Jews of Croatia Split over Solidarity with Republic

The Jewish community of Zagreb is deeply concerned about loss of life and property damage as fighting has again escalated following another short-lived cease fire, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned Wednesday.

It also seems split over a declaration of solidarity with the Republic of Croatia.

According to Srdjan Matic, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Council in Zagreb, the extent of damage to Jewish property will not be known until after the war.

“There are many places in the provinces that have former synagogues and Jewish cemeteries,” he said by telephone from the Croatian capital. “I suppose there’s damage, but I don’t know. We will have to wait until the end of the war to find out.”

Matic did not report any Jewish casualties.

He referred to a strongly worded statement issued Monday by the Community Council defending the Croatian government headed by President Franjo Tudjman against charges of anti-Semitism and appealing to Jews all over the world to back Croatia against the onslaught of “brutal military forces led by the Yugoslav National Army.”

The statement received wide coverage in the Croatian media and was endorsed by most of the community, although some members thought the statement went too far in support of the government, Matic said.

But Matic said he was satisfied with the statement. “I think it is balanced. We are supporting the policy of the government, not the government” he said.

“That gives us the possibility of criticizing (the Tudjman regime) if it doesn’t live up to” Jewish expectations, Matic added.

‘SADNESS, DISMAY AND INDIGNATION’

The statement urged “Jewish organizations and individuals around the world to act against the aggression on the population of the Republic of Croatia and in any other part of Yugoslavia.”

The statement noted “with sadness, dismay and indignation” that innocent civilians were being killed. The toll as of Oct. 7 stood at at least 700 killed and 2,000 wounded the statement said. It did not mention any Jewish casualties.

It said, however, that cultural, historical and communal property, including churches, mosques and synagogues, have been heavily damaged or destroyed in the attacks.

An estimated 2,000 Jews live in Croatia. Their statement, which spoke of Jewish communities existing there for centuries, was an unqualified expression of loyalty to Croatia and an endorsement of independence.

“Although the present government of Croatia was deliberately depicted as anti-Semitic or neofascist, the Jewish Community in Croatia enjoys all rights of a religion or national minority without hindrance or any discrimination,” the statement said.

“The government of Croatia publicly denounced and condemned all neo-fascist and extremist ideologies and organizations that threaten the democratic system in Croatia and its citizens and decided to undertake all necessary legal steps to prevent the spread of such dangers,” according to the community statement.

It added: “We express our fullest support to the efforts and declared policy of the government of the Republic of Croatia of building a new and democratic society in which human, political, civil, national and religious rights of every citizen and group will be protected.”

The community expressed “great sorrow” that the Jews of Croatia have been cut off from contact with Jews in the other Yugoslav republics.

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