Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jewish group condemns Nazi funeral

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — The funeral of a former Nazi concentration camp commander was used to celebrate his crimes, a Jewish human rights group said Tuesday and urged Croatia's president to investigate.

Dinko Sakic's funeral was an "outrageous display of unrepentant racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia," the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israeli branch director, Efraim Zuroff, said in a letter addressed to President Stipe Mesic and faxed to The Associated Press.

Sakic died at age 87 on July 20 while serving 20 years in prison for war crimes he committed as head of the notorious Jasenovac camp, the worst of about 40 camps run by the then Nazi puppet regime of Croatia.

Mesic said in a statement that he has repeatedly condemned Nazi crimes, including Sakic's.

Zuroff said the funeral was used to glorify the World War II regime and urged authorities to investigate.

Sakic was buried wearing the uniform of the Ustasha, the local pro-Nazi movement, according to the Croatian daily Vecernji. It said a priest called Sakic a "model for all Croatians."

The funeral was private, attended by family and several minor right-wing politicians.

"What Croatian society needs is a clear and unequivocal reminder that Dinko Sakic was a mass murderer ... (and) that one of Croatia's greatest achievements was his prosecution and punishment," Zuroff wrote.

Sakic fled Croatia when the pro-Nazi state was crushed in 1945. He was extradited from Argentina in 1998 to face trial in Croatia, where he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats were killed in Jasenovac.