Palatable Slogans

ZAGREB/BERLIN | | kroatien

ZAGREB/BERLIN (Own report) - The Croatian nationalism, currently causing an uproar at the FIFA World Cup has been supported by the German government for decades. During the World Cup, members of the Croatian national team also sang a song with well-known fascist lyrics - originally a song from a singer glorifying Ustaša fascism and praising the mass murder of Serbs in World War II. Virulent nationalism has been prevailing for years throughout the Croatian society. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recently confirmed that fascist tendencies are gaining strength in that country. Following World War II, old Ustaša structures had been able to hibernate in the Federal Republic of Germany. Bonn also had supported the growing Croatian separatism in the 1970s and established links to the exile Croatian nationalist groups. In the early 1990s, Germany promoted Croatia's secession - and thus its nationalism - for geostrategic reasons.

"Drive the Serbs into the Blue Adriatic Sea"

Even before the Croatian player Domagoj Vida's remarks became known, one of his teammates staged a provocation, by referring positively to his country's fascist past during the World Cup in Russia. Following the Croatian team's victory over the Argentine team, Dejan Lovren enthusiastically chimed in a song of the Croatian singer "Thompson" that starts with the words "Za dom - spremni!" ("For the Homeland - Ready!").[1] This had been the slogan of Nazi Germany's collaborator Ustaša fascist movement, which had ruled the Croatian state between 1941 and 1945 and participated in the Holocaust. The exact number of its victims is unknown, however, estimates run from 330,000 to over 700,000 murdered Serbs and up to 40,000 murdered Jews and Romani, respectively. "Thompson" is known for his glorification of the Ustaša-regime. In his songs, he has verses such as "Oh, Neretva, flow down, drive the Serbs into the blue Adriatic Sea," or "Shining star above Metković, send our greetings to Ante Pavelić." Pavelić had been the Ustaša's historic Fuehrer.

"Belgrade is burning!"

Following Croatia's victory over the Russian team, a video clip emerged showing the Croatian player dedicating his team's victory to the Ukraine, while chanting "Glory to the Ukraine!"[2] This is a slogan of another of the Nazi collaborators - the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist (OUN). Unlike the Croatian case, the Nazis, however, prevented the Ukrainian nationalists from forming their state in 1941. Nevertheless, the OUN participated in the Holocaust and murdered over 90,000 Poles, and thousands of Jews. "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes" ("Slawa Ukraini! Herojam slawa!") was their popular greeting. On the same video clip, the Croatian assistant coach Ognjen Vukojević added: "This victory is for Dynamo [Kiev] and Ukraine." Under public pressure, the Croatian Soccer Association relieved Vukojević of his duties at the FIFA World Cup, whereas Vida, whom the Croatian team wants to keep for the two upcoming matches, was only given a warning. Yesterday another video clip emerged with Vido not only shouting "Glory to Ukraine!" but adding into the camera: "Belgrade is burning!"[3]

At the Fuehrer's Graveside

Positive reference to Ustaša fascism has a long tradition in Croatian soccer. There was the incident on November 19, 2013, for example, when, following the victory over Iceland's national team, the member of the Croatian national team Josip Šimunić yelled "Za dom - spremni!" five times into the stadium's microphone.[4] Fifa banned Šimunić from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Croatia's Football Association then hired him as a training assistant in 2015, as a rehabilitation measure. The fans of Croatia's soccer team are also notorious for their fascist and racist slogans and have already been banned several times from attending their national team's games. On the other hand, the President of the Croatian Football Association, Davor Šuker, is not only a "Thompson" fan, he had even been photographed in 1996 at the grave site of Ustaša Fuehrer Ante Pavelić.[5]

Fascist Tendencies

The positive references to fascism in Croatian soccer correspond to the general political orientation of a majority in Croatia's population. Last May, the Anti-Racism Commission of the European Council published a report on the Croatian situation, which noted a marked increase in racist tendencies in that country. This is not least of all expressed in "praising" the fascist Ustaša regime, writes the Anti-Racism Commission.[6] It was also noted that politicians of various persuasions are increasingly resorting to baiting during their speeches. Their chauvinist agitation often targets refugees - particularly, Muslims - but also Romani. The Croatian Serb minority is not least among the victims of these attacks. Ustaša symbols are repeatedly painted on Serb buildings or those belonging to Serb organizations.

