STA, 11 July 2020 - Cavers exploring the karst caves in the Kočevski Rog woods in south-eastern Slovenia have found what appears to be another mass grave in what is an area containing the remains of several thousand people killed in summary executions after the end of World War II.
The chair of the government commission for mass graves Jože Dežman wrote on Saturday that the chasm contains the remains of at least 35 people, while dozens more are expected to be exhumed.
All but possibly one of the remains examined so far appear to be male remains, Dežman added, explaining the operation only started on Friday.
The karst chasms in Kočevski Rog contain the remains of thousands of bodies, especially those of members of the nearby Novo Mesto group of the Domobranci anti-communist home-guard who did not manage to escape abroad. They were hunted for months after the war and most were murdered, Dežman said.
He spoke of several more locations in the area, including the Rugarski klanci site that contains the remains of what appear to have been 22 members of the armed forces of the Ustasha-governed Croatian NDH state.
The latest research in Kočevski Rog meanwhile confirmed that the Macesnova Gorica chasm "is probably the biggest Slovenian slaughter site and mass grave". The commission hopes the exhumation of the victims will be able to begin next year.
Related: Post-War Massacres in Slovenia
As for the Kren site, which had been perceived as the largest mass grave of the Domobranci, it seems that it was mostly members of the Serb and Montenegrin Chetnik royalist and nationalist units who ended up there.
Meanwhile, Dežman added that it was today that the commemoration was held for the Muslims killed in Srebrenica in 1995. "If we condemn the crimes against POWs and civilians in Srebernica then we also condemn the crimes against POWs and civilians being discovered in Kočevski Rog and elsewhere around Slovenia," he wrote.
STA, 13 June 2020 - A ceremony on Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the only concentration camp on Slovenian soil, the labour camp below Ljubelj Pass. Speakers highlighted the need to preserve the memory of the atrocities and drew parallels with the present.
Jana Babšek, the director of the Tržič Museum, stressed that around 2,000 internees of what was a branch of the notorious Mauthausen camp were forced to work in harsh conditions for 23 months to build the mountain pass.
Commemoration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp in Ljubelji, Mauthausen sub-camp, where 450 Poles were condemned to slave labor as part of the German policy of extermination— PLinSlovenia (@PLinSlovenia) June 14, 2020
Thny HE @BorutPahor & Trzić Museum for building memory of victims of nazism&totalitarism pic.twitter.com/cCvacMXtIC
"As we browse through the memories of the former inmates, who endured inhuman conditions and evil, two wishes transpire: never to forget what happened, and to prevent something similar from happening in the future," she said.
She said it was necessary to educate youths in particular and explain what had led to such extreme events, noting that the current circumstances were creating challenges that are in many ways very similar to those in the past.
Jani Alič, a senior official of the WWII Veterans' Association, likewise evoked the current global events when he said that "Our veterans say that if we defeated the enemy during the war, we will defeat the contemporary hidden enemy as well."
This year a series of large-scale events was supposed to be held around Europe to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, but many had to be cancelled or scaled back due to to the coronavirus epidemic. The ceremony at Ljubelj was therefore smaller than usual.
Predsednik Republike Slovenije Borut Pahor se je danes udeležil slovesnosti v spomin na 75. obletnico osvoboditve koncentracijskega taborišča pod Ljubeljem. Pred slovesnostjo je predsednik republike k spomeniku J'accuse – Obtožujem položil venec. pic.twitter.com/w66gFY4G5Z— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) June 13, 2020
Prior to the event, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the monument "J'accuse - Obtožujem" on the site of the camp. Delegations of several European countries laid wreaths, as did President Borut Pahor, who made special mention of the move by Germany and France to lay a wreath together.
"This is s nice symbolic event that invites everyone to remember the past in the spirit of reconciliation, and in particular to build Europe together," he said.
Ljubelj is the site of the remains of the only concentration camp in Slovenia, a branch of the notorious Mauthausen camp that served as a labour camp.
