VIENNA – The World Jewish Congress (WJC) welcomes the recommendation by an Austrian Interior Ministry working group of experts to ban the controversial annual meeting in Bleiburg/Pliberk in southern Austria that purports to commemorate the Yugoslav Partisans’ 1945 killing of tens of thousands of Nazi-allied members of the Croatian fascist Ustaše movement.
For decades, this event has attracted right-wing extremists from Austria, Croatia, Germany and other parts of Europe. Olga Voglauer, an Austrian parliamentary representative of the Green Party, has described it as “one of the greatest gatherings of ultranationalist and fascist groups in Europe.” The working group recommends that the Bleiburg/Pliberk gathering must be “prohibited in the future.”
The working group, which includes legal experts, historians, and representatives of the federal state, federal entities and the Catholic Church, was set up in July 2020 after a resolution in the Austrian National Council called for a ban of the Bleiburg/Pliberk event. The resolution was supported by the Green Party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party, ÖVP, the Social Democrats, SPÖ and the liberal NEOS.
In its report, the expert panel also makes it clear that inscriptions such as “Honor and Glory of the Fallen Croatian Army, May 1945” and emblems from the two memorial stones erected in Bleiburg/Pliberk must be removed. These are “in no way intended to commemorate; it is about the glorification of the fascist Ustaše regime and its soldiers.”
In addition, the federal government will expand the banned symbol law to include the showing of symbols of the HOS, in addition to the symbols of the Ustaše, making it a punishable offense. HOS was the name of the Ustaše army until 1945 as well as the name of a Croatian paramilitary unit (1991-1993) known for its numerous direct and positive references to Croatian fascism.
The WJC encourages the Austrian government to expand the ban and thanks the members of the working group of experts for their efforts in removing this stain on Austria’s memory of the Holocaust.
The WJC calls for the swift implementation of the working group’s recommendations. The immediate removal of the memorial stones is essential for the respectful commemoration of the Shoah. The WJC also urges the Austrian Ministry of Interior to call on local Austrian authorities to cease providing permits for an event that glorifies individuals who perpetrated atrocious crimes during the Holocaust.
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