High state delegations on Friday laid wreaths at the sculpture "Moses" at Zagreb's central cemetery of Mirogoj on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Wreaths were laid by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s envoy Anja Simpraga, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman and Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen-Korzinek.
“We should all consider it our goal and priority to keep the memory of all victims and not allow these topics to cause divisions in society,” Simpraga told reporters, underlining the importance of education about the past for young generations.
She recalled that ahead of Croatia’s presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2023, the Croatian government adopted three IHRA working definitions and that in the period to come meetings would be held on a single remembrance ceremony at Jasenovac as well as that talks would continue on a ban on the Ustasha salute “For the homeland ready”.
Minister: Revisionists causing divisions should be excluded from public sphere
“Maybe dissonant voices are sometimes louder, but I would say that most of our citizens are aware of the suffering that happened in World War II and the plight of the Jewish people, as well as all the other victims. I think that in our education system and all the other channels of information dissemination you hear much more about those events,” Obuljen-Korzinek stressed.
Such testimonies must be affirmed and revisionists who use such painful topics to cause divisions should be excluded from the public sphere, she said.
With regard to the restitution of the Jewish property, the minister said that the governments had been working on it continually since the 1990s and that a large number of real estate properties claimed back had been returned to their owners.
We are also working on determining the origin of artworks, an issue that has been neglected for a long time, not only in Croatia and its museum community, but in many other countries, and we have formed a team of experts to work on that, she said.
All countries have passed through those processes, some assets and some buildings will be returned, some will be marked in museum collections so that their origin is known, and that is one more contribution to the culture of remembrance, the minister said, noting that it was a way of reminding museum visitors that some of the items on display were confiscated from their owners who were killed, just like the victims commemorated at Mirogoj.
Asked about derelict Jewish cemeteries, Obuljen-Korzinek said that there were overlapping competencies in that regard and that in cooperation with several Jewish communities those cemeteries had been mapped and that Croatia had joined an international project to mark those cemeteries.
That situation is especially sensitive if there are no heirs, and laws say that after a grave has not been maintained for some time, the plot can be allocated to someone else, she said, adding that those cemeteries should be preserved as memorial heritage.
‘Crimes like this should be prevented from happening again’
A wreath was laid at Mirogoj also by Social Democratic Party leader Pedja Grbin who said: “It happened once and it can happen again. That is the message that we must send today so as to help prevent similar crimes and inhumane treatment.”
Asked by reporters if a ban on the salute “For the homeland ready”, used in the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH), could help in those efforts, he said that the opposition was not the one that could pass a law to that effect.
“That can only be done by the ruling majority which must decide if what the government adopted a few days ago is only lip service or if they believe in what they voted for,” he added.
“Croatia has taken over the chairmanship of the international organisation and adopted certain non-binding documents that should, among other things, contribute to banning hate speech and fascist symbols.”
“Let us turn what the government adopted, taking care the documents are non-binding, into something legally binding,” Grbin said.