Balkanalysis on Twitter

Western Media Ignores Serb, US Memorials of Jasenovac Death Camp

April 20, 2005

( Research Service)- Although they swarmed to the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the largest WWII concentration camp at Auschwitz on 27 January, the Western media almost completely ignored a similar event held this past Sunday to recognize the 60th anniversary of the closing of Jasenovac, the notorious Croat Ustasha concentration camp at which between 300,000-700,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and “others” were tortured and murdered in the most horrific ways imaginable.

A quick search on Wednesday of Google News, which is a fairly accurate indicator of media coverage in that it carries many new stories from the major (and many minor) Western media outlets, shows that only three Western sources have reported on the event, at least so far. The French AFP offered a paragraph on the event, which was picked up by Greece’s Kathimerini, no doubt because Greece has historic sympathies with the Serbs. The alternative news source IPS ran a lengthier article. But a third mention of the Jasenovac event by that firm friend of Western governments, the Czech-based TOL, seems to have only been performed in order to contrast it with alleged anti-Semitism in Serbia.

In fact, the only (non-Serbian) reports devoted to the event were carried by media bodies from the other side of the world – Russia’s ITAR-TASS and China’s Xinhuanet.

In contrast, Google gives 59,000 entries for January’s Auschwitz memorial – even though it ignored Sunday’s memorial for the largest of Croatia’s wartime concentration camps.

Alas, with the exceptions of the AFP and IPS, the Western media was completely missing in action on Sunday. Perhaps this was because the event took place in the all-but-forgotten Serb Republic of the Bosnian Federation. However, this ignorance of such a symbolical event is hypocritical, considering the media’s love for symbolic commemorations in places like Auschwitz, and considering that Jasenovac was one of the largest concentration camps of the war.

This enforced ignorance seems to confirm the opinions of critics who believe that the issue is being willfully ignored. According to Carl Savich, who has written extensively on the subject, the issue of war crimes carried out by Western allies Croatia at places like Jasenovac is something that should be ignored at all costs: “since we [the West] supported Croatia so much in the Yugoslav secession wars of the 1990’s, and since the Croatian government still won’t own up to it, this story is something that has been swept under the rug…. Yet it is one of the great untold stories of the 20th century.”

However, Croat nationalists like the Holocaust-denier and late former President Franjo Tudjman have dismissed the story as nothing more than a “myth.”

The Western media’s disinterest in the Jasenovac commemoration is also strange considering that representatives from Western and EU states were in attendance, as well as representatives of the World Jewish Congress and the World Gypsy [Roma] Congress.

“…A most atrocious form of genocide was committed at Jasenovac, as hundreds of thousands of innocent elderly, women and children died there just because they belonged to a different creed or different ethnic groups,” said the President of the Bosnian Serb Republic, Dragan Cavic, according to Xinhuanet. Cavic urged the participants “to continue punishing the butchers by gathering here every year and reminding them about their victims.”

However, unlike the usual image Westerners have of the thoroughly demonized Serbs, Cavic spoke of forgiveness. He “…called on the Balkan nations to break the vicious circle, which turns today’s victims into tomorrow’s hangmen and transforms today’s hatred into tomorrow’s revenge.”

His statements were echoed by Serbian President Boris Tadic, who was also in attendance: “…all of us need exceptional responsibility so that our region wouldn’t be regarded as a place of crimes anymore.”

One might argue that the Bosnian ceremony was ignored because it took place in a forgotten Balkan backwater. However, more difficult to explain, considering that it was held in New York, was the apparent ignorance of another Jasenovac commemoration on Sunday which also included worldwide Jewish groups. It was organized by the Jasenovac Research Institute, which recently petitioned the Croatian government to give reparations to Jewish survivors of Jasenovac, as the German government has done. In a circular letter of 25 February to the EU Presidency, JRI National Coordinator Barry Lituchy wrote:

“…Croatia’s refusal to come to terms with its past crimes is in direct contravention of the laws and practices of the European Union. To allow Croatia entry in to the European Union without forcing it to resolve its longstanding disputes with its own Holocaust victims would constitute both an in insult and an injury to these victims as well as a travesty of immense proportions.

To allow Croatia’s entry under such conditions would inevitably harm and undermine the reputation and stature of the E.U., for these are claims that will never go away or be forgotten. They must be settled legally and it is yours and the European Union’s responsibility to recognize this beforehand. I feel certain you will agree.”

A NY Times report three days later by Nick Wood, devoted to Croatian war crimes, mentioned only the latter-day case of Ante Gotovina – but nothing about Jasenovac and other WWII concentration camps, even though the story is out there and the JRI letter was copied to Jewish groups and diplomatic luminaries, including New York Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer.

2004-2009 Back Archives