STA, 16 April 2021 - The European Jewish Association has called on Social Democrats (SD) leader Tanja Fajon to right a historic injustice and return the villa in Ljubljana where the party has its headquarters to the Slovenian Jewish community.
The SD is headquartered in a villa that used to be owned by Jewish merchant Felix Moskovic. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz and other extermination camps, where they were killed.
In a letter to Fajon first published by Siol.net, the association's president Rabbi Menachem Margolin says that following their deaths, the property was sold "under questionable conditions, nationalised, and then used by high-level communist party organisations during the Yugoslav era."
"It has come to our attention that there has previously been a discussion regarding the transfer of Mr. Moskovic's property ... to the Slovenian Jewish community as part of a settlement on communal and heirless property once held by Slovenian Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
"We believe this would be an appropriate, just, and moral use of Mr. Moskovic's home and a righting of a historic wrong," Margolin says, hopeful that the SD "will recognize the symbolic and emotional unsustainability of the status quo and will work with us to change it."
The SD's ownership of the building has often come up in public debate in recent months, in particular in allegations by the ruling Democrats (SDS), who have come to call it "the stolen villa".
The SD has said the villa had been owned by the state before the party took ownership of it via an exchange contract involving a different building that the party had owned before.
In a lengthy explanation on its website, the party also says the villa had been sold to the state in 1961 by a woman who had previously bought it from a heir of the Moskovics.
SD leader Tanja Fajon has dismissed the allegations the party stole the villa as "nasty attempts at discreditation" lobbed by the current prime minister.
Fajon responded to the call, inviting Rabbi Margolin for a "talk and a review of facts". She rejected the notion that the ownership of the villa was disputable.
A similar invitation was sent to the European Jewish Congress, the umbrella organisation of Jewish associations in Europe, and the Slovenian Jewish Community.
"The history of the transfer of ownership ... is completely clear from the legal and historical aspects. After the tragic death of the Moskovic family, the villa was inherited by their legal heir, who soon sold it to a new owner, who sold it to the state in 1961."
"The SD party became the lawful owner of the house in 1993 based on a deed of gift and exchange. It has settled its relations with the Slovenian Jewish Community in that regard," the statement adds.
Fajon noted that the documentation on ownership of the building has been published on the party's website. "Only by showing all relevant documents transparently it is possible to reject the obvious lies that are the most diligently spread by Prime Minister Janez Janša."
In the letter to Margolin, the SD president also said that "our deep respect to victims of the Holocaust and all victims of Nazism and Fascism stems first and foremost from our history and tradition."
Fajon added that the SD has also paid respects to Felix and Klara Moskovic and their children with a memorial plaque to the victims of the Holocaust that was put on the front facade of the party's headquarters in August 2018.