ZAGREB, May 13, 2018 – Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Saturday that the national legislature would continue providing patronage for the annual mid-May central commemoration of victims killed in the Austrian Bleiburg field in the wake of the Second World War, and underscored that those developments in the aftermath of the WW2 were a difficult chapter of the complex Croatian history.
He called on the Croatians to continue building a democratic pluralistic future of their country with the same responsibility with which they founded the independent Republic of Croatia.
Addressing this year’s Bleiburg commemoration, which was held on that southern Austrian field today, Jandroković recalled that last year he had given a promise that the commemorations would be held under the patronage of the parliament and added that he would stick to his decision. “Primarily, it is our moral, human and civilisation obligation to remember the victims of the crimes committed out of revenge, hatred, intolerance and ideological reasons,” the official said.
Annual commemorations in mid-May are held to remember tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH) who surrendered to allied forces there in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to the Partizan-led Yugoslav forces. Many were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia.
Jandroković recalled in his speech that those atrocities used to be glossed over and perpetrators were not held to account. “Today, at this place, we pay tribute to the victims – civilians and disarmed soldiers and all lost lives and also to those who survived and to their families whose testimonies must not fall into oblivion.” This chapter of Croatia’s history was the downfall of humanity and human dignity, freedoms and rational action, Jandroković said.
After crimes perpetrated by the Fascists during the WW2, committing systematic and well-planned crimes against members of the Croatian people in Bleiburg, the Communist authorities paved the way for totalitarianism and restriction of freedoms as well as persecutions of those who had different opinions and thus killed the hope about building a democratic society, he added.
For decades, the Croatian people used to be hostage to the totalitarian Communist regime and subjected to mass-scale violations of human rights, physical and mental terror, Jandroković said. “This is Croatia’s history. It is not simple: it is complex, difficult and paining.”
He went on to say that the war of independence from 1991 to 1995, which was a pillar for the present-day modern, independent Republic of Croatia, was the period when the Croatian people surmounted the differences and showed capability of being united in efforts to gain the right to freedom and their own sovereignty. “Today when we have our own country, it is the duty of all of us to remember all victims and pay tribute to every human being who has courageously and honourably opposed any form of non-democratic rule,” he said.
He also called for promoting “coexistence of different interests and ways of life being brought together by fundamental values of the Croatian people: our Christian roots and belonging to the European civilisation heritage”. This means a society that is “based on spirituality, virtue and humanism in which the other human being and their dignity and rights are respected,” he said.
The Croatian parliament speaker went on to say that such a society is founded on efficient dialogue and on search of common ground for cooperation and problem solution to the benefit of the Croatian people in their homeland and abroad. “All of us are supposed to find additional strength and courage to identify and accept such system of values in order to overcome in a mature and responsible way all examples of intolerance and divisions in the society.”
Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency Dragan Ćović called for the unity among the Croat people and for remembering the tribulations of their ancestors.
The ceremony began with a mass led by the Archbishop of Zadar and President of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference Želimir Puljić. “Here we pray for the peace and rest of the souls of thousands of people killed at execution sites and buried, without a name or grave marker, in mass graves,” Puljić said at the start of the service.
He called on those in attendance to pay tribute to all victims of the war and the post-war period, “especially those who were killed without a trial after the end of World War II and their earthly remains were buried and hidden in known and unknown mass graves and pits.”
The ceremony was organised by the Bleiburg Guard of Honour, in cooperation with the Directorate of Pastoral Care for Croats Abroad and the Croatian Catholic Mission in Klagenfurt, and was held under the patronage of the Croatian Parliament and the co-patronage of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Also, the imam from the Croatian town of Gunja, Idris Bešlić, said prayers for victims of the Islamic faith.