The Croatian government and parliament must respect the constitution, and the fact that the World War II-era Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready" is unconstitutional, said the head of the Jewish Community of Zagreb (ZOZ), Ognjen Kraus at a commemoration for the victims of the World War II concentration camp at Jasenovac on Sunday.
The commemoration for the victims of the Ustasha-run concentration camp, where numerous Jews were killed, was organised by the ZOZ and the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, and it was the third consecutive annual commemoration held separately from the main government-organised commemoration.
Addressing the gathering, Kraus explained the reasons why this year again, as in the two years before, the Jewish community has decided to commemorate Jasenovac victims in a separate ceremony, without taking part in the main commemoration.
"We demand that the government and parliament respect the Croatian constitution. After a year-long work, the Commission for Dealing with the Past decided that the salute 'For the homeland, ready' is unconstitutional. This makes its proposal to allow the use of that salute for commemorative purposes - that is, in exceptional cases, whatever that may mean - even more scandalous," Kraus said, adding that "Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has announced that those exceptions would be regulated by law."
"In law-based countries, if a legal provision is unconstitutional, it is aligned with the constitution, and if administrative acts by relevant institutions are contrary to the law or the constitution, then they are put out of force," said Kraus.
"We expect the government to send the parliament as soon as possible a set of legal regulations to be aligned with the Constitution so that this matter is finally resolved by adopting that law. For us, any use or form of the salute 'For the homeland, ready' in Croatia is unacceptable," stressed Kraus.
He went on to say that "the Jewish community cannot accept any rewriting of history or, when totalitarianism is discussed, the equating of the National Liberation Struggle (NOB) and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), or the NDH and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The NDH was founded on racial laws, can that really be equated (with the NOB and the SFRY)?."
Kraus called on Croatia's president and prime minister to be "clear in their messages, without the constant 'buts'."
"The contribution of Jews to Croatia's culture, economy, science, health and other fields of work throughout its history exceeds by far the size of our community in the past, and especially today. That is why we believe that we deserve at least the minimum respect, understanding and dialogue when something is done or decisions are made that concern the Jewish community," said Kraus, recalling that the NDH was the only European state with racial laws based on the model of Nazi racial laws and expressing hope that next year there would be a single, joint commemoration at Jasenovac.
A prayer for the dead was led by the chief rabbi for Croatia and Montenegro, Luciano Mose Prelevic.
Wreaths were laid at the Stone Flower, a monument erected at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, by Israeli Ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman, the ambassadors of France and Canada, and representatives of the German, Austrian, US and Serbian embassies as well as of the Serb National Council.