Visitor walks past display at US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Visitor walks past display at US Holocaust Memorial MuseumReuters

Victims of Croatia's pro-Nazi World War II regime and their relatives are seeking $3.5 billion in damages in a suit filed in the United States, local media and officials said Monday.

The group wants compensation from the Croatian government for property seized from ethnic Serbs, Roma and Jews, as well as for their suffering during the war, state-run HRT television reported.

The suit was filed in a Chicago court last May. Croatia's foreign ministry confirmed to AFP that it had received a "note from the US embassy in Zagreb regarding the suit" on February 27 and Zagreb was given a two-month deadline to respond.

Local legal experts said the case was unfounded as the Croatian government is not the legal heir to the wartime Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and cannot be held responsible for the damages inflicted by it.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it "stresses that Croatia is not a successor" to the regime.

After World War II and the collapse of the pro-Nazi regime, Croatia became part of the communist Yugoslav federation. It declared its independence in 1991, amid the break-up of the rump Yugoslavia.

The WWII Nazi-allied Ustasha regime persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians.

The United States' special envoy for Holocaust issues, Nicholas Dean, visited Croatia last year, notably to discuss the issue of Jewish property confiscated by the Ustasha regime.