This article originally appeared on VICE Austria.
On Saturday, May 12, around 10,000 Croatians—including neo-Nazis and Catholic officials—gathered in a field in the southern Austrian town of Bleiburg to commemorate the defeat of the Ustaše army in May 1945.
This former Nazi-affiliated fascist movement was responsible for murdering hundreds of thousands of Jews, Romas, Serbs, and Muslims in World War II, many in the organization's Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia, which was the only concentration camp run without any German involvement.
At the end of WWII, thousands of Ustaše members were captured and killed by Allied forces in Bleiburg. The annual event mourning that fact is organized by the Croatian Catholic Church, which claims that the gathering is not political, but simply a Mass that aims to "remember the dead."
"We're here to remember our fallen heroes," these two guys told me.
But according to the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, the event is the "largest regular neo-Nazi rally" in Europe. And despite hundreds of people protesting the event, the Austrian government hasn't done anything to stop it from taking place every year.
Unsurprisingly, it quickly became obvious on Saturday that this was very much a political event, not just a "commemorative Mass." Despite a ban on clear political symbols, speeches, and uniforms, one attendee proudly performed the—illegal—Nazi salute several times straight into my camera, and in the presence of local Austrian police officers. Tomo Bilogrivić, of the United Croatian Right movement, made a speech in defense of fascism, while racist symbols and flags were openly displayed throughout the field. And though I noticed two people being denied entry for wearing T-shirts bearing the Ustaše slogan, Za Dom Spremni (For the Homeland), plenty of others, including children, proudly wore theirs throughout the day.
Scroll down to see more photos from Saturday's neo-Nazi rally/commemorative Mass:
A protester sprayed "Death to Fascism" on the road leading to the field.
Many attendees brought their children.
Croatian flags at the rally
Visitors share a moment of prayer before the start of the Mass.
The event was organized by the Croatian Catholic church, who claim the annual rally is simply a chance to mourn the dead.
One visitor while he's taking communion.
Some visitors brought homemade floral wreaths to honor the defeated Ustaše army.
A selection of wreaths
The 10,000-strong crowd at the Loibacher Feld in Bleiburg, in the Austrian region of Carinthia, near the Slovenian border
A makeshift Catholic chapel was set up at the event.
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