Goran Borković writes about the antifascist event held on Friday in Zagreb.
The Victims of Fascism Square in Zagreb was again too small to accommodate hundreds of people who, just like in the 1990s, came to defend “that” what they though, in the words of Zoran Pusić from the Antifascist League, had already been defended, writes Goran Borković in forum.tm on April 24, 2016.
“However, ‘that’ which is in more normal countries commonly referred to as basic civilization values, in Croatia is being brought into question in almost regular intervals, including now, except that this time it is not the ‘Old Right’ attacking the antifascist name of the square, but Jasenovac which, according to the ‘New Right’, was just a working and a concentration camp until 1945, when it allegedly became a death camp for the opponents of the new government.
And not only that, but according to Culture Minister Zlatan Hasanbegović, one of the ideologues of Karamarko’s HDZ, the whole story about Jasenovac prisoners’ breakthrough on the night of 21/22 April 1945 – is fictional. At least according to actor Vili Matula, who quoted the Minister saying this to Slavko Goldstein while patting him on the shoulder.
This was the reason why, organized by the Coordination of Jewish Communities, the Serbian National Council and the Anti-Fascist League, those who did not even consider joining the official commemoration at Jasenovac, which was organized by the current government, gathered at the Victims of Fascism Square.
‘The reason for not going to the commemoration in Jasenovac is identical to the one which made us gather here today to warn about a series of events in the last six months, especially the dangerous changes in the society in which extremists are becoming a legitimate political option, said Pusić, pointing out that these events included Ivan Tepeš, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who marched at the head of a crowd which was yelling “Ready for the Homeland” in front of the Council for Electronic Media building, as well as Minister Hasanbegović who subsequently requested the dismissal of members of the Council, and not the Deputy Speaker.
Moreover, said Pusić, instead of a clear condemnation of revisionism, some members of this government are very actively involved in the revision with the aim of downplaying and falsifying the Ustasha crimes, as was the case with the film “Jasenovac – the Truth” by Jakov Sedlar and Hrvoje Hitrec.
As for honouring the victims, continued Pusić, I believe that for the vast majority of them it would be more important our commitment and determination to confront relativisation of ideas that led to their suffering than any kind of laying of flowers. I believe it would be more important for them to confront the dark parts of our history and to protect the values on which antifascism emerged and without which societies sink into fear and states into tyranny.
Historian Nataša Mataušić told what happened during the breakthrough attempt from Jasenovac in 1945, which was led by Ante Bakotić from Sinj.
‘On the night of 21/22 April, 71 years ago, jammed into a dark building, the last male prisoners could choose between certain death and uncertain breakthrough. The open space to the front gates was covered with machine-gun nests. All 1,073 of them, how many people remain in the camp, could remember the column of women who had been taken the same evening, but did not return. Several of the prisoners hanged themselves that night. While explosions with the purpose of concealing the crimes were being heard in the camp, some of them led by Bakotić separated and made a breakthrough plan. “Forward, comrades”, they yelled and moved toward the gates 650 metres away. Machine-gun fire decreased the number of inmates from one moment to the next. Of those 600, how many started the attempt, only 106 survived. The others found their death during the breakthrough or later in the river. Exhausted, malnourished, tired, they were easy prey for the Ustasha machine guns. Of those who stayed in the camp, no one survived. That very same day, there was also a breakthrough attempt from the Tannery in Jasenovac itself. Out of 167 prisoners there, only 11 survived. Just on the last day, 1,122 prisoners were killed’, she said.
Historian Hrvoje Klasić said that he had never spoken publicly with stronger emotions. He recalled his home town of Sisak and the difficult fate that had befallen the local Serbs, Jews and antifascists. Here are just some of the rules which were in force: it was forbidden for all Jews to enter bars, cafes and hotels; Serbs were allowed to move around the city only from 8 am to 6 pm; Croatian cultural societies had to purge some of their members given the fact that Serbs and Jews could not be their members; Jews were supposed to be evicted from their rental flats; they were not allowed to go to cinemas and stay on promenades; and all those who were spreading the word about persecutions were to be tried by court-martial. Jews were collectively responsible, so they will be imprisoned, such was the order by Ante Pavelić. The result was an ethnically cleansed Sisak.
‘In the summer of 1941, some of the citizens of Sisak morally faltered and decided to commit a terrible crime. Did it have to happen like that? Was this moral stumbling a given or a dogma? It was not! It was not then, and it is not now. Each person can choose whether to commit a crime. Some of them decided to become criminals, but other people decided to confront them and form a resistance movement. People are potentially ready to commit a crime. Evil exists and has always existed in humans. Not only in Croatia, but also in Germany and Norway. Therefore, the role of society is important because it has to do all it can so that this potential would not be realized and that such people would represent just a minuscule share of the overall population. They must not become mainstream and walk the streets dressed in black uniforms’, said Klasić, while Daniel Ivin said that the abduction of the past was a crime as well, calling on the gathered crowd to fight and oppose all such attempts”, writes Goran Borković.