Index.hr talks to Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem about Croatia’s new Minister of Culture. A translation of the interview.
Croatian Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović could soon start making problems for Croatia in its international relations. Israel is particularly sensitive about his revisionist views on history, especially concerning events during the World War II. Index.hr spoke briefly about Minister Hasanbegović with historian Efraim Zuroff on February 3, 2016.
Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, is the coordinator of Nazi war crimes research worldwide for the Wiesenthal Center and the author of its annual “Status Report” on the worldwide investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals which includes a list of “most wanted” Nazi war criminals.
Have you been following the events in Croatia in the last few months?
“You are talking about the new Culture Minister? Yes, I have been following the events involving him.”
In an interview, Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović has expressed his understanding for the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Husseini and his transgressions before, during and after the World War II. He basically said that the Mufti was a victim of historical circumstances, of British colonialism and militant Zionism. Could you give your comment?
“Hahahaha… The next thing he will say is that Ante Pavelić was also a victim of political and historical circumstances. This is disgusting. I do not understand how such a person can become a minister in a country which is a good and respected member of the European Union.”
However, he has been appointed and it seems that he will remain in the government. Not only is he more or less admiring al-Husseini, but he also argues that antifascism is just empty words.
“Interesting… If there is anything that should be a source of pride for the people of Croatia then it is those people who fought against the Ustasha, those who fought for freedom and against those who were killing minorities in the Independent State of Croatia. Croatia was divided between Ustasha and those who fought against them and everyone who has a little bit of morals and intelligence should know that the Ustasha were criminals and not heroes. It is unbelievable that someone would admire people from the “Handschar Division”, who were the worst possible people.”
Are you planning to continue to closely monitor Croatia due to Minister Hasanbegović?
“We will study all the information about him. And I would ask you to send me whatever you can find. I am currently ill, but tomorrow I will send an official protest to the Croatian government from my office.”