Croatia: The End of Anti-Fascism // Croatia, the War, and the Future

European Parliament

A European Parliament resolution has 19 September 2019 condemned Communism as equivalent to Nazism. To my view equating communism with Nazism is not enough; communism or its fantasy name of anti-fascism surpasses in the bulk of its crimes any other regime known to humanity. The moral superiority Anti-Fascists of Croatia (of Yugoslavia and all other former communist European states) have pinned to themselves undisturbed by the facts of history that sink such moral superiority to the depths of despair is set to fall and be banished. Remembering and acting upon the real past will ensure that.

“Remembering the victims of totalitarian regimes and recognising and raising awareness of the shared European legacy of crimes committed by communist, Nazi and other dictatorships is of vital importance for the unity of Europe and its people and for building European resilience to modern external threats,” is a strong point as to how the Resolution emphasises the importance of Europe’s historical memory for its future needs.

The parliament demands development of a “common culture of remembrance that rejects the crimes of fascist, Stalinist, and other totalitarian and authoritarian regimes of the past as a way of fostering resilience against modern threats to democracy, particularly among the younger generation.”

Some will undoubtedly say that legislating to establish an ‘official’ view of history, such as EU Parliament on 19 September 2019 with its resolution on “the importance of remembrance for the future of Europe” is not a good idea. However, when looking from the victims’ point of view this resolution has all the hallmarks of setting justice right for all. We are only too aware that history of Communist crimes during and post-WWII has enjoyed blanket coverups and unjustifiable justification while crimes committed by the Nazi regime were kept in European history as the only crimes that have been committed en masse against humanity.

In the mid‐2000s many believed that the Holocaust could become a common memory for Europe. This was opposed by many also, mostly Central and East European conservatives in former communist countries, politicians and intellectuals on the grounds that an exclusive emphasis on the Holocaust would not do justice to the victims of other totalitarian regimes (particularly the communist regimes). While very few of them questioned the uniqueness of the Holocaust openly by declaring Nazism and communism ‘equally criminal’ (Sandra Kalniete, quoted in Troebst s. [2010], ‘Halecki Revisited’; p. 60. Pakier, M. and Strath, B. [eds] A European Memory? New York:Berghahn Books), they did argue that paying too much attention to the victims of the Holocaust came at the expense of the victims of other totalitarian regimes, so the latter are effectively treated as second‐class victims. This communist crimes agenda was and is opposed mostly by the European (including Croatia) left whose proponents believe that it illegitimately relativises the Holocaust and falsifies history by equating communist regimes with Nazism. The main elements of the anti‐communist rhetorical repertoire had been developed before the European memory debate. In the 1990s many conservative politicians in post‐communist countries built their political profile on an uncompromising anti‐communist stance and on the objective of raising awareness about the crimes of communist regimes and their victims.

There was no other way to give justice for the forgotten and downtrodden victims of communist crimes. So, good for these politicians I say. One could go further and say that the former communist countries in Europe fought against communism in order to bring justice to all victims, regardless of which regime brought them about.

The European parliament’s resolution on ‘the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe’ is to replace previous political statements on human rights in relation to that conflict. The motion for the EUP Resolution was conceived as a spirited statement against all forms of political extremism. The text reaffirms “the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law” while calling on all EU institutions “to do their utmost to ensure that horrific totalitarian crimes against humanity are remembered” and “guarantee that such crimes will never be repeated.”

Given that resolutions confirming commitments to the condemnation of totalitarian regimes, like the 2009 one that saw the establishment of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism each 23 August, which has been in place for over a decade, one may well ask what does this new resolution really add to the continent’s political ingredients? For all its admirable sentiment, this latest resolution gives a firm footing to making history right even though there are those who will say that a deeply problematic form of historical revisionism lurks beneath the surface. If, however, one considers historical revisionism as a necessary process to reflect true facts not myths (the European history, Croatian history of the 20th century is riddled with myths and fabrication driven by the communists) then the only opponents to this EU resolution will be former communists and their allies. No doubt about it – they still want to hide behind their false mask of bringing freedom to the people.

It’s time the Croatian Constitution removes from its Historical Foundations any reference to anti-fascist contribution to the independence of Croatia! It had none! Anti-Fascists always fought for Yugoslavia! And a communist one at that!

“European integration has, from the start, been a response to the suffering inflicted by two world wars and by the Nazi tyranny that led to the Holocaust, and to the expansion of totalitarian and undemocratic communist regimes”, reads the text of the Resolution.

The resolution in its article M.3 is undeniably correct in its assertion that “Nazi and communist regimes carried out mass murders, genocide and deportations and caused a loss of life and freedom in the 20th century on a scale unseen in human history”. Treating the two as equal would not be my choice of approach, nor a reflection of factual history. That is, If the world measures the severity of crimes against humanity by the number of victims then Communist regimes murdered many millions more than the Nazi regime did and in that sense its place in condemnation needs to be lifted above the crimes of Nazi regime. And, I do not say this in defence of the Nazi regime – I say this in defence of victims of both the Nazi and communist regimes. Croatia alone is filled with mass graves of communist crimes, almost 2000 discovered so far! And when you look at the population living there during and after WWII these figures take on an unfathomably horrific proportion!

