Anti-Nazi Center Urges Dismissal of Croatia’s Culture Minister

ZAGREB (Reuters) -
The notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) sign above the entrance gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
The notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) sign above the entrance gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

The Israel-based Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Croatia’s government on Friday to dismiss its culture minister, saying he took a disdainful attitude towards Croatian resistance to fascism during World War II.

The Jewish group expressed “shock and indignation at several actions taken and comments made” by Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic.

Hasanbegovic has previously dismissed similar criticism as unfounded. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

During World War II, Croatia was under Nazi control and led by local collaborators called Ustashe. Many Croats fought as partisans within the communist-led resistance movement.

Croatia is now a member of the European Union.

“We urge the Croatian government to replace Hasanbegovic with a person suitable for the post of minister of culture who will bring honor and prestige to the post, rather than embarrass his country before the entire world,” the director of the Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement on its site.

No comment was immediately available from the Croatian government or from Hasanbegovic.

Zuroff accused Hasanbegovic, a historian who is also involved in publishing, of failing to recognize the genocidal nature of the Nazi-sponsored Ustashe regime, and showing disdain for Croatians who fought against it.

Hasanbegovic is a minister in Croatia’s center-right government, an alliance between the conservative HDZ party and the small reformist Most party.

Croatia’s center-left opposition and several civic groups have already criticized Hasanbegovic’s appointment.