Plight of Croatia’s Jews — Restitution of Private Property Blocked by the Balkan Country’s Anti-Semitic Laws
March 16, 2018, Washington, D.C.— More than eighty percent of Croatia’s Jews were killed during World War II under the terror reign of the Ustasha (Ustaša), the pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Commencing in 1941, the Ustasha regime headed by Ante Pavelic, rounded up Jews, Roma, Serbs and other non-Catholic minorities, sending them to the Jasenovac concentration camp (one of the largest concentration camps in Europe), Sisak children’s concentration camp, and other locations. The Jasenovac concentration camp was referred to as “the Auschwitz of the Balkans.”
According to the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem, “The concentration of Jews in camps began in June 1941. By the end of that year about two thirds of Croatia’s Jews had been sent to Ustaša camps, where most of them were killed on arrival. In August 1942 and May 1943 the Germans deported the remaining Jews from Croatia to Auschwitz. 30,000 out of Croatia’s 37,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.”
The Baltimore Sun’s report quoted a high-ranking Nazi official’s statement when viewing the brutality in Jasenovac concentration camp in Sisak County, Croatia: “General Edmund von Horstenau, Hitler’s envoy in the capital city of Zagreb, called the place the epitome of horror.”
During the latter part of the 19th century, the Jewish community’s presence in Zagreb launched new enterprises and fueled economic growth.
The enterprises owned by the Jews of Croatia included large manufacturing and textile companies, banks, theaters, jewelry and watch store retailers and major tanneries such as the Royal Licensed Zagreb Tannery, known as Kožara, founded in 1869, considered one of the largest in Austro-Hungary. The Union Factory of Candied Fruit and Chocolates founded by Julije König and Slavoljub Deutsch was confiscated by the Ustasha regime and is known today as Kraš. The Croatian community in Zagreb, Rijeka and other cities owned significant real estate including a number of large commercial buildings in prime locations.
The notable entrepreneur Edmund Salomon Moster was the co-founder of the famous pen and pencil company “Penkala-Moster Company,” now TOZ in Zagreb. Moster and his brother owned 66,6% of the company. Edmund Salomon Moster died in 1942 at the Jasenovac concentration camp and his brother died in the Rab concentration camp.
This all changed drastically when the Ustasha regime confiscated Jewish private property and liquid assets. In 1941, the Ustasha destroyed the Grand Synagogue of Zagreb.
Today, Croatia’s embattled Jewish community faces the rise of anti-Semitism, brazen pro-Nazi nostalgia, primarily glorifying Ustasha slogans and politicians mired in corruption fanning the flames of extremism for electoral gain. When addressing the concerns of Croatia’s parlous judicial system, the Jewish leader in Zagreb Dr. Ognjen Kraus called the suspect legal framework as “anti-Semtic laws blocking the restitution of private property.”
According to published report, “Moreover, a law passed in Croatia in the early 1990s covers only property confiscated during the era of communism. It does not include property taken during the Holocaust and does not cover property that was legally owned by Jewish organizations.”
Croatia’s politicians are disdainful of the measures advanced by the US leaders who voted on the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017.
“Croatia’s government must prioritize the return of private property to the Jews of Croatia,” said Joel Anand Samy, co-founder, International Leaders Summit. “ We commend US leaders in advancing principled measures such as the passing of the JUST Act of 2017 which will hold to account countries such as Croatia which are deliberately blocking justice for the Jewish community. Time is running out and Croatia’s politicians must immediately resolve this urgent matter.”
Without principled external pressures, Croatian politicians will continue to block efforts to restitute private property that rightfully belongs to the Jewish community. Leadership members from the International Leaders Summit believe that withholding taxpayer aid, loans and grants provided by international institutions to Croatia should become part of the accountability measure.