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Dylan Versus The Ustachi (“Bob Dylan’s Nightmare”)

Ustachi with victim

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: For decades, we’ve been researching the Croatian fascists known as Ustachi. (There are various spellings–one will see “Ustashe,” and other variants.) Holding sway in Croatia after the German invasion of Yugoslavia, they were supported by the Vatican and incorporated into the GOP ethnic outreach organization after the war.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatia manifested “neo-Ustachi” elements returned to power in Croatia. A Croatian football (soccier) player recently stirred up those revanchist sentiments following Croatia’s defeat of Iceland in a World Cup qualifying match. Joe Šimunić led the crowd in the “Za Dom Spremni” Ustachi World War II political cheeer.

In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, Bob Dylan made a reference to the Ustachi slaughter of Serbs (as well as Jews and gypsies) by the Ustachi. Subsequently, Dylan was charged with a hate crime by France/EU! A number of thoughts in connection with this:

  • Bob Dylan is an American citizen, not a citizen of any EU country.
  • Rolling Stone is an American publication.
  • What Dylan said is not a violation of American law.
  • The French indictment would thus have profound international ramifications if it were allowed to stand.
  • None of the stories about the French indictment have provided historical background.


Ustachi preparing to saw off a prisoner's head

“Bob Dylan Charged With ‘Incit­ing Hate’ Under French Law” by Allan Kozinn; New York Times [blogs]; 12/03/2013.

EXCERPT: To peo­ple who fol­low the pro­nounce­ments of Bob Dylan, his com­ment in a Rolling Stone inter­view in Sep­tem­ber 2012 sug­gest­ing that Amer­i­can blacks could sense whether whites had slave-master blood “just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croa­t­ian blood” may have seemed just the sort of vaporously impres­sion­is­tic, emo­tion­ally pointed kind of thing that Mr. Dylan has been known to say for decades.

But to the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of the Croa­t­ian Com­mu­nity and Insti­tu­tions in France, an orga­ni­za­tion that looks after the inter­ests of France’s 30,000 Croa­t­ians, those were fight­ing words. Now they have led to Mr. Dylan, who built his early career singing songs that denounced racism, being charged under a French law pro­hibit­ing “pub­lic insult and incit­ing hate.”

Croatian Football Fans at a Recent Match

On Tues­day, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokes­woman for the prosecutor’s office in Paris, told The Asso­ci­ated Press that the French gov­ern­ment had filed pre­lim­i­nary charges. Mr. Dylan’s last encounter with the French gov­ern­ment was just over two weeks ago, when he was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s high­est prize.

The French gov­ern­ment must have known that the charges were brew­ing when they gave Mr. Dylan the award: Vlatko Maric, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the coun­cil, announced in Novem­ber 2012 that his group had filed a com­plaint with the French gov­ern­ment. That com­plaint led to the cur­rent charges. . . .


Ustachi preparing to slit the throat of a prisoner

“Croatian Player and Fans Celebrate World Cup Birth with Pro-Nazi Chant” by Barry Petchesky; deadspin.com; 11/20/2013.

EXCERPT: This is video of Australian-born Croatia defender Joe Šimunić leading fans in a chant after Croatia beat Iceland to qualify for the world cup. “For the homeland,” Šimunić calls, and the crowd responds, “Ready!” But it’s more complicated than that.

The salute—”Za dom spremni”—dates back to the 19th century, giving Šimunić plausible deniability. But it only became famous, and notorious, during the Second World War as a symbol of the Ustaše, a fascist and ultranationalist group that ruled Croatia as a Nazi puppet state and advocated and undertook genocide against Serbs, Jews, and Romani.

Think of it as the equivalent of “Sieg Heil”. The Croatian Constitution does, banning it in certain instances. So do FIFA and UEFA, who have previously fined the Croatian Football Federation for the chant’s use by fans, often accompanied by the Nazi salute. (As in many Eastern and Southeastern European countries, soccer and ultranationalism have a cozy, complicated relationship.) . . . .

. . . . . Damnit, we could have had adorable little Iceland in the World Cup instead. Now we just get fascism.


3 comments for “Dylan Versus The Ustachi (“Bob Dylan’s Nightmare”)”

  1. G’day Dave,
    Do you know about that man?
    Right at the beginning, in the first minute or so he says journalists are not always to blame since it is broadcasters which control what comes out – ok so far – then adds that in the case of the BBC, it is owned by Siemens. What ??!! Did I hear that right?

    Posted by de_lec / goelette (changing to the latter!) | December 7, 2013, 1:15 pm
  2. Also, a piece of news from pretty Switzerland: l’Affaire has been “white gold” to Swiss data hosting companies (using bunkers under the Snowy peaks) which have since tripled their business.