Around 1,800 internees, mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime and the majority of them French nationals, were forced to build a tunnel between Slovenia and Austria in very difficult conditions. At least 34 people died.
The camp was liberated on 8 May 1945.
Updated at 18:00
STA, 10 February 2020 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has condemned a smear campaign in which the Italian neo-Fascist movement CasaPound put up banners describing World War II Partisans as assassins, issuing a protest following a recent attempt to deny the suffering of Slovenians at the hands of Fascists.
CasaPound put up banners reading Tito's partisans, villains and assassins (Partigiani Titini infami e assassini) across Italy on the eve of today's remembrance day dedicated to the victims of foibe, the Italian for karst chasms where the victims of post-WWII killings by Yugoslav Communists were thrown.
The banners, which carry the emblem of the Fascist movement, were also stuck to the facades of the Slovenian cultural home in Opicina, the France Prešeren Theatre in Bagnoli della Rosandra, both villages in the Trieste province populated by the Slovenian ethnic minority, the Trieste-based Slovenian newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported.
Tatjana Rojc, the ethnic Slovenian senator in Rome, condemned the campaign as the latest attempt "to smear the Slovenian community, an addition to the worrying presence of CasaPound, which is raising its head through violent talk and by harming co-existence," she was quoted as saying by the Italian press agency Ansa.
"With today's smear campaign in Slovenian villages, the neo-Fascist organisation CasaPound has again demonstrated its intolerance of Slovenians and the suffering of the Slovenian nation under Fascism," the Slovenian Foreign Ministry commented.
Noting that the organisation carried out a similar campaign in December 2019, the ministry said that CasaPound deserved "condemnation by the democratic authorities of free Europe". The ministry urged the Italian authorities to respond and "take measures in accordance with their powers".
The ministry added that Slovenia respected the Italian remembrance day for the foibe victims. "We expect the same respect for Slovenian and other victims of the resistance against the occupying Fascism, in particular civilian victims who massively perished in Italian concentration camps."
The ministry said such mutual respect was not aided by panel debates organised under the sponsorship of the local authorities in Trieste, including one scornfully themed as "Slovenians' false self-pity", and another at which speakers claimed Slovenians burnt down themselves their National Home in Trieste in 1920.
"We cannot and will not allow the denying of the suffering by Slovenians and the distortion of history," the ministry said.
Last year the day marking the remembrance day for the foibe victims caused a major controversy between Slovenia and Italy after Antonio Tajani, serving as European Parliament president at the time, made what were interpreted as territorial claims in his address to a foibe victims remembrance ceremony. Tajani later apologised for his comments.
President Borut Pahor said in a press release today he had protested with Italian President Sergio Mattarella against the "unacceptable statements by senior representatives of Italy" made on last year's foibe remembrance day.
Pahor also said that Mattarella had agreed that the statements made last year had been inappropriate, and could create an impression of territorial claims.
He said he had called on his Italian counterpart to respect the historical truths. Pahor thinks an ideal opportunity "for our joint trip to the past and looking at the future" will be the upcoming ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the torching of the Trieste National Home.
The Council of Slovenian Organisations (SSO), the umbrella organisation of Slovenians in Italy, also strongly condemned CasaPound's smear campaign today, saying the "fascist act" was a "severe blow to the democratic values and freedoms on which we are building our future here".
The SSO moreover called on the Italian authorities to investigate the matter and punish the perpetrators.
The Social Democratic Party (SD) joined the call for action, saying CasaPound was trying to rehabilitate fascism, an "ideology that took the lives of millions around the world".
The Left also spoke of rehabilitation of fascism, saying that the recent misinterpretations of history, which are being promoted even by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, were inciting hatred between the two nations.
STA, 31 January - Slovenian WWII veterans intend to ask the Constitutional Court to review the recently annulled 1946 guilty verdict of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general. The Association of WWII Veterans is also considering appealing at the European Court of Human Rights.
It said "several people have turned to us who were direct victims of the Domobranci militia's cruel terror dictated by Leon Rupnik in collaboration with the occupying forces of Slovenian lands".
