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Croatia: The Death of Dinko Šakić

For most people outside the Balkans, the name, Dinko Šakić, the location of Jasenovac, and the group named Ustaša will have little meaning. For Croatians though, these names keep coming back time and again to replay on a national and international level.
In explaining the importance of this, it's best to start with the Ustaša. This was the name of the ultra-nationalist, fascist group that seized control of Croatia during WWII and acted as a puppet government for the Nazi regime with Ante Pavelić as head of state. They had the distinction of proving that they were not only just as brutal as their Nazi counterparts, but actually even more so.

Ustasha Flag
Ustaša Flag image from Wikipedia

Such an example was the creation of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp which the Croatian regime used to imprison, torture, and kill Jews, Serbs, Roma, Partisans (Croatians fighting against the Ustaša regime), and just about anyone else that they found to be an enemy. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of prisoners killed at this Croatian version of Auschwitz, but the official and generally accepted figure is approximately 70,000-85,000 people with other estimates in the past putting the number as high as 500,000 (higher figures have been discredited as being inflated). The commander of the camp was a man named Dinko Šakić, who managed to flee Europe to hide in Argentina once the Ustaša regime fell in 1945.

Marko of the blog Greater Surbiton summed up the legacy of the Ustaša:

The history of the Ustasha movement, in other words, was utterly shameful – not only from the moral, but from the patriotic Croatian perspective. Nevertheless, ever since the Communist regime in Croatia fell in 1990, there have been those Croats who have sought to perpetuate the disgrace by their loud statements upholding the legacy of the former Ustasha regime.

Dinko Šakić and Nada LuburićDinko Šakić in uniform at Jasenovac (Photo from Wikipedia)

In 1998, Šakić was found in Argentina and shortly after extradited to Croatia to stand trial for his term as commander of the Jasenovac prison. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail, which it turns out he would only serve half of as he just recently died on July 20, 2008. His death was a minor event given that he was 86, but his funeral has caused a great deal of controversy in Croatia and with Jewish people at large whom he directed the extermination of at Jasenovac.
His funeral called for him to be buried in his Ustaša uniform. When taken out of this Croatian context and transposed on another setting, many people would find this ludicrous as was pointed out by Matthew on the Serbian news portal B92:

Could you imagine such a funeral for the commander of Auschwitz?

As if that wasn't enough, as stated by Marko of Greater Surbiton:

…at his funeral the presiding clergyman, Vjekoslav Lasic, said that the ‘court that convicted Dinko Sakic convicted Croatia and the Croatian nation'; that the ‘NDH is the foundation of the modern Croatian homeland’, and that ‘every honourable Croat should be proud of Sakic’s name’.

Bear in mind that this is not an opinion shared by every Croatian, but these words carried far with their meaning. On both a national and international scope, those who were effected by the killings of Šakić's command of Jasenovac were outraged by these events as was relayed by LimbicNutrition Weblog:

Vice-President of the Jewish Community Jasminka Domas claimed “the disgraceful events that occurred at the funeral of Dinko Šakić in Zagreb insult the memory of all the victims of the Ustasha regime, and besmirch the Republic of Croatia's good name.”
Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem Efraim Zuroff has written to Croatian President Stjepan Mesić to express his anger at the way Šakić’s funeral was organized and at the priest’s speech.

Ari Rusila of BalkanPerspective also commented on the issue by quoting what Shmuel Meirom, the Israeli ambassador to Croatia said of the funeral:

“I'm convinced that the majority of the Croatian people are shocked by the way the funeral of the Jasenovac commander and murderer, dressed in an Ustasha uniform, was conducted,” ambassador Meirom said in a written statement to the state news agency Hina. “At the same time, I strongly condemn the inappropriate words of the priest who served at the funeral and said that Sakic was a model for all Croats” Meirom said.

And indeed Zoran Oštrić of Zelena Lista (The Green List) [Croatian] is one of those Croatians who is against the honoring of such a man as Šakić and laments how the popular culture of Croatia is holding him to be a Croat worthy of respect:

It is unfortunate, that when Croatia convicted him ten years ago that whether from the urging of their grandfathers or on their own that his name [Šakić] was chanted at soccer matches by many of the youth.

Why do these people become cultural icons despite the hard facts that they have murdered countless people? The simple answer to this is that it is much easier to forget about such figures in history as opposed to actually coming to terms with the actions that they did at the bequest of the government at the time. One sentence on Ljevica (the Left Hand) [Croatian], an otherwise very left blog states:

They convicted him because he was a person with the pistol who killed forty detainees and ordered the hanging of 22 prisoners of war, but now this is not important.

While an admission of the crimes that he committed, it has been seen that those who were directly affected by the killings ordered by Šakić do not agree that just because he is now dead that what he did no longer matters.