    Will keep an eye peeled about the Dylan story, although with France at such a historical low point, and so much incompetence and ridiculousness from the current administration, I wonder if it should be taken all that seriously? But the EU connexion is significant of course, especially given Croatia’s recent joining of the EU.

    Posted by goelette | December 7, 2013, 1:48 pm
  3. When Croatia’s new government was assembled back in December, the outgoing prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, had a rather frank way of characterizing the new government: criminal and pro-Ustachi:


    Ex-PM blasts new authorities as “criminal, pro-Ustasha”

    Zoran Milanovic said on Monday he was concerned that “people from a criminal, spying, and pro-Ustasha coalition” are coming to power in Croatia.

    Tanjug Monday, December 28, 2015 | 13:42

    The leader of the SDP, who until today served as Croatia’s prime minister, spoke as his party joined the opposition, and as the Croatian parliament elected its new president – while prime minister-elect Tihomir Oreskovic said he was convinced he would put together a new government within 30 days.

    Last week, post election negotiations between SDP and an independent list dubbed “Most” (“Bridge”) broke down just as it seemed an agreement would be reached to make the Most leader, Bozo Petrov, Croatia’s next prime minister. Instead, Petrov struck a deal with the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition, giving Oreskovic the chance to form the country’s next cabinet.

    “There are some things in life we cannot choose,” Milanovic told reporters on Monday, adding that “this government is the choice of the Most list – one they will have to live with.”

    Milanovic accused Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic of being “responsible” for the outcome of the post-election talks, and described him as a man accused of serious crimes.

    According to the former prime minister, Croatia has reached “the nadir, in the democratic sense.”

    “This is not a return to the old – this situation is worse than the old,” he said, adding, “no malice or irony intended, we have a problem.”

    “Ours is a small country, we are not rich, and the way we are represented abroad is very important – whether or not as politically strong persons, and when that is lacking they know there are no clear democratic processes in the country, and that somebody else is making the decisions,” Milanovic stated.

    As for the Most coalition, Milanovic said:

    “That’s their choice, they will have to live with it, get up and pray to God or to whatever they believe in. The coalition they chose, which was unfortunately put together by Bandic, who is accused, and by former chiefs of secret services, contains transparently Ustasha elements.”

    The Ustasha regime was in power in the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH) during the Second World War.

    Milanovic also said that his party will “continue to fight and not give up” while in opposition, and that the country’s new authorities are being formed “thanks to (parliament) representatives’ fear of repeated parliamentary elections.”

    “That’s their choice, they will have to live with it, get up and pray to God or to whatever they believe in. The coalition they chose, which was unfortunately put together by Bandic, who is accused, and by former chiefs of secret services, contains transparently Ustasha elements.”
    So was that just sour grapes by the leader of the power losing power, or might Croatia’s new government actually be pro-Ustachi? Well, if the selection of Zlatko Hasanbegovic, the new culture minister, is any indication of the government’s Ustachi sentiments, it’s pretty pro-Ustachi:

    Balkan Transitional Justice

    What were the Ustasa for Minister Hasanbegovic?

    It is hard to see how Croatia’s culture minister can be called an ‘anti-Fascist’, given the evidence of his unambiguous nature of his links to the far-right over many years.

    Hrvoje Simicevic Zagreb
    12 Feb 16

    In the text published for a pro-Fascist bulletin in his student days in 1996, Croatia’s new Culture Minister wrote about the wartime Fascist Ustasa fighters as “victims” and “martyrs”.

    Zlatko Hasanbegovic unambiguously glorified the Ustasa and advocated the establishment of the Greater Croatia in the monthly magazine, “The Independent State of Croatia”, published in the 1990s.

    He was photographed in it with Mladen Schwartz, Velimir Bujanec, and the son-in-law of former Fascist dictator and Ustasa leader Ante Pavelic. In one photograph he wears an Ustasa cap.

    The then editor-in-chief of the monthly, Srecko Psenicnik, was the son-in-law of Ante Pavelic, and President of the Croatian Liberation Movement, HOP, a pro-Ustasa party founded by Pavelic.

    In 1996, Hasanbegovic wrote at least two articles for the monthly that propagated Pavelic’s work and ideas and systematically denied the crimes committed by the Pavelic’s puppet state, The Independent State of Croatia, NDH.

    As a history student at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hasanbegovic wrote about the history of Muslims in Croatia, emphasizing their political and social renaissance during the reign of Pavelic and under the NDH.

    In a short commentary, illustrated by a photograph of the opening of the mosque in Zagreb featuring Pavelic in the company of Muslim dignitaries from the Ustasa movement, Hasanbegovic criticized the separation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia.

    He said the advocates of this policy were “abusing the honourable symbols and names of Ustasa heroes whose bones… are now turning in their graves from the shame and misery inflicted upon them fifty years later by their so-called followers”.

