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Some say that the event, which the Croatian parliament sponsors, has become the largest annual gathering of neo-Nazis in Europe.14 May 2018
Tens of thousands of mainly far-right Croats attended the annual commemoration of the Bleiburg Massacre on Saturday in the homonymous southern Austrian town. There, in May 1945, tens of thousands of Croats, mostly troops of the pro-German Croatian Ustashe regime, were murdered by Communist leader Josip Broz Tito’s victorious Yugoslav Liberation Army at the end of World War II.
In recent years the event has become more and more of “a manifest for fascists,” Bleiburg’s mayor Stefan Visotschnig told the Sueddeutschen Zeitung. “It cannot possibly go on like this,” he added.
The Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance called the commemoration event “the largest meeting of neo-Nazis in all of Europe.” The centre researches the Holocaust and other Nazi-era crimes, as well as monitors current neo-fascist movements.
People wearing Ustashe symbols or performing the Nazi salute are no rarity, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Similar commemorations cannot be held in Croatia, because Ustashe symbols are forbidden there.
In May 1945, tens of thousands of troops and civilians from the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a puppet state of Germany and Italy led by the fascist Ustashe movement, fled to the British-occupied part of Austria to escape the advancing Yugoslav Liberation army. The Ustashe troops intended to surrender to the British, who, however, refused to accept their capitulation and sent them back to Yugoslavia. During repatriation marches, Yugoslav anti-fascist forces murdered many of those who had tried to escape.
The commemoration in Bleiburg was organized by the Bleiburg Guard of Honor, the Directorate of Pastoral Care for Croats Abroad, and the Croatian Catholic Mission in Klagenfurt, Austria. The Croatian parliament and the Croatian national assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina sponsored the event, according to Total Croatia News.
The commemoration also included a mass conducted by Croat Catholic clergy, according to AP.
Several high-ranked Croatian politicians attended the ceremony, and the speaker of the Croatian parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic, gave a speech. “Awful crimes have been committed in the Bleiburg field. Today we are paying our respect to the victims, civilians as well as the soldiers,” he was quoted as saying by AP.
Several Austrian public figures have said that the event in Bleiburg should not be allowed to take place. However, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, a spokesperson for the Austrian government, told Al Jazeera, “the clerical event is organized by a private association on private premises and can therefore not be prohibited by the government.”
Some 100 people staged a demonstration against the events surrounding the commemoration, Al Jazeera says.
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