Two protests took place on Saturday against the Bleiburg commemoration of thousands of civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia, NDH, who were killed in the aftermath of World War II.
Authorities expected between 200 and 250 people to attend each of the protests, one of which is organised at the town square and the other near the local railway station, police told ‘Vecernje Novosti’.
This year’s Bleiburg tragedy commemoration is more heavily secured than the ones before. Fearing clashes between the different groups, Austrian authorities have deployed 450 officers to secure the event as opposed to last year’s 288. Securing last year’s event cost the Austrian taxpayers some 128,000 euros.Private security was paid on the top of that, which brought the sum up to 144,000. Authorities expect this year it will cost them much more.
"We will not know the total price until it ends and we sum it all up. Money is not important, what is important is the security of the participants and citizens, Rainer Dionisio, a local police official, told Vecernji List.
Former lawmaker from Austria’s Green Party, Karl Ollinger, who organised one of the protests against the commemoration was not granted a permit for his supporters to march at the Loibach field, where the commemoration is taking place, so the organisers moved it further away to the railway station.
The other protest, at the Bleiburg town square, was organised by Martin Diendofer from Austria’s Independent Left (Unabhängige Linke) organisation.
The protests ended without incidents
Antifascists from Austria, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia protested against the gathering last week as well, asking the Austrian government to ban what they described as a gathering of "Ustashas and Fascists" in the Loibach field.
The citizens of Bleiburg, along with their mayor and the head of the regional government of the Austrian province of Carinthia, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the annual gathering, calling the commemoration and excuse for the glorification of pro-Nazi Ustashas.
Authorities have even considered a ban and tensions are high as Austrian police expect nearly 15,000 mainly Croats to attend the commemoration - 5,000 more than last year.
Participants commemorate the thousands of Croats who fled the defeated Nazi-allied NDH in 1945 but were hunted down and massacred by the Yugoslav Partisans at the Loibach field. The massacre was a taboo in Yugoslavia and in recent years the annual commemoration has become the subject of many controversies in Croatia.
Austria objects the various pro-Nazi symbols participants display at the commemoration. Last year, police detained seven and filed complaints against nine participants, accusing them of violations of Austria’s law against praising Fascism.
Carinthian police told N1 on Monday that they will cancel the commemoration if prohibited symbols are displayed.