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Opposition leader apologizes to Belgrade Jews

Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, and Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, right, from New York look at a monument in the World War II Nazi concentration camp Sajmiste in Belgrade, Serbia, where some 48,000 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies perished in the 1940s, Sep. 2007.
AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
The actor, one of the main faces of weekly opposition protests, also calls Jewish community 'smart people.'

A Serbian opposition leader apologized Tuesday to Belgrade's Jewish community and denied having embraced supporters of a Nazi collaborator in the murder of thousands of Serbian Jews during World War II.

Trifunovic is an actor who has become one of the main faces of weekly opposition protests that are challenging the government of President Aleksandar Vucic. 

The marches, which bring thousands to the streets of Belgrade every Saturday night, have drawn an eclectic patchwork of participants, from progressive groups to far-right nationalists.

In a bid to bring together both the political left and right, "I certainly used too strong a comparison by saying that I do not care if someone keeps on the wall a picture of (Josip) Broz (Tito) or (Dimitrije) Ljotic," political activist Sergej Trifunovic said.

Ljotic was notorious for aiding the Nazi-allied Serbian puppet government that brutally sought to make the country "free of Jews", killing more than 80 percent of the 33,000-strong community that existed before the war. 

Tito, on the other hand, was the leader of the anti-fascist movement during the war who went on to head communist Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.

OLIVER BUNIC (AFP)

"If that was too far I apologize to everyone," Trifunovic wrote in a response to Belgrade's Jews who had denounced his statement in an open letter on Monday.

The community accused Trifunovic of "heinously equaling those who fought against fascism and those who were helping occupiers in making Serbia a 'Jewish free' state."

"Do you think that it should be 'irrelevant' if in a German house there is a photograph of chancellor Willy Brandt or of Adolf Hitler?" the letter added.

In his response Trifunovic said Ljotic was " fascist, there is no doubt" and that the "too strong" comparison "is even contrary to what I believe."

"However, my intention and point is clear to you, you are without doubt smart people," Trifunovic wrote.

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