Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

After Croatian Skier Praises Nazis, He’s Caught in a Blizzard of Trouble

February 3, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Pro-Nazi comments by a top Croatian skier have landed one of the country’s leading athletes in hot water.

Last month, the Croatian newspaper Nacional published a quote made last year by Ivica Kostelic that when he begins a race he feels “like a German soldier on June 22, 1941,” the day the German army attacked the Soviet Union.

The paper also quoted Kostelic, the No. 1 slalom skier in the world this year, as saying, “Under the Nazis, an individual could make a career, while in Communism both religion and ambition were forbidden. For Stalin, it was quite normal to wake up and kill 50 of his generals, some of his friends among them.” He continued: “Hitler killed only those among his generals who were after his head. I would do the same if I were a dictator.”

These quotes were made a year ago, but the paper did not publish them at the time, believing they represented “the excess of a young person.”

Other members of Kostelic’s family have also aroused the country’s ire. In fact, the quotes were published soon after Kostelic’s father, Ante, criticized Croatia’s current president, Stipe Mesic.

Kostelic’s father called Mesic a “porcupine” and said he would refuse to pay taxes.

And Ivica Kostelic’s younger sister, Janica, who won four medals at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, is reported to have registered as a resident of Monte Carlo in order to evade paying taxes in Croatia.

Many European athletes move to Monte Carlo to lower their tax rates, but the Kostelics’ talk about not paying taxes is causing consternation because Ante Kostelic has always said he is a great Croatian patriot.

The scandal has festered in the country’s newspapers.

In a letter to the Croatian daily Vjesnik, a reader wrote that Ivica Kostelic should see some documentaries about World War II to gain a better understanding of the era, when Croatia was ruled by a Nazi puppet state.

The leftist paper Feral Tribune recently featured Kostelic on its cover in a Nazi uniform.

The paper suggested that more in Croatia are upset by Ante Kostelic’s refusal to pay taxes in Croatia than by his son’s pro-Nazi statements.

On the other hand, Drazen Budisa, the leader of the Croatian Social Liberal Party and a former candidate for president of Croatia, said the Kostelic family has suffered a media lynching.

Outside the country, the Austrian news agency APA reported that Hypo Alpe Adria Bank, which has been sponsoring Ivica Kostelic, is demanding that he explain his statements. And one Austrian anti-fascist association demanded that the Austrian Sports Federation forbid Ivica Kostelic from running any more races in Austria.

For his part, Ivica Kostelic later apologized for his comments. Reading from a prepared statement, he said he and his family despise Nazism and that his statement regarding the June 1941 invasion was taken out of context and misinterpreted.

Recommended from JTA