(JTA) — Echoing calls by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Croatian human rights group lambasted the Croatian government for paying pensions to former collaborators of Nazi Germany.
The pension payments to Ustasa and Home Guard veterans “proves that modern Croatia is more a successor of the genocidal Independent State of Croatia than of the State Anti-fascist Council for the National Liberation of Croatia,” Miodrag Linta, president of the Coalition of Refugee Associations, said in an interview with the news website blic.rs.
Linta was referencing the organizations working for the puppet regime that Nazi Germany set up in Croatia during its occupation of the former Yugoslavia, and the partisans from the coalition that fought the collaborators.
Earlier this month, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged the Croatian government to cut the pensions, citing the Ustasha’s complicity in the murder of 30,000 Jews and about 29,000 Roma, as well as up to 750,000 Serbs.
Croatia is paying pensions to about 10,000 former collaborators, costing the government around $56 million yearly, according to estimates by the AFP news agency.
Linta said the pensions are indicative of a larger problem, namely that, “the majority of Croatian society still believes that the NDH [the pro-Nazi puppet regime] was driving the creation of today’s Croatia, although the constitution formally and legally contradicts this.”
But Jakob Finci, the president of the Jewish community in Bosnia, said that Nazi collaborators are not generally venerated in the countries that used to be a part of the former Yugoslavia. “They were seen as traitors during Communist times and there has been some change in the 1990s but they are still not seen as heroes,” he told JTA Tuesday.
In a letter addressed to Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, last week wrote that the pensions are a “horrific insult to the victims, their families and all Croatians with a sense of morality and integrity.”
He added: “In view of the horrendous war crimes committed in the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) … such a policy is inherently mistaken.”