was a “criminal regime,” but these pronouncements were apparently only made at the request of the US State Department’s envoy on Holocaust issues, who met with them earlier this week in Zagreb. […]

Interestingly, while the date March 24th was symbolically reserved for the Karadzic verdict this year, those headlines came perilously close to being upstaged on that same day by an unwelcome headline regarding our pal Croatia, “Croatia’s ‘Banal’ Fascism on Display at Israel Match.” (Four days later, Zuroff was busy again: “Wiesenthal Center Calls for Sanctions Against Croatian Soccer Fans in Wake of Fascist and Anti-Semitic Chants at Recent Israeli-Croatian Friendly Match

Indeed, why is a Nazi hunter having such a busy 2016 in Croatia? Here he was the previous week:


Nazi-Hunter Criticizes Croatia Fans’ Fascist Chants
(Balkan Insight, April 6, 2016)

…“If the prime minister and/or at least other ministers would have clearly and unequivocally denounced the disgusting behaviour of the Croatian fans after the match, the damage done would have been mitigated somewhat, but the only response from the prime minister’s office was a short press release condemning the use of symbols and slogans of totalitarian regimes, without mentioning the match and the specifics of the event,” Zuroff wrote in his article.

[Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic’s statement responding to the Jewish and Serb boycott of the annual Jasenovac commemoration seemed to blame the boycotters: “I’m sorry that this occasion, instead of paying respect to the victims, is used for politicization that opens new divisions in society. All that not only insults the victims and their families, but also inflicts huge damage on Croatia.” (It’s apparently gotten so that the previous government, itself no beacon of anti-fascism, has joined the boycott, acknowledging that the current government has a fascism problem.)]

[Zuroff] also criticised Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and Education and Sports Minister Predrag Sustar, who attended the match against Israel in Osijek, for not reacting immediately.

“Given the fact that these chants were clearly heard by all those in the stadium, their failure to respond is an indication of tolerance for such outrageous, insulting and clearly anti-Semitic behaviour,” Zuroff said.

Zuroff alleged that Croatia is “a country where manifestations of fascism and anti-Semitism are very common, especially in the local soccer stadiums…”

…Football governing body FIFA fined the Croatian Football Federation 55,000 euros after fans chanted “Za dom spremni” at a match against Norway in March 2015, and ordered the national team to play its next match to an empty stadium. […]

And yet here was that June:

Croatia faces hardline sanctions over swastika etched on pitch (InsideWorldFootball.com, By Mark Baber, June 15, 2015)

…[I]ncredibly, despite a giant swastika being emblazoned on a pitch during a televised match which was being held behind closed doors due to previous racist incidents, the game continued with groundsmen attempting, but failing, to remove the markings at half-time.

…Following the imposition of the closed door sanction, the Croatian FA…blamed an anti-racism campaigner for bringing the problem of racist chanting to the attention of UEFA, despite the history of Nazi sentiment expressed by Croatian fans which included 200 of them lining up in swastika formation on the terraces in a game against Italy in Livorno 2006. The ineffectiveness of the Croatian Football Federation in tackling the problem is unsurprising given that [Croatian Football Federation president Davor] Suker himself has been photographed paying his respects at the tomb of the fascist Ustase leader and war criminal Ante Pavelic in Madrid.

Then that August (under a slightly different headline): Croatians chant “Kill a Serb” at concert organized by local authorities to celebrate Serb-expulsion national holiday (Balkan Insight, Aug. 6, 2015)

And September:

Croatia coach defends controversial choice of Simunic [as his assistant, citing Simunic’s “decency”, “patriotism” and promoting “a good atmosphere”] (Joe Simunic was of course the soccer star who celebrated Croatia’s World Cup qualification in November 2013 with the Croatian-fascist chant “Za Dom Spremni” — a Croatian ‘indiscretion’ that uncharacteristically found its way to mainstream radars, such as ESPN’s.)

Meanwhile, a few more details on Croatia’s new culture minister, Hasanbegovic, a Croatian Muslim:

Croatian Historian Condemns Minister’s WWII Rhetoric (Balkan Insight, April 13, 2016)

…Culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic has never expressed any regret for his controversial statements in the 1990s praising Croatian Nazi-allied Ustasa fighters as heroes, [historian] Natasa Matausic told BIRN in an interview…Matausic also criticised more recent statements by Hasanbegovic in which he…insisted that Croatia was “tragically defeated in 1945…”

Hasanbegovic has said that the state should cut the funding for the annual commemoration at Jasenovac, arguing that the event was used for “the rehabilitation of Yugoslav communism”…Matausic also had harsh words for Croatia’s HDZ-backed President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, who visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in January.“I remember, after my first visit to Auschwitz, faced with the fact that the name ‘death factory’ for this camp is not a metaphor but a literal meaning, I was completely broken. I couldn’t eat, sleep or see anyone near me,” Matausic said.“The president, in the other hand, had enough strength to support our handball players at a match in Cracow after her visit to Auschwitz,” she added…

Mind you, what expectations can one have of the permanently recovering fascists of Croatia, when the godfather himself — the U.S. — gives tacit blessings to such goings-on? It was after a doppelganger Croatian year of escalating clerical-fascist activity (2006-07) that NATO gave the nod to Croatia as its/our home base in the Balkans:


As you probably are not aware, on October 1st [2007] NATO began twelve days of special forces maneuvers on land and in the air and sea, on the Yugoslav side of the Adriatic. Thirteen countries are participating, including twelve NATO members plus Croatia, which is hosting the maneuvers even though it is not a member — a first. Albania and Montenegro, also not members, are observing. Serbia is not.

