BLEIBURG, Austria (AP) — Thousands of Croatian far-right supporters have gathered in a field in southern Austria to commemorate the massacre of pro-Nazi Croats by victorious communists at the end of World War II.
The controversial annual event was held Saturday amid a surge of far-right sentiment in Croatia, the European Union’s newest member. For Croatian nationalists, the Bleiburg site symbolizes their suffering under communism in Yugoslavia before they fought a war for independence in the 1990s.
Tens of thousands of Croatians, mostly pro-fascist soldiers, fled to Bleiburg in May 1945 amid a Yugoslav army offensive, only to be turned back from Austria by the British military and into the hands of revengeful anti-fascists. Thousands were killed and buried in mass graves in and around Bleiburg.