The association said in a press release on Thursday that it had also urged Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina to take action to protect the victims' dignity.
Its president Marijan Križman called on Svetina last week "to not let the collaboration with the occupying forces be honoured in Slovenia".
Križman wrote to Svetina that due to the Supreme Court's unreasonable annulment of the verdict, the association members "feel hurt and expect action".
Pro-Nazi General Rupnik (1880-1946) was sentenced to death by court martial and executed in September 1946 for treason and collaboration with the occupying forces.
The Supreme Court, petitioned in 2014 by Rupnik's relatives, annulled the verdict for being insufficiently explained, and sent the case into retrial.
Rupnik's relatives could petition the Supreme Court on a point of law on the basis of changes to the penal code passed in the 1990s, after Slovenia gained independence.
The changes introduced an extraordinary legal remedy to rehabilitate those who were unlawfully or unjustly sentenced under the former communist regime before 1990.
However, the deadline for direct petitions by relatives has already expired. They can now send a request for legal remedy to the prosecution, which then decides if a petition is justified.
While Rupnik's is probably one of the last annulled verdicts from the communist regime, the state has received almost 700 claims for damages related to the annulments.
The State Attorney's Office has told the STA that the great majority of the claims were filed in 1995-2005 and have already been closed.
The majority have been settled out of court; a settlement has been reached in almost 460 cases and almost 165 claims have been rejected.
Of a total of 126 cases that went to court, 19 lawsuits ended to the benefit of the plaintiffs, while the plaintiffs were not successful in 37 cases, 16 cases ended in a settlement, seven lawsuits have been withdrawn and one rejected.
While the damages claims ranged from EUR 1,200 to EUR 2.5 million, the State Attorney's Office has not provided the figures about the actual damages awarded.
It has explained "the claims ended more than ten years ago" and gathering the data about them would entail time-consuming studying of archived documents.
But it has said the suits and claims for damages were related to a number of different situations, such as imprisonment on the Goli Otok island and at Stara Gradiška prison, both in present-day Croatia, or death sentences.
However, the amount of the damages awarded depended significantly on whether the claim had been made by the victim or their heirs, whether a prison or death sentence had been involved, in which prison the victim had served time and for how long, and to what extent the victim had managed to recover from the experience.
STA, 31 January 2020 - Janez Stanovnik, one of the most notable Slovenian politicians in the period leading up to independence and the face of the Slovenian WWII Veterans' Association after 2003, has died aged 97.
Stanovnik, who was among the first who joined the Partisan liberation movement during the war, was the last president of the Slovenian presidency under the former Yugoslavia between 1988 and 1990 after he served as a member from 1984 to 1988.
After World War II he worked in the federal Yugoslav government and in Yugoslav diplomacy, while he briefly also served as the dean of the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics. He was the executive secretary of the UN's economic commission for Europe from 1968 to 1982.
Between 2003 and 2013 Stanovnik served as the president of Slovenian WWII Veterans' Association and after that he was its honorary president.
Stanovnik was the recipient of a number of honours and was also named an honorary citizen of Ljubljana.
Condolences are already starting to pour in, including from Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who described Stanovnik as an important personality of his era.
Pahor said Slovenians would remember Stanovnik as a Partisan, as strong-charactered, true to his convictions, as somebody with an open spirit and heart.
Parliamentary Speaker and SocDems president Dejan Židan wrote that Stanovnik had been the president of the Slovenian presidency during the pinnacle of democratic change and that he had promoted the values of the liberation movement throughout his life, seeing them "as a key part of our national identity".
STA, 27 January - President Borut Pahor is in Poland to attend a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, accompanied by Slovenian camp survivors. He will lay a candle to honour the victims at a memorial plaque which features an inscription in Slovene since 2008.
The delegation includes Sonja Vrščaj, Elizabeta Kumar Maurič, Marija Frlan and Lidija Rijavec Simčič, who were deported to the camp, as well as Janez Deželak, one of hundreds of Stolen Children, who were separated from their parents after Nazi occupation.
