In Front of Israeli Lawmakers, Croatian Leader Asks Forgiveness

As part of a historic visit to Israel, Croatia’s president apologized for his country’s crimes during the Holocaust

Stipe Mesic asked the members of the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday for forgiveness for the crimes carried out by the pro-Nazi government in Croatia during World War II.

“I profoundly and sincerely deplore the crimes committed against the Jews in the area controlled during the Second World War by the collaborationist regime, which, unfortunately, carried the Croatian name,” Mesic told Israeli lawmakers.

Israeli politicians welcomed Mesic’s visit and his apology, which he issued Tuesday to Israeli President Moshe Katsav.

“Croatia has departed from its unsympathetic past,” Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters.

During World War II, Croatia was a Nazi puppet state. Croatia had 25,000 Jews before the war, most of them prosperous and largely assimilated. Some 20,000 were killed by the Nazis or the puppet Ustashe regime.

Franjo Tudjman, Croatia’s former president, tried to diminish the Ustashe crimes — and to minimize both the scale of the Holocaust and Croatia’s part in it.

In contrast, Mesic has taken a clear stand against the Croatian Nazis and the nature of their regime. Earlier this year, he offered his help to promote Holocaust education in Croatian schools.

He is the first Croatian president to visit Israel.

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