October 31, 1993
"Pro-Nazi Legacy Lingers for Croatia",
At a souvenir stand in Zagreb's central market, glaring down over key rings, cigarette lighters and T-shirts, hang portraits of a firm-jawed man in military uniform. He is Ante Pavelic, who headed the pro-Nazi Government that ruled Croatia from 1941 - 1945.
When a photographer tried to take pictures of the souvenir stand one morning recently, he was quickly surrounded by thugs from the criminal syndicate that controls the market. Amid invective and threats, they forced the photographer to open his camera and turn over his film.
The episode reflects the combination of pride and embarrassment that meny Croatian nationalists toward Pavelic's Government and the fascist Ustashe movement that he headed. Because ten of thousands of Jews, Serbs and others in the Ustashe death camps, official rehabilitation of the Pavelic Government is not possible. Yet... Croats view the Ustashe as an essentially nationalist movement and recall that until Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, the years of Ustashe rule were the only period of independence in Croatia's modern history. They believe that it is unfair to condemn the Ustashe years... as purely evil period.
President Tudjman reflects this uncertainty. Under his leadership, Croatia has taken several steps that suggest he has sympathy for what Ustashe did. At the same time, Mr. Tudjman's refusal to condemn the Ustashe legacy helps solidify his support among Croatian nationalists and among rightist Croatian (i.e. Ustashe) exiles who contribute to his political campaigns...
Mr. Tudjman decreed that Croatia should adopt a red-and-white checkerboard coat of arms that closely resembles the symbol of the Ustashe state. That coat of arms is now part of the Croatian flag... It is a symbol almost as hateful as the swastika.
This year, the Croatian Parliament accepted Mr. Tudjman's recommendation that the country adopts a new currency and call it the kuna, which was the name of the national currency in the Ustashe period.
A prominent Croatian Jew, Slavko Goldstein, wrote
... the decision "will awaken very deep feelings of antagonism in...
the population for whom these associations are extremely painful."
Under the Croatian Constitution, Mr. Tudjman has the right to appoint five people to seats in Parliament, and one of his appointees was Vinko Nikolic, who was official in the Ustashe education ministry.
In a newspaper interview, he defended the reputation of several Ustashe leaders, including Dido Kvaternik, who is believed to have signed wartime orders authorizing mass executions.
Mr. Tudjman himself has made several statements, both in speeches and in written works, that seem to suggest a prejudice against Jews and to cast doubt on widely accepted versions of what happened at Ustashe and Nazi death camps...
Mr. Tudjman has made no clear effort to disassociate himself from either the Ustashe legacy or sentiments of anti-Semitism...
A bomb heavily damaged the Jewish community center in Zagreb two years ago... a museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church was bombed a year later. The Serbian museum was bombed before dawn on April 10, 1992. That date was 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Ustashe state, which included not only most of present-day Croatia but almost all of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina...
Mr. Tudjman has allowed the renaming of a school in honor of the late Mile Budak, who served the Ustashe Government as Minister of Education, Ambassador to Germany and Foreign Minister...
...Dunja Spajc, who works with Jewish refugees from Bosnia, said:
"...I see all these awful disguisting symbols, the false newspaper articles and the streets and squares being renamed. This country is in great poverty, not just economically but ethically. It terrifies me."