The EU Resolution “Expresses its deep respect for each victim of these totalitarian regimes and calls on all EU institutions and actors to do their utmost to ensure that horrific totalitarian crimes against humanity and systemic gross human rights violations are remembered and brought before courts of law, and to guarantee that such crimes will never be repeated; stresses the importance of keeping the memories of the past alive, because there can be no reconciliation without remembrance, and reiterates its united stand against all totalitarian rule from whatever ideological background.”

This article of the resolution is hopefully bound to embolden Croatian politicians and activists to make the necessary steps, pass laws and the like in order to finally usher in Lustration (decommunisation) – rid all corridors of power of former communist operatives and those publicly known to promote the Yugoslav communist regime that once was. Some will say there are no communists in Croatia but have no doubt: communist culture, communist mindset, communist nostalgia – exist! And this is what is holding Croatia back from progressing into a fully democratic, customer, taxpayer needs oriented nation.

Hence, practical policy and legislation in Croatia (as in the whole of Europe and beyond) are still hindered by the different treatment of the past. People across the world and particularly in the West still know very little about how much of Central Europe (Croatia included) and most of Eastern Europe fell under a different dictatorship after Hitler’s occupation was defeated that was no better. It has disrupted practical cooperation and remains a very serious obstacle on the road to more effective and closer cooperation in the EU. The resolution includes a proposal to add talking about the crimes of totalitarian regimes to the programs of all EU schools.

Here is hoping, and indeed a platform for the positive and superior portrayal of Croatia’s communists and partisans in school textbooks to be removed swiftly.

The matter of a European memory is far from being a merely symbolic issue with no political consequences. Imagining Europe and its past in different ways will lead to different and real political outcomes. What is at stake in answering these questions from the past is nothing less than the future direction of the EU, and closer to home – of Croatia. As visions for the future of the organisation are intimately connected to historical accounts of the continent’s past, determining the common European approach to the past is a highly influential decision for the EU’s future.

Banning the symbols of Nazism but not those of communism leads to unjustifiable double standards and feeds those double standards. Croatia surely knows that but the overwhelming power held by former communists or sympathisers of former communist Yugoslavia still chooses to ignore that.

There is one particularly noteworthy genre of writing among the many that developed in the 20th century in Europe. After World War II communism enslaved the people of much of Central Europe and most of East Europe. But the tragedy does not end there – communist regimes erased their true story from the overall history of the Continent. Europe had just rid itself of the plague of Nazism. It was quite understandable that after the bloodbath of the war, few people had the strength or resolve to face the bitter truth. They could not deal with the fact that behind the communist regimes, communists continued to commit genocide against the peoples of these countries.

Dr Esther Gitman and her book:
“Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights”

For 50 years the history in Croatia (as in all former communist countries) was written without the participation of these victims of genocide. Not surprisingly, the victors of World War II have written a history that separates the good from the bad and the right from the wrong from their perspective. Not from the perspective of the truth! It is only since the collapse of the Berlin Wall that researchers have been able to access archived documents and the life stories of the victims. It is only after Croatia won its Homeland War in 1995 (1998 with peaceful reintegration of Serb and Yugoslav Army aggressor occupied areas) (the war for secession from communist Yugoslavia) that Croatia was able to research its own truth. These confirm the truth that the two totalitarian regimes – Nazism and Communism – were equally criminal, albeit communist crimes far surpass those of the crimes ascribed to the so-called Ustashe regime of the NDH/WWII Independent State of Croatia. Indeed, research such as Dr Esther Gitman’s into the rescue and survival of Jews during NDH verifiably demonstrates that good deeds and good was widespread among Croats (non-communists) during those horrific times of war in Croatia.

We must never see the two ideologies as holding different positions on the scale of good and bad just because one of them was victorious over the other. That battle against Fascism cannot be seen as something, which for ever exonerates the sins of the communist regime that oppressed countless innocents in the name of communist ideology. I am firmly convinced that it is the duty of our generation to reverse this mistake. The losers in World War II must also write their story, because it deserves a firm place in the overall history of Europe and the world. Without this, the broader history will remain unilateral, incomplete and dishonest – and utterly unfair to the victims of communist crimes.

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Independent Member of Croatian Parliament
for Croats living abroad

The Croatians living outside of Croatia, the millions that fled the communist regime know this fact only too well. It is, therefore, a welcome move which the European Parliament made on 19 September. Perhaps, the strongest (but almost lone) voice in the Croatian Parliament – that of the independent member for Croatians in the diaspora and Bosnia and Herzegovina – retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, who has been a persistent and loud advocator for justice for victims of communist crimes and decommunisation of Croatia (and often laughed at within the parliament by the majority parliamentary members who draw their roots from the former communist pool because of the decommunisation platform content of his speeches) will now get to pursue his agenda surrounded by the silence of shame (or even fear from own guilt) on the faces of former communists and their staunch followers sitting there! Ina Vukic

Source: // Croatia, the War, and the Future

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