9 comments

  • […] The Death of Dinko Šakić Global Voices Online » Croatia: The Death of Dinko Šakić For most people outside the Balkans, the name, Dinko Šakić, the location of Jasenovac, and the […]

  • Shirley Jackson

    Are you trying to incite the murder of Croats? You ignore that the Serbs shot and killed our politicians in the Yugoslav Parliament. You ignore the civil war in Croatia. My Croatian uncle was a partisan hunted by 10,000 SS soldiers from Germany. You ignore that Dalmatia was under Italian occupation. My Croatian father speaks perfect Italian. You ignore that the British Army and Yugoslav Communist Partisans murdered up to 700,000 Croats, including the 200,000-strong Croatian Army, in Bleiburg, Austria at the end of the war.

    “They were not only just as brutal as their Nazi counterparts, but actually even more so” — that’s interesting, because the Ustasha were using Serbian methods.

  • I’ve read through your comment a couple of times and you’ll have to pardon me, but I can’t understand the conclusion that you were wanting to reach.

    If you look in my bio, you will see that I am indeed Croatian myself and have vested a great deal of time studying the history of the country and would be more than happy to discuss anything that you find to be inaccurate or misleading in this article. I do believe that this was an extremely dark point in modern Croatian history. In recent history it has been told in any manner of different versions to further various peoples’ goals (whether they be military or political), which means that it is open to a great deal of interpretation.

    -miquel

  • G.Vuksic

    Today, there is not an honest person that is going to write what really happend during ww2 in Croatia. All these SCRIBBLERS look on yugoslave/serbe’s propaganda from Belgrade and used that propaganda as “facts”. Remember, you SCRIBBLERS, that history is not in your blind mind, but in Croatia, land of Croatia, for which every Croat and every croatian generation rise-up – USTATI – to defand the Holly Land of Croatia, you SCRIBBLERS like it or not. Short and clear>

  • Ustasa were freedom fighters. Articles like this one simply perpetuate over 50 years of lies and propaganda spread by serbo-communists and jewish lobby groups.
    These lies have been used to screen the massive attrocities that they committed against the Croatian people.

    Can you believe that croatian communists have even altered shrines in bleiburg to try and hide their involvement in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unarmed Ustasa and other croatian men and women!

    All Croatians wanted was freedom – Germany was just an opportunity for that freedom and Croatia took it.

    Partizans were fighting for communism – Usatsa were fighting for freedom.

    Jasenovac was used as partizan slaughter house – I think you’ll find the bones there are actually croatian!

  • Shane Braddock

    Far from being Croatian freedom fighters, the Ustasa set the cause of Croatian independence back 50 years – they allowed Tito to easily demonize all Croatians in the world’s eyes; they gave Milosevic and his cronies an excuse to attack first.

    German generals were sending letters to Berlin describing the Ustasa brutality in the camps. You have to be insane to place the uneducated NDH monkeys on a pedestal.

    Shouldn’t both Croats and Serbs move on from trying to calculate who were the larger historical victims (the last 500 years). Both countries need to face (and apologize for) their pasts. Both were complicit with the Nazis (before and during WW2). Both countries acted like degenerates during the last wars in the 90s.

    And the citizens of both countries continue to have a reputation throughout the world as simple-minded fools – a shame since I know great people in both.

  • Your point is similar to those of Slavenka Drakulić who is a fantastic writer, yet highly unpopular in Croatia due to her stating the fact that Croats need to own up to what they did and move on as a people. If you haven’t read Cafe Europa, I highly recommend it.

  • To Shane Braddock:
    You are simply exposing yourself as either an enemy of Croatia or as a hapless victim of serbo-communist propaganda.
    Let me explain to you again, Croatians fought for freedom – unlike the serbs, we do not murder, rape and pillage. Go to to your local library and I will bet my house that you will find books with fabricated photos of so called Ustasa attrocities. A well respected Australian journalist exposed many of these photos and actually wrote a book about the systamatic campaign of lies by the yugoslav govt. If there were so many attrocities, surely the serbo-communists wouldn’t have to create so much propaganda material????
    You have to ask yourself, why did they want to demonise the Ustasa so much? Answer: to cover their own horrific crimes.

  • Gratius Juda

    Dinko Ljubomir Sakic is the slayer of my kindreds, my people, the Jewish people. I do not heed to Serbian propaganda because I know it is as malicious as the Ustasa one, I blame now nation collectivlly, but Sakic is the worst sort of war-criminal that existed, and no alledged Serbian criminal would overdo his murderous deeds, for he was truelly a monster, who at the age of 23 commanded an extermination camp where at least 100,000 victims parished (Max 500,000). Sakic death pleases me more than many things, yet as his demise cause me unspeakable joy, the terrible deed of Ustasa legitimization at his furenal is enraging. There never was and never will be anything legitimate about the Ustasa, or the NDH, or even the Dombrovani.

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