World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer have appealed to the Catholic Church in Croatia to cancel a mass scheduled for Monday aimed at honoring Ustasha generals and officers who were sentenced to death after the Second World War for their part in the mass murder of Jews and other minorities.
In a letter to Archbishop of Zagreb Cardinal Josip Bozanic, and Monsignor Želimir Puljic, President of the Croatian Bishop’s conference, Lauder and Singer expressed their deep distress regarding the “Mass for the Souls,” writing:
“In the current climate of rising antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism in Croatia and elsewhere in Europe, it is beyond disconcerting to learn that the church has chosen to openly glorify Ustasha criminals, and whitewash the tragedy endured by the Jewish community and other minorities during World War II.
“Beginning in 1941, the Independent State of Croatia, headed by the Ustasha leader Ante Pavelić, perpetrated a genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Croat authorities murdered between 320,000 and 340,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia during the period of Ustasha rule; more than 30,000 Croatian Jews were killed either in Croatia or at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
“Between 77,000 and 104,000 innocent people were brutally murdered by the Ustasha at the Jasenovac Concentration Camps, sites of horrific brutality comparable to the barbarity of the Nazi German death and concentration camps. The Jasenovac Memorial Site has identified by name more than 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, and anti-fascists who perished in these camps.
“Any attempt to deny, trivialize or minimize the enormity of this genocide, or to rehabilitate its perpetrators in any way whatsoever, is intolerable.
“As democracies around the world today strive to face their history, and take responsibility for the crimes of their predecessors, it is inconceivable to us that the church would choose to celebrate some of the darkest and most cruel figures in the history of Croatia.
"We urge you to take a firm stance and cancel this shameful celebration and make clear that the church is a proponent of tolerance, not a glorifier of criminal inhumanity.”