These military maneuvers, positioning Croatia as NATO’s command center in the Adriatic Sea area, with coastal states Albania and Montenegro as deputies (see map), are being held after a year of escalating clerical-fascist activity in Croatia, activity to which NATO, by presenting Croatia as a model Adriatic state, has given its blessing.

Now, keeping this year’s ‘colorful’ Croatia headlines in mind, enjoy this final flashback to Bush’s last year, 2008:

Bush: Croatia a Good Example for the Region

The United States of America supports Croatia’s membership of NATO, said the president of the USA, George W. Bush in an interview for Croatian Television (HTV)…adding that…Croatia has become an example for the other countries created after the fall of Yugoslavia…I am coming to a different country from the one visited by my forerunner Bill Clinton. Since then society, government and economy have changed – said the president of the most powerful country in the world. He explained that NATO is important because it will ensure stability and security, which will attract foreign investments which bring well paid jobs.

Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Sanader of Croatia in Zagreb, Croatia (PRNewsWire, April 5, 2008)

…The United States appreciates the leadership you have shown in the cause of freedom. We re pleased Albania and Croatia have been invited to join NATO…Laura, who has joined me today, and I are proud to stand on the soil of an independent Croatia.
(Applause.)

The Croatian people have overcome war and hardship to build peaceful relations with your neighbors, and to build a maturing democracy in one of the most beautiful countries on the face of the Earth.

(Applause.) Americans admire your courage and admire your persistence.

And we look forward to welcoming you as a partner in NATO.

Henceforth, should any danger threaten your people, America and the NATO Alliance will stand with you, and no one will be able to take your freedom away.
(Applause.)

With the changes underway in this region, Europe stands on the threshold of a new and hopeful history.

The ancient and costly rivalries that led to two world wars have fallen away. […]

So much for that.

Croatia has served as a very good example, following a very dramatic moment, and that is the breakup of Yugoslavia…I’m really looking forward to going to your country…And they say it’s one of the most beautiful coastlines in the entire world.

–President George W. Bush, March 26, 2008

As we all know, human rights don’t matter if you’ve got a nice coast. And so that’s usually what most articles about Croatia in the West are about. Not only was HBO’s “Game of Thrones” sold on it, filming part of the show there, but CNN has been known to loop Croatian tourism ads saying ‘Croatia — the Mediterranean as it once was.’

And so Croatia, that good guy of the Balkans — “leading the way to the EU” — pledged help to other Balkan nations on their own path to the EU: Croatia pledges to help fellow Western Balkan countries on path to EU (Xinhua, March 29, 2008)

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic said on Saturday that his country is willing to assist fellow Western Balkan countries on their path to EU membership by offering them its experience and advice…Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed the positive role of Croatia in stabilizing the region….

As Miodrag Linta, head of Serbia’s Coalition of Refugee Associations, put it in November 2014, Croatia presents itself “as a country that has met all the requirements before entering the European Union and therefore claims the right to lecture Serbia about respecting the standards of democracy and the rule of law - which represents the pinnacle of cynicism.”

He added:

More than 100,000 people gathered [in Knin, Croatia, to commemorate 1995’s Serb-cleansing Operation Storm] for the 11th time, organized by Marko Perković aka Thompson, many of whom carried flags, hats and other props with the symbols of the WW2-era Nazi entity known as the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Linta added that those gathered in Čavoglava sang songs with lyrics such as, “Oh mother Croatia, we will slaughter Serbs …” and the like, and also chanted slogans of NDH’s Ustasha regime which spread hatred towards Serbs. Linta specifically invited parliamentary groups to condemn, in a declaration, convicted war criminal Dario Kordić, former president of the HDZ party in Bosnia-Herzegovina and vice-president of the war-time Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia entity. He this year addressed the event in Čavoglave and said it was “a magnificent gathering, and a road sign showing Croatia where it should go.”

Kordić, Linta recalled, was this year was released from prison after serving two thirds of his sentence of 25 years, handed down by the Hague Tribunal for the war crimes he committed against Bosniak civilians.

Meanwhile, in addition to graciously offering to mentor other Balkan countries vis-a-vis the EU, Croatia in 2009 also made this promise: “Croatia won’t block Serbian integration”

Fast-forward:

Croatia to block Serbia from joining EU over [2003] war crimes law (Feb. 6, 2015)

Serbia’s EU accession talks blocked by Croatia (March 21, 2016)

Croatia Stalls Serbia’s EU Negotiations (April 7, 2016)


EU Urges Croatia Not to Block Serbia’s Path
(April 15, 2016)