An international Jewish rights group has asked the Croatian government to launch an immediate investigation into a company that is distributing sugar packets emblazoned with images of Adolf Hitler and anti-Semitic jokes.
The sugar packets, distributed by a small Croatian company called Pinki, have been sold in at least two Croatian cities for several months and received attention from a Croatian newspaper.
Now the Simon Wiesenthal center in Jerusalem, a Jewish human rights organization, has demanded that Croatian authorities prevent the company from producing or distributing any more of the controversial packets.
"We are outraged by this; it insults the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, their families and any person of moral integrity," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center.
Holocaust denial is not a crime in Croatia, but Zuroff demanded that existing laws against ethnic, religious and racial intolerance be properly enforced. The Croatian penal code includes a special article outlawing displays of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance. The article was added two years ago, and offenders can face up to three years in prison.
Croatia's dark history of Holocaust-era brutality makes the sale of Hitler-themed merchandise particularly galling, according to Zuroff. Thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were killed under the rule of the Ustashe, the Nazi puppet government that ran Croatia from 1941 to 1945.
"It is abhorrent and disgusting that such a product could have been produced today in a country like Croatia where the local government made mass murder a practical policy," Zuroff said. "The fates of these people are not a joke."
Zuroff also said it was inconceivable that such a product could appear in a nation aspiring to join the European Union.
Anita Ivanecic, the owner of the Pozega-based Pinki company, declined to make any comment.
The Croatian president's office has told Zuroff that the state attorney in the eastern town of Pozega, where the sugar packets were produced, has opened an investigation.
"We will be closely monitoring the situation." Zuroff said.
Zarko Puhovski, from the Croatian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group based in the Croatian capital city Zagreb, told ABC News that the most worrying aspect of this scandal was the lack of reaction from the local Croatians.
"It is not just about someone spraying graffiti. These packets were produced in thousands, for weeks and months, and no one reacted. Then Novi List [a local newspaper] journalists reacted. Then there was silence again, and then the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement," Puhovski said.
"I hope that the company producing the sugar packs and those distributing them will be punished. The main problem still remains that the public accepts anti-Semitism."