Thompson Plays Down Fascist Tag

Popular ultra-nationalist singer Thompson is playing down the fuss over his June 17th Zagreb concert, although the controversy raged to the point that Croatian president Stjepan Mesic was moved to comment.

"I am certainly not the one who could ban anyone from performing and having concerts, but the places where you shout ‘Za dom spremni’ lead Croatia in the wrong direction," he said after a national outcry reached deafening proportions by the time it was taken up by The Jerusalem Post.

Apart from yelling "Za dom spremni," an old Croatian fascist salute, and wearing T-shirts showing the same political bent, the Israeli paper claimed the crowd turned the event into a right-wing rally.

Although one of Thompson’s songs actually begins with the words "Za dom spremni," he appeared to be trying to play both ends against the middle when he told BBC regional correspondent Tony Volaric that police should arrest anybody with Ustasa signs on their T-shirts.

"He’s singing about the homeland, the family and God in a rather old-fashioned way. Some people see him as a symbol of the Croatian nation, and so it’s seen as nationalism rather the fascism," Volaric told Pollstar.

Volaric spoke to several who attended the concert and, while they did say there were a few people wearing Ustasa T-Shirts, it was far from being the fascist demonstration the world’s media had reported.

The Sunday evening Zagreb concert, which 60,000 people attended, including Croatian members of parliament and the ministers of science, education and sports, turned into a massive fascist demonstration, according to Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Centre’s chief Nazi hunter, sent a letter to President Mesic and asked him to put a stop to such gatherings.

"Under the current circumstances, I believe that the time has come to prohibit public concerts by those who write songs of nostalgia for [the] Jasenovac [concentration camp] and inspire the show of Ustasha symbols, which constitute open and blatant incitement against all the minorities in Croatia," he wrote.

"I believe that only if someone of your stature and outstanding anti-fascist credentials will lead the efforts to combat this ugly wave of revived fascism, can this extremely dangerous new trend be stopped before it engulfs Croatia."

The Ustasha regime ran a puppet government after the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941.

During its four years in power, the Ustasha carried out a Serb genocide, reportedly exterminating more than 500,000 people, expelling 250,000 and forcing another 250,000 to convert to Catholicism.

The Ustasha is also said to have killed most of Croatia’s Jews, 20,000 gypsies and many thousands of their political enemies.

After the war, most of the Ustasha leaders escaped to South America and Spain.

During the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, there was a certain resurgence of Ustasha symbols coinciding with the ethnic hatred that remained after the wars.