Alex Constantine - January 2, 2009
ZAGREB (AFP)---About 100 admirers of a World War II pro-Nazi Croatian leader have celebrated a mass in his memory in a Zagreb church, a local newspaper reported.
The service, honouring the 49th anniversary of the death of Ante Pavelic, was conducted on Sunday in the Roman Catholic basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the centre of the Croatian capital by its rector, the Jutarnji List newspaper said.
Pavelic headed an independent Croat state, recognised by German and Italian dictators Hitler and Mussolini, from 1941 to 1945.
He died in Madrid on December 28, 1959 from the effects of an attack on him two years earlier in Buenos Aires where he had taken refuge in 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, gypsies (Roma) and anti-Fascist Croats died in concentration camps while he was in power.
The newspaper said the mass was organised by the "Croatian Liberation Movement" which Pavelic himself founded in 1956, and describes itself as a "non-parliamentary party of Croatian nationalists", according to the movement's website.
"We could not really say no because one can celebrate a memorial mass for everyone," church leaders told the newspaper.
Calendars for 2009 bearing the symbols of the pro-Nazi regime were distributed to those attending the mass, the newspaper said.