World Bulletin / News Desk
A Jewish group in Croatia boycotted Friday’s official International Holocaust Remembrance Day event in a row over a controversial army billboard which campaigners claimed glorified the country’s fascist past.
While leaders of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered in their respective capitals for events to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, many Croatian Jews remained upset over a sign erected near the site of a WWII death camp.
The Croatian Armed Forces erected a board at Jasenovac bearing a controversial salute which read "Za dom spremni" meaning "ready".
It was a salute used during World War II by the pro-German Ustase movement and is viewed by some as the equivalent of the Nazi "Sieg Heil" greeting.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has said publicly the board should not be removed, because it a tribute to fallen members of the Croatian Armed Forces.
Established in 1941, the Jasenovac camp saw an estimated 100,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and others murdered by the Ustase regime of Croatian fascist leader Ante Pavelic.
Elsewhere in the Balkans on Friday, a delegation led by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic laid wreaths in front of Belgrade’s monument to World War II genocide victims
Addressing a crowd, Nikolic sent a message that everyone should commit to ensuring peace so that these crimes would not happen again.
"I will do my best to impose that we create an institution to show respect to victims -- all Serbs, Jews and Roma and other victims from the First and Second World Wars,” he said.
The Belgrade ceremony was attended by relatives of the victims, representatives of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia and of the Roma community, as well as a number of diplomats, including Turkish ambassador Tanju Bilgic.
In Bosnia, the Jewish community commemorated the day with prayers for Holocaust victims in the capital Sarajevo.
The president of Bosnia’s Jewish community, Jakov Finci, said the memory of the Holocaust was also the memory of all innocent dead.
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