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CROATIA AND CROATS IN 'THE NEW YORK TIMES'

Following is a booklet entitled "Croatia and Croats in 'The New York Times'" by the Croatian Anti-Calumny Project, and transcribed here with their kind permission.

CACP
333 East 34th Street No.21
New York
New York 10016
June 1994



The New York Times and the Croatian Government

by John Kraljic
March 1994

The New York Times has a tendency to mischaracterize the present democratically elected Croatian government as having ties with the Ustashe regime.

The Anti-Ustashe Background of President Tudjman

President Franjo Tudjman has come under particularly fierce criticism as being an anti-Semite and working to rehabilitate the Ustashe regime. However, Tudjman and his father Stjepan, a Peasant Party member, both fought in the Partisans during World War II, against that same Ustashe regime. Tudjman became a general in the Yugoslav Army after the war, but he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1967 for expressing his Croatian nationality. In the 1980s he spent several years in jail for continuing to express publicly his political beliefs.

Tudjman's party, the Croatian Democratic Union, has espoused the Croatian left. Tudjman has relied upon the decisions of ZAVNOH as the basis for Croatian sovereignty. Importantly, the new Constitution, adopted by the Republic in December 1990, in keeping with Tudjman's political philosophy, notes in its preamble that Croatia's rights to full sovereignty were manifested in the 1943 decisions of ZAVNOH, not the 1941 declaration of the Ustashe NDH.

The Coat of Arms

Probably the most absurd charge leveled against the Croatian government has been that it has adopted the symbols used by the Ustashe regime, in particular Croatia's checkerboard historical coat of arms which replaced the Communist red star on Croatia's flag. The New York Times has written that President Tudjman's "ordered that the new national flag contain Croatia's traditional red-and-white checkerboard emblem, which had been used by the Ustashe." S. Kinzer, "Croatia's Founding Chief is Seen as a Mixed Story," Aug. 5, 1993. See also S. Kinzer, "History is Another Recruit in the Balkan War," Nov. 15, 1992 ("Croatia's new Government has adopted a flag that closely resembles the one used by [the Ustashe] regime ..."); S. Kinzer, "Pro-Nazi Rulers' Legacy Still Lingers for Croatia," Oct. 31, 1993 ("Mr. Tudjman decreed that Croatia should adopt a red-and-white checkerboard coat of arms that closely resembles the symbol of the Ustashe state."); and, Editorial, Nov. 13, 1993 ("Croatia's new coat of arms closely resembles the symbol of the Ustashe state.")

Contrary to these reports, there is nothing "new" about Croatia's flag. Since its adoption in 1848, the flag has always contained three equal bands of red, white and blue. The only change has been to the emblem in the center of the flag. After the Communist takeover, the Communist red star was placed in the middle of the flag where it remained until 1990.

The red star has been replaced not by an Ustashe symbol but by Croatia's traditional coat of arms which may have had its beginning in Croatia as far back as the 11th century. Indeed, the same coat of arms was incorporated into the coat of arms of the Royal Yugoslav state between the two World Wars.

Of the above cited references to the coat of arms, only one story in The New York Times stated that the coat of arms was centuries old, (Oct. 31, 1993). However, even then it was noted that "to many Jews, Serbs and others it is a symbol almost as hateful as the swastika." Such analogies are completely inappropriate. The swastika was never a traditional German symbol but was imported from German history by the Nazis as a unique symbol of their ideology.

The Ustashe too, had their own symbol and their own flag. Their symbol was the letter "U" and their flag was the Croatian national flag with the letter "U" placed in its upper-left corner with the checkered shield in the middle). That the letter "U", and not the checkered coat of arms, is an Ustashe symbol is common knowledge to any Serb or Croat. Stephen Kinzer ("The Nightmare's Roots: The Dream World called Serbia." The New York Times, May 16, 1993) discussed the fact that a member of the parliament of the rump Yugoslavia had proposed that the use of the letter "U" be banned since it was the symbol of the Ustashe.

These distinctions were recognized by Croatia's Communist government. The same red-and-white checkerboard formed the central feature of the coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Croatia under the Communists for 45 years. During all of that time, this supposedly swastika-like symbol was found on all public buildings and indeed on all public documents in Croatia, including stationary, report cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc. Yet during all of that time no one was heard to say that Croatia's Communist government had adopted an Ustashe symbol.

