When Dinko Sakić, the last living Holocaust concentration camp director, died last week, Jewish organizations and others hoped that his funeral would not be used as an opportunity for far-right groups to celebrate the actions of this mass murderer.
Instead, The Simon Wiesenthal Center and other groups wanted Croatian leaders to take the occasion to condemn Sakić’s crimes.
That opportunity has since come and gone.
According to the AP, Sakić’s funeral was indeed used to celebrate him:
Sakic was buried wearing the uniform of the Ustasha, the local pro-Nazi movement, according to the Croatian daily Vecernji. It said a priest called Sakic a “model for all Croatians.”
The funeral was private, attended by family and several minor right-wing politicians.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, SWC’s chief Nazi-hunter, wrote an open letter to the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić blasting the funeral’s organizers and the Croatian government’s lack of appropriate response. Says Dr. Zuroff:
To the best of my knowledge, no public official of any significant stature has spoken out against this outrageous display of unrepentant racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. I therefore urge you, in your capacity as president of the republic and knowing full well your unqualified and unequivocal opposition to the crimes of the Ustasha, to publicly condemn the organizers of the funeral and the priests who conducted it.
Under these circumstances what Croatian society needs is a clear and unequivocal reminder that Dinko Sakic was a mass murderer and brought shame to the Croatian people, that one of democratic Croatia’s greatest achievements was his prosecution and punishment, and that only by totally repudiating the legacy of the NDH [Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945] and its fanatic Ustasha extremists will Croatia become a welcome member of NATO and the European Union.
For his role in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Serbs and anti-Fascist Croats at Jasenovac concentration camp in 1944, Sakić was sentenced by a Zagreb district court for 20 years in 1999. He died in jail.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has an interactive exhibit on Jasenovac, which you can find here.
Photo by magnusfranklin.