    As an alternative to those fake followers, Hasanbegovic offers the Ustasa “heroes and martyrs” who, like the author, are driven by a desire to create a Greater Croatia as envisioned by Pavelic.

    “In the name of those true heroes… who gave their lives for our Homeland… we, the true Croatian nationalists… the deceived and defeated Muslims and Catholics, should expose those hypocrites and moral freaks for who they really are, and show the people the way out of this dark tunnel towards peace and unity and religious tolerance which can only happen in a truly free and unified Homeland, stretching from the Mura, Drava and Drina rivers to the Adriatic,” he wrote.

    The Minister is listed as an associate writer for the NDH publication from April to November 1996, but featured as an author already in the February edition of the NDH as well as, in the first edition printed in Croatia after being issued abroad for many years.

    Psenicnik, president of the HOP, had managed to transfer publication of the NDH from Canada to Croatia, and register the HOP as a legitimate party in Croatia, despite its political platform affiliating it to the Ustasa movement and to the acts of terrorism.

    The party is still active in Croatia and it still promotes the political agenda of Pavelic. Its activity is not substantial, but according to the latest data, it has 650 members.

    In his most recent appearances, Hasanbegovic has denied his previous involvement with HOP. However, in one of the photographs featured in the NDH monthly, he is described as a “young HOP member”. In other photographs, he is described as a member of a party called the Young Croatian Rightists, headed at the time by Velimir Bujanec.

    He was also photographed in the company of Mladen Schwatrz, a right-wing political activist who in the 1990s advocated a Fascist regime in Croatia. Whatever the formal nature of his connections to Pavelic’s and Bujanec’s parties, the fact is that Hasanbegovic had intensive social contacts with some of their most prominent members and attended events organized by the radical right.

    The photographs in the monthly corroborate this. They show Hasanbegovic protesting against the 1995 Dayton Agreement on Bosnia, participating in the Bleiburg commemoration, and posing on the Split promenade wearing an Ustasa cap.

    At Bleiburg, he was photographed with the representatives of HOP and with Psenicnik, author of the text accompanying the photographs. In a report from Bleiburg, illustrated by this and other photos with numerous Ustasa insignia, Psenicnik openly glorifies the Ustasha movement.

    In Split, Hasanbegovic poses with five young men all described as “young nationalists” in the caption. Among them is Bujanec, who in the featured interview proclaims: “The future is ours”, just before the parliamentary elections in October 1995.

    In all three photos, Hasanbegovic is in the company of Bujanec, a man who would later become a member of the HOP youth fraction, a board representative of the NDH magazine and their public relations officer.

    At that time, Bujanec, who now hosts the TV show Bujica, was one of the many members of the Croatian Party of Right, HSP, and of the Young Croatian Rightists who subsequently joined the HOP. Pavelic’s son-in-law, Psenicnik, wrote in NDH that there were many reasons for their massive transfer to HOP, but the key reason was dissatisfaction with the fact that Pavelic’s photos had been removed from all the HSP’s offices.


    The recently appointed minister spent a considerable part of his political life in extremist political organizations and has never distanced himself from this past. Instead, he has directed his efforts towards denying that his statements represent relativization of World War II, claiming that all of his statements have been taken out of context.

    The context, however, is that Hasanbegovic was a contributor to the monthly magazine called “Independent State of Croatia”, that he glorified the Ustasa under the editorial authority of Pavelic’s son-in-law, that he called the Ustasas “heroes and martyrs”, and that he posed in an Ustasha cap.

    When recently asked about the controversies about Hasanbegovic, Prime Minister Oreskovic stated that Hasanbegovic was an anti-Fascist and reiterated this statement more recently when he said that Hasanbegovic was in fact a “devoted anti-Fascist”. After the most recent revelations, we are eager to hear once again what the Prime Minister has to say.

    “The recently appointed minister spent a considerable part of his political life in extremist political organizations and has never distanced himself from this past. Instead, he has directed his efforts towards denying that his statements represent relativization of World War II, claiming that all of his statements have been taken out of context.”
    That certainly doesn’t bode well for Croatia’s cultural zeitgeist. Neither does this:

    Balkan Transitional Justice

    Croatia’s ‘Banal’ Fascism on Display at Israel Match

    The Ustasa chant heard at Wednesday’s match, which the PM attended and the media ignored, is the result of the long-term ‘normalisation’ of once outlawed fascist symbols.

    Sven Milekic BIRN Zagreb
    Feature 25 Mar 16

    After Wednesday’s football game between Croatia and Israel in eastern city of Osijek, the Fascist chant “Za dom spremni” (“Ready for the Homeland”) once more echoed in the stands.