Anti-Semitism

The New York Times has on several occasions claimed that the current Croatian government is anti-Semitic. See e.g. S. Kinzer, "Pro-Nazi Rulers' Legacy Still Lingers for Croatia," Oct. 31, 1993 ("... Mr. Tudjman has made no clear effort to disassociate himself from ... sentiments of anti-Semitism.") Charges of anti- Semitism are without any substance. The Croatian government provided financial assistance for the rebuilding of the synagogue in Zagreb and further offered, prior to the outbreak of war, the use of Zagreb Airport as a transit point for Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union. Moreover, the cabinet included a Jewish minister, Andrija Hebrang Jr., the son of the Croatian Communist Party's World War II general secretary, as well as several other Jewish lower-ranking officials.

After the outbreak of the war, a terrorist attack occurred on the Jewish Center in Zagreb as well as the local Jewish cemetery. A massive candle-light demonstration condemning this attack took place soon thereafter in Zagreb. Recently, Stephen Kinzer in The New York Times mentioned the bombing of the center and noted that the government had offered funds to rebuild it (10/3/93). However, more importantly, Mr. Kinzer failed to state who was responsible for the attack.

A highly-publicized trial in Belgrade, apparently taking place because of Milosevic's attempts to purge his army of men he considers to be unreliable, revealed that the bombing in Zagreb was in fact carried out by two Serbs working with the Yugoslav secret police. The reason was obvious: to discredit Croatia's reputation as a democratic state and yet again portray Croatia as anti-Semitic. Though this trial commenced early last year and had been reported on by the international press, Mr. Kinzer chose to ignore its implications.

Condemnation of the Ustashe

The New York Times has reported on a number of occasions that President Tudjman and the Croatian government have failed to condemn the Ustashe regime. See e.g., S. Kinzer, "History is Another Recruit in the Balkan War," Nov. 15, 1992 ("Rather than condemning the actions of Croatia's World War II regime, their new Government has adopted a flag that closely resembles the one used by that regime ..."); S. Kinzer, "Pro-Nazi Rulers' Legacy Still Lingers for Croatia," Oct. 31, 1993 ("... Mr. Tudjman has made no clear effort to disassociate himself from ... the Ustashe ..."). This is disinformation. Among other things, President Tudjman has publicly stated the following:

A) In a statement issued on July 8, 1991, President Tudjman, among other things, addressed the following to Croatia's Serb citizens:
"The democratic government of sovereign Croatia considers all of you citizens, with all the rights and privileges guaranteed all citizens ... I take full responsibility for this, in my name, as President of the Republic and in the name of Parliament and the Government of Croatia. We will do everything possible to prevent any chauvinistic manifestations and activities among the Croatian population which might remind Serbs of Ustashe war atrocities."

B) In a letter dated January 21, 1992 to members of the United States Congress, President Tudjman wrote:
"I am unalterably opposed to oppression from the right and the left, and I condemn in the strongest terms possible the evil genocide which the Nazis and their puppet collaborators in Croatia and other countries perpetrated against the Jews, Gypsies, Croatians and Serbs. The systematic process the Nazis developed and implemented to exterminate the Jews of Europe made it, understandably, one of the greatest crimes in history against mankind. In this regard, the Ustashe regime of the Independent State of Croatia committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity."

C) In a March 1992 letter to Edgar Bronfman of the World Jewish Congress, President Tudjman noted:
"[T]he Ustashe regime committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity. That was a regime which, under the protection of the Nazi and Fascist occupation forces, persecuted Jews and members of other nationalities as well as Croatian political opponents in the most brutal manner. With these crimes, it irrevocably joined its patrons, sharing their historical fate. On the other hand, a vast number of Croats, myself among them, took up arms against the Ustashe reign of terror and the Nazi and Fascist occupation forces. We deeply regret the fact that the Jewish people in Croatia suffered the tragic fate of the Holocaust during World War II."

D) On June 22, 1993, at the Anti-Fascist Uprising Day celebration (a public holiday in Croatia marking the first military actions taken by the Partisans in 1941) held in Sisak, Croatia, President Tudjman stated the following in his address:
"At first the Croatian people accepted the NDH, the NDH in which the Ustashe, who did not have the wide support of the people, took the lead. The Ustashe who within Hitler's system also applied racist and pro-fascist laws and committed evil, but the Croatian people did not side with the Europe of Hitler and fascism."

E) On March 28, 1994, after the Zagreb premiere of the Schindler's List, and on the occasion of presenting a state award to Croatian-born co-producer of the film Branko Lustig, President Tudjman stated the following:
"As president of today's democratic state of Croatia, I take this occasion to apologize to you and all members of the Jewish community on behalf of those who took part in the Holocaust and enforcement of the Nazi-fascist racist laws in the NDH. At the same time, it is with pride that I stress the historical truth that the large majority of the Croatian nation condemned this type of criminal policy and many Croats took an active part in the anti-fascist struggle, including myself, who, as a young man fought for four years."


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