Hibernation in the Federal Republic of Germany

The steadily increasing new Croatian nationalism dates back to the old Ustaša era nationalism, which Belgrade had sought to suppress as much as possible in socialist Yugoslavia. It survived, however, also due to the practical support of the Federal Republic of Germany. Functionaries and supporters of Croatia's Ustaša, who fled to West Germany, were able to regroup and reorganize, helping Branimir Jelić, an early Ustaša member, to organize a Croatian National Committee (Hrvatski Narodni Odbor, HNO) already back in the 1950s. Its headquarters in Munich attracted numerous former Croatian Nazi collaborators. Former Ustaša Minister of the Interior, Mate Frković and others were published in their magazine Hrvatska Država (The Croatian State), printed in Munich.[7] It was the fact that the Croatian exiles' orientation was clearly set on destroying Yugoslavia - alongside their anti-communism - that furnished the political reason for West Germany to remain benevolent toward them. After all, in the aftermath of World War I, Yugoslavia was founded, with a relatively strong nation-state, to block Germany's route in its drive to the southeast. On the other hand, this was also Germany's impetus, in the 1970s, for supporting the strengthened Croatian separatism and, for this purpose - also with intelligence service collaboration - to bridge the gap between the nationalist Croats in exile with the right-wing secessionist circles in Zagreb. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8])

Front-Line Soldiers and Combat Volunteers

Croatian nationalism achieved a breakthrough in the early 1990s, when the Croatian nationalists - again with decisive German support - were able to secede from the Yugoslav Federation. Franjo Tudjman was the politician at the helm of the new nation, who, in 1989, had euphemized the Jasenovac death camp as an "assembly and labor camp." In Jasenovac Serbs, Jews and Romani had been murdered. At the same time Tudjman extolled the Ustaša state as having been "the expression' of the Croatian people's aspiration for self-determination and sovereignty."[9] In Croatia's secessionist war - which Germany supported politically, practically and militarily - the nationalist, ultra-rightwing positions prevailed on a broad front. "Front-line soldiers and combat volunteers" greeted each other with the Ustaša salute 'Za dom Spremni" and sang Ustaša songs, wrote the journalist Gregor Mayer. The Catholic church - very influential in Croatia - also glorified the Ustaša. Under Tudjman's leadership, "streets and squares were renamed at a frenetic pace," often named after Ustaša personalities, such as "Nazi ideologue, Mile Budak," "Ustaša functionaries seeped back from exile into the state apparatus and the educational system." Mayer considers that Tudjman has rendered "a historical and social conception 'palatable'," wherein "radical right-wingers and neo-Nazis can still refer to."[10]

 

[1] Tobias Finger: Kroatien und der Umgang mit der faschistischen Vergangenheit. tagesspiegel.de 26.06.2018.

[2] "Ruhm der Ukraine": Fifa verwarnt Kroatiens Vida. derstandard.at 08.07.2018.

[3] Erneut Untersuchung gegen Kroaten Vida. derstandard.at 10.07.2018.

[4] Berthold Seewald: Wieviel Ustascha treibt Kroatiens Fußballspieler? welt.de 17.12.2013.

[5] Dario Brentin: Sie wollen ihrem Team weh tun. zeit.de 19.06.2016.

[6] Europarat ist alarmiert über das Erstarken von Neofaschisten in Kroatien. nzz.ch 15.05.2018.

[7] See also Rezension: Ulrich Schiller: Deutschland und "seine" Kroaten.

[8] See also Nützliche Faschisten.

[9], [10] Gregor Mayer: Kroatien. In: Gregor Mayer, Bernhard Odehnal: Aufmarsch. Die rechte Gefahr aus Osteuropa.