Pro-Nazi slogan at Croatia death camp condemned

Zagreb (AFP) - The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Tuesday condemned a pro-Nazi slogan on a memorial plaque in a small Croatian town that housed a notorious World War II death camp.

Former paramilitaries placed the plaque in central Jasenovac to honour 11 fellow fighters killed in the area at the start of Croatia's 1990s independence war.

It carries the official emblem of the HOS paramilitary forces, which includes the slogan used by the country's WWII Ustasha regime.

"It is hard to believe that an incendiary slogan like 'Za dom spremni' ('For the Homeland ready') can be publicly displayed in a country which is a member of the European Union," the centre's top Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said in a statement.

"Such slogans are ... part of an attempt to distort the history of WWII and the Holocaust, turning perpetrators into heroes."

The existence of the plaque -- put in place by HOS veterans in November -- has only just emerged via local media.

Conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said it was "certainly delicate that such a memorial was put in Jasenovac".

But, he added that it was an emblem of an officially registered association.

The issue "shows that we did not set up an adequate legal framework ... regarding totalitarian regimes," Plenkovic said, pledging to seek for a "legal solution."

The Ustasha regime persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians.

The Jasenovac camp, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of the capital Zagreb, was known as "Croatia's Auschwitz"

The total number of people killed at the camp remains disputed, varying from tens of thousands to 700,000, according to Serbian figures.

Croatia's previous centre-right government, which fell in June, was accused by critics of turning a blind eye to a far-right surge in the country, including nostalgia for a pro-Nazi past.