Searchlight, february 2004
A concert by the Croatian rock band Thompson - named after the machine gun of the same name - was cancelled in Amsterdam at the end of November after its lead singer, Marko Perkovic, was accused of giving the Hitler-salute at previous concerts and the group was attacked for its sympathy with Nazi ideas.
Perkovic is certainly no wallflower having fought as an irregular soldier on the side of Croatia in the Yugoslav civil war in 1991- 1992 but, in addition, CIDI, a Jewish organisation that combats anti-Semitism, charges that Thompson supports the ideas of the fascist Ustasha movement in Croatia and that the movement uses the band as a cultural propagandist for its ideas.
CIDI issued a statement pointing out that a performance by Thompson would stir up hatred between different communities and would be insulting to other people in the Netherlands.
Those attending Thompson concerts are mainly young people, clad in black shirts with the words "Black Legion", hats with the sign "U" - for Ustasha - and brandishing banners with anti-Serb and anti-Gypsy slogans.
CIDI and the Sinti organisations had announced a protest demonstration if Thompson's Amsterdam concert was allowed to go ahead. A couple of hundred fans still turned up in buses from Belgium and Germany, only to find the venue gates closed to them.
"We don't want to be associated with groups that make propaganda for ultra-right ideas", stated the foundation that had rented the concert hall to the band. The organisers of Thompson's tour, however, denied the accusation declaring: "previous concerts in Germany and Croatia have been a huge success. There have never been quarrels or fights. There is only one kind of people who wants to ruin this concert."
For the first Thompson concert in the Netherlands, an attendance of around 4,000 people was expected and, facing a big loss, the organisers switched the concert to Rotterdam. There, however, they ran into further opposition with the anti- discrimination organisation Radar and CIDI demanding a ban on the event.
Thompson did play in Rotterdam, but Perkovic was banned from singing by the local authorities. When he tried to make a short speech to his 1,000-strong audience, he was promptly removed from the concert hall by police officers.
Some Croats living in the Netherlands were shocked by the measures taken against Thompson. According to them, the band is very popular and is the number one pop group in Croatia. They also think that Serbs all over Europe are behind the anti- Thompson campaign. This was not the case, but illustrates what strong images of hostility still exist among some Croats.
Outraged at the Dutch authorities, part of the Croatian community in the Netherlands has now started to protest against the ban on Thompson, defending the symbols the band uses and even defending the Ustasha movement. By doing so, these people show a huge lack of knowledge of their own history of murderous fascism.
The Ustasha movement was founded in 1929 in Croatia and had absolute power in the country during the Second World War, acting as a Nazi puppet regime. Its leader, Ante Pavelic, was backed by Hitler and was given a free hand to exterminate half a million Serbs, 30,000 Jews and 29,000 Sinti and Roma. These Ustasha crimes and especially those of the notorious Crna Legija, the Black Legion, even shocked the Nazi generals in the region.
Thompson starts its performances on stage with the traditional war cry of the Ustasha ( Zo dom - Spremni (For Hearth and home - Prepared) and, according to the Jewish community in Zagreb, sells piles of Ustasha paraphernalia, including T-shirts with portraits of Second World War Croatian leaders, at concerts.
Perkovic also publishes his own magazine, called Thompson, in which readers can find, among other things, all kind of war propaganda and pictures of himself posing with a Thompson machine gun and other weapons. In one remarkable picture, Perkovic poses with a group of heavily armed men on a military truck covered with a big picture of Ustasha leader Pavelic.
Links to Thompson - and its cult hero Perkovic - can now be seen on several Ustasha-glorifying web sites. It is no surprise that these fascists adore Perkovic. In Zagreb in February 2003, for instance, when the Croatian handball team became world champion after beating Germany in the finals, Perkovic shouted the Ustasha war cry at the reception for the teamů and was duly given a Nazi-salute response from dozens of people in the crowd.
In August last year, Thompson organised a public demonstration to honour the Ustasha in the Croatian town of Slavonski Brod and, on 15 September, the band performed at the Hajduk Split soccer stadium and gave Nazi-salutes.
Commenting on the band's Nazi symbolism, the Croatian newspaper Vjesnik wrote: "The symbolism is well known: the Ustasha symbols, the Ustasha song and their dress. The only thing in which they keep failing again and again is the salute. They keep using the Nazi-salute instead of the Ustacha-salute."
Supported by right-wing politicians and, evidently, some newspapers, Thompson's Croat nationalist concerts attract tens of thousands of people and the band was nominated for an important Croatian pop music award last year.
The Dutch fascist party Nieuw Rechts, needless to say, spoke out for the band, claiming that "Thompson is a band which sings about its love for its country, its people, the family and God" and that it had given several benefit concerts for hospitals and the victims of war.
"The band keeps a great distance from politics. Thompson never performs at political festivals or demonstrations," lied Nieuw Rechts leader Michiel Smit in an introduction to questions he has tabled to the mayor of Rotterdam about the actions of the city authorities.
Smit's support, however, was hardly needed to expose Perkovic as an anti-Semite once and for all. The man himself, reacting to the controversy in the Netherlands, commented in the Croatian newspaper Jutarni List: "It is all to blame on the Jews. I have nothing against them and I did nothing to them. I know that Jesus Christ also did nothing against them, but still they hanged him on the cross. So what can I expect as a small man?"
By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht