Spanish Law May Mean Moving Croatian Fascist Tombs


If Spain adopts a new historical memory law, the tombs of Croatia’s World War II Fascist leaders Ante Pavelic and Vjekoslav Maks Luburic may have to move to less prominent sites, or back to their native Bosnia.

By Sven Milekic

If Spain’s centre-left-led government adopts an announced law on historical memory, designed to deal with the memory of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, the tombs of the Croatian World War II Fascist leaders may have to be moved from their current prominent sites in Madrid and Valencia.

The body of Croatian Fascist Ustasa leader Ante Pavelic lies now in the San Isidro cemetery in Madrid, while that of the commander of the Ustasa concentration camps, Vjekoslav Maks Luburic, lies in Carcaixent cemetery in Valencia.

Under the proposed law of historical memory, the criminal records of those convicted of opposing Spain’s former Fascist regime will be erased – and organisations that venerate the memory of the dictator Francisco Franco, such as the Fundacion Francisco Franco, will be banned.

The Spanish news site reported on Monday that the new law may also mean moving the two Croat Fascist tombs to less visible places, or back to their native countries.

Pavelic and Luburic were born in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, which formed part of the wartime pro-Axis Independent State of Croatia, NDH.

The reason for moving the tombs is that they serve as places of pilgrimage for far-rightists – an issue that the new law aims to tackle.

In June, Spain’s new Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said the tomb of former dictator Franco should be moved from the massive Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, near Madrid.

The monument, built by Franco’s government, holds the remains of about 34,000 people from both the Fascist Falange and the Republican sides in the Spanish Civil War.

The new law would also establish a truth commission to investigate the crimes of the Franco-led state.

Back in the 1990s, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman mulled transporting Pavelic’s remains to Croatia, along with those of former Yugoslav Communist President Josip Broz Tito, who is buried in Belgrade but who is from Kumrovec in northern Croatia.

After fleeing Croatia in 1945, Pavelic reached safety in Argentina where he continued his political activities. A Serbian émigré, Blagoje Jovovic, shot him in Buenos Aires in 1957, but he survived.

Pavelic then shifted to friendly Spain – due to his good relations with Franco’s regime – where he died in 1959, aged 70.

Luburic moved also to Franco’s Spain in 1949 and lived in Valencia, where he ran a printing office, publishing pro-Ustasa magazines.

Agents for the Yugoslav State Security Service, SDB, infiltrated his printing office and killed him in 1969, however.

Between 1941 and 1945, Pavelic’s NDH adopted Nazi-style racist laws and severely persecuted Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-Fascists.

According to an official name-by-name list, 83,145 victims of the regime perished at the main Ustasa concentration camp at Jasenovac.

Following Franco’s death, Spain adopted an amnesty, known as the “pact of silence”, designed to stop the wounds of the Civil War from being reopened. Defenders say it eased Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy.

However, relatives of the losing Republican side have long complained that it unjustly stigmatised their families and effectively honoured the Fascist legacy.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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