Austrian authorities under pressure to block annual pro-Nazi gathering


(JTA) — Austrian authorities are under pressure to stop an annual event in which some 15,000 Croatians gather to celebrate the actions of Nazi collaborators.

The May 14 event in Bleiburg, in southern Austria, has featured flags and symbols of the Ustasha, militiamen of Croatia’s fascist puppet regime during World War II.

In 1945, fleeing Ustasha militiamen were handed over to Communist partisans at Bleiburg, making the locale significant for supporters of the movement.

Efraim Zuroff, Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, last month traveled to Vienna in an effort to draw media attention to what he called “an affront to the memory of Holocaust victims.”

Ustasha men are responsible for killing the majority of the 30,000 Croatian Jews murdered in the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem. Only about one-fifth of the country’s pre-Holocaust Jewish community survived the genocide.

“Austria, where displaying a swastika is illegal, should know better than to allow this event featuring fascist symbols to go unchallenged year after year,” he told JTA.

Organizers from the Bleiburg Honorary Platoon said that, following pressure, flags with the Ustasha slogan “Za dom spremni” (“Ready for the Home(land)”) will be banned from the event.

Austrian authorities will deport anyone wearing uniforms or displaying fascist symbols at the event, officials told the HINA news agency.

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