    Supporters of the World War II Nazi puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, NDH – whose Ustasa death squads took part in the Nazi Holocaust and murdered tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma – made the chant infamous.<

    However, although Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic was present at the game, he did not respond.

    The government only responded a day after in a short press release in which it condemned the use of symbols and slogans of totalitarian regimes, without clearly mentioning the game or the actual event.

    The anchor of Croatia Radio-Television, HRT, which broadcasted the game, also ignored the chants.

    The mainstream daily newspaper Jutarnji list headlined the report with “Slavonia [region of Osijek] Again Didn’t Disappoint” – only briefly reporting the chants.

    Ognjen Kraus, president of the Jewish community in Zagreb, told BIRN that such behaviour was the “result of the politics in Croatia.”

    “What especially worries me that this is happening during the game, without drawing any reaction from those who were there, headed by the organiser [the Croatian Football Association, HNS] and Prime Minister who just sat there,” he said.

    Kraus added that if such things are not tackled head on, it allows “Ustaso-philia to kick-in”.

    He mentioned the case in which the vice-chair of parliament and member of the governing majority, Ivan Tepes, participated in January in a 5,000-strong protest when “Za dom spremni” could be “loudly heard and no one reacted”.

    Ahead of the last elections, last November, Tepes, head of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights “Ante Starcevic”, said the chant should not been banned because some soldiers used it during the independence war of the 1990s.

    Some 3,200 people petitioned President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic last August to make it the official chant of the Croatian army.

    Sanja Tabakovic Zoricic, head of the Shoah Academy in the Jewish community, said this was “a trend lasting for years” and that the system’s reaction was wrong.

    “Now, when we have a society in which no one hesitates to promote pro-Fascist standpoints, I really don’t see anything weird that some chant “Za dom spremni,” she said.

    She said that it would have surprised her had the politicians present in Osijek left the game, “as in civilized societies”. The fact that they did not only proves that the scandal “doesn’t disturb them”.

    Only some 8,500 out of 39,000 Jews survived the Holocaust committed by Ustasa and Nazi Germany on the territory of the NDH, which included most of present-day Croatia and Bosnia.

    Croatia’s new government, of the controversial Culture Minister, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, meanwhile took a decision to sponsor an event commemorating retreating Ustasa killed in 1945 at Bleiburg in Austria.

    “Za dom spremni” has been heard at games played the Croatian national football team before.

    The last time was at the game with Norway in March 2015. FIFA later penalised the HNS with a 55,000 euros fine and ordered one game to be played without fans.

    At the game without fans, played in the coastal city of Split in June, a Nazi swastika was visible on the pitch, after which the Croatian team was deducted one point, while the HNS had to pay 100,000 euro and play another two matches without fans.

    Croatian football fans have provocatively used swastikas before, forming one with their bodies at a game in Livorno in Italy, for example.

    At a match against Serbia in March 2013, Croatian fans chanted “Kill the Serb,” for which the HNS received a fine of 42,000 euros.

    Dario Brentin, from the University of Graz in Austria, researching sport, nationalism and memory politics in Croatia, told BIRN that the incident at the match with Israel offered “proof of the process of banalisation of totalitarian symbols, expressed by chanting ‘Za dom spremni’.

    “I’m not convinced all people that chant it at games are all sympathizers with the Ustasa who believe in Ustasa ideas,” he said.

    “It’s a complex social process that leads to a situation in which it’s completely irrelevant what it [chant] means or doesn’t,” he added. It is “commonly seen as sign patriotic act”, he noted.

    According to Brentin, the public discourse in Croatia has created a situation in which it is seen as “completely normal part of routing in sports”.

    He noted the case of the Croatian football player Josip Joe Simunic in November 2013.

    Immediately after a football match with Iceland, Simunic led some 20,000 fans in chanting “Za dom spremni”.

    He was not condemned by his manager or by the HNS for that, but only by a part of media, while the public divided into two groups – those who condemned and those who supported him.

    The county attorney office later fined him some 3,300 euros, which the magistrates court later lowered to 660 euros, for “causing public disorder” but not for hate speech.

    After a process before disciplinary bodies, FIFA gave Simunic a ten-game suspension, preventing him from attending his last World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

    Brentin suggested that even if the current HNS leadership urged fans not to support the team in this way, “no one would listen, nor would it change anything”, since such attitudes can “only be changed through education”.

    “Especially in popular culture, Marko Perkovic Thompson [nationalistic singer who uses the chant in his songs] and supporting the national football team are two social elements that perpetuate ‘Za dom spremni’ as a patriotic chant,” he said.

    Brentin concluded that both the Croatian media and the political elites clearly avoid condemning such incidents because they come from a “similar ideological family”.

    “Brentin concluded that both the Croatian media and the political elites clearly avoid condemning such incidents because they come from a “similar ideological family”.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 25, 2016, 2:56 pm

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