President of Croatia Apologizes to Jewish Holocaust Victims

Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis

Croatian President Ivo Josipovi apologized on Wednesday over the role his country played in the crimes committed against Jews during the Second World War, in an address to the Knesset.

"We need to look into our hearts, and to come to terms with the darkest stain in our history. Here I am, standing before the parliament of the Jewish state, and more importantly, in front of people born in Croatia, and with no ambiguity, I apologize and I ask for forgiveness from all the Holocaust survivors and all the victims, Josipovi said.

Croatian president Ivo Josipović on a visit to Yad Vashem.Credit: AP

Josipovi also mentioned a similar apology on the part of his predecessor. A few years ago in this place, my predecessor expressed deep sorrow over the crimes committed against Jews during the Second World War in Croatia. His declaration gave an important impetus to Israel-Croatia relations," he said. 

Josipovi went on to say that it was Croatia's responsibility to remember the Holocaust, and prevent future similar atrocities.

We always need to remember and we will carry on living together with the victims. This is our responsibility, so that our children will know what is good and what is bad. I am totally convinced that amendments to the compensation law that will be made soon, will also include Holocaust survivors, private individuals, their inheritors or local communities, he said.

The Croatian president also talked about the future of ties between the two countries, and the need to reach a peace with the Palestinians.

The two words that I returned to on this visit were: peace and cooperation, he said. "Peace for Israel, peace for Palestine."

"We offer our friendship, and our partnership for a better future for our countries and our citizens, he said.

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin gave a speech saying in these important days, in which Croatia is seeking consistently and decisively to establish democratic and liberal values, Croatia is dealing with its past bravely and poignantly. The head-on confrontation with the past, the confrontation with the seeds of hate and racism that are asleep now, and the education of the younger generation may guard against the horrors of the Second World War repeating themselves.

The link between Israel and Croatia did not come about from ignoring the difficulties of the past, rather from a direct and brave look, and an honest acceptance of it, he said.

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