ZAGREB (Reuters) - Israel’s ambassador in Croatia on Thursday condemned the funeral given to a World War Two concentration camp head, saying it insulted the memory of those killed in the camp run by Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime.
Dinko Sakic, who commanded the Jasenovac camp in northeastern Croatia during World War Two, died last week in Zagreb at the age of 87 while serving a jail sentence for war crimes.
“I’m convinced that the majority of the Croatian people are shocked by the way the funeral of the Jasenovac commander and murderer, dressed in an Ustasha uniform, was conducted,” Israeli ambassador Shmuel Meirom said in a written statement to the state news agency Hina.
“At the same time, I strongly condemn the inappropriate words of the priest who served at the funeral and said that Sakic was a model for all Croats. I’m convinced it is not an official attitude of the Catholic Church in Croatia.”
According to Croatia’s Vecernji List daily, Sakic was buried in the Ustasha uniform and described by the priest at the funeral as “a person Croats must be proud of”.
Meirom said the event did not contribute to a positive image of Croatia, which had “made commendable efforts in recent years to condemn the years of the Ustasha regime”.
The pro-Nazi puppet state of Croatia from 1941 to 1945 carried out persecutions and mass killings. Tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats perished in Jasenovac, the worst of its concentration camps.
Sakic was sentenced in 1999 to the then maximum 20-year jail term for war crimes after his extradition from Argentina, where he had lived since leaving Croatia at the end of World War Two.
His trial was significant for Croatia as the country’s late president Franjo Tudjman, who died in 1999, was often criticized for nationalistic policies and accused by Jewish groups of trying to whitewash Ustasha atrocities.
Reporting by Igor Ilic; editing by Andrew Roche