NEW YORK (Apr. 7)
A former commander of a Croatian concentration camp has been found living in Argentina.
Dinko Sakic, who allegedly oversaw the murder of more than 500,000 people during World War II, including 20,000 out of Croatia’s Jewish population of 25,000, was discovered and interviewed by an Argentine television crew in the seaside town of Santa Teresita.
An expose on Sakic was aired on Argentina’s Channel 13 this week.
Jewish groups have since called upon the Argentine government to arrest and deport Sakic, though they doubt that Croatia would place him on trial.
Sakic, 76, admitted in the broadcast that he had served as commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp, but he denied that anyone was killed there under his watch.
“I don’t know what happened before or after my command,” which lasted 100 days, said Sakic, “but while I was in charge the guards were not allowed to kill or mistreat the prisoners.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said Sakic commanded Jasenovac from December 1942 until October 1994.
A child survivor of the camp who now lives in Belgrade offered an on-air rebuttal to Sakic’s denials.
Liliana Ivanicevic, who was 6 years old when she was imprisoned at Jasenovac, said Sakic “enjoyed cutting throats and he took part in several massacres.” She recognized Sakic when shown a video recording of him.
The Argentine government is studying Sakic’s immigration status, trying to determine if he is wanted on international criminal charges.
But, even if he is arrested, Jewish leaders have little faith that Croatia would agree to prosecute him.
This is a “litmus test for the Croatian government,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in an interview. “The new Croatia celebrates the World War II era,” evidenced by the number of Ustashe officials honored on stamps, street signs and calenders, said Cooper, referring to the Nazi puppet regime that ruled Croatia during the war.
Tommy Baer, president of B’nai B’rith, said Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who has been criticized for honoring the Ustashe period, told him recently that “he would take care of the Nazi war criminals.”
But he added that Tudjman had “reneged” on that pledge.
Baer, who met with Argentine leaders in Buenos Aires earlier this week, recalled that several years ago Argentina extradited former SS officer Erich Priebke, who has been sentenced to life for his role in a Rome massacre during the war.
“The Argentine government moved quickly to extradite Priebke,” Bear said. “We urge them once again to move quickly and without delay in deporting Sakic.”
Croatian diplomats in New York and Washington said they were unable to comment on the matter.