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.
333 East 34th Street No.21
New York 10016
The New York Times and
the Croatian Government
by John Kraljic
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.
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
"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
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