The commemoration was held at the Oswiecim Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau under the auspices of Poland's President Andrzej Duda.
During the Second World War, some six million people died in Poland, including three million Polish Jews, mostly in concentration camps.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is honoured every year on 27 January, coinciding with the anniversary of Auschwitz liberation.
The Nazis killed more than a million people in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. More than 2,300 people were deported there from Slovenia, with over 1,300 dying before the liberation.
The camp was liberated on 27 January in 1945 by the Soviet troops. Merely some 7,650 ill and debilitated prisoners survived.
Pahor is attending the memorial due to its great symbolic significance, said the president's office. The Slovenian delegation is bearing witness to the horrors of WWII, which are still leaving bitter traces of memories and suffering, said Pahor in a statement.
It is our moral duty that we never forget, that we contribute to a peaceful resolution of all issues and fight to ensure that such atrocities may never happen again, he highlighted.
Meanwhile, Kumar Mavrič expressed satisfaction that the most horrible crimes of the Second World War were living on not just in the memory of the survivors but also in the memory of young generations.
Vrščaj said that the survivors' suffering was part of their fight for freedom, urging the young to love their homeland. "We never said 'if we come home', but 'when we come home'."
Another survivor, Frlan, who turned 100 today, was succinct in saying "a reminder for the young and remembrance for the elderly".
Pahor, who attended the World Holocaust Forum marking the anniversary in Jerusalem last week, will also address a memorial ceremony in Lendava's synagogue on Thursday.
He will wrap up the Holocaust remembrance series of events in May by holding an annual debate featuring the survivors and secondary school students.
Today, a series of events to honour the Holocaust Remembrance Day is taking place in Slovenia, among them a concert of songs performed in secret meetings by an internee of the Sachsenhausen camp. Moreover, the Jewish Cultural centre will screen Shoah, a 1985 film by Claude Lanzmann.
STA, 23 January 2020 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor laid a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem on Thursday as he attended the World Holocaust Forum marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
On the sidelines of his two-day visit to Jerusalem, Pahor repeated his position on the quashing of the 1946 conviction of Leon Rupnik for collaboration with the Nazis during Second World War.
According to his office, Pahor explained his position on Rupnik, the head of the provisional government of the Nazi-occupied Ljubljana, to Israelis, including Miriam Steiner-Aviezer of Yad Vashem.
He told them that he never commented on concrete decisions of the independent institutions of the rule of law. But he did add that in his view future generations too would deem the general's swearing to Hitler, his collaboration with the occupying forces and his being an anti-Semite as abject acts.
The ceremony today was addressed by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron with their main message being that the Holocaust should not be forgotten and even that all must be done to prevent it from ever repeating again.
The memorial concluded with Holocaust survivors Rose Moskowitz from the US and Colette Avital, the head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, lighting a menorah.
This was followed by the invited world leaders laying wreaths at Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem, among them Pahor.
Predsednik Republike Slovenije Borut Pahor se je danes udeležil osrednje slovesnosti Foruma voditeljev ob mednarodnem dnevu spomina na holokavst v Jeruzalemu. #UnitedinMemory75 pic.twitter.com/xdvTXLhich— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) January 23, 2020
Predsednik Pahor se je pred začetkom slovesnosti srečal z mnogimi svetovnimi voditelji. pic.twitter.com/33F4ibs6ya— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) January 23, 2020
Spominska slovesnost se je zaključila s polaganjem vencev k Spomeniku upora Varšavskega geta, ki so jih položili povabljeni državniki, med njimi predsednik Pahor. #UnitedinMemory75 pic.twitter.com/bdnhS19h8r— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) January 23, 2020
Pahor held several bilateral meetings ahead of the ceremony, including with his Austrian counterpart Alexander van der Bellen, Hungary's Janos Ader, Italy's Sergio Mattarella, Portugal's Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Slovakia's Zuzana Čaputova.
In brief meetings he also congratulated European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Parliament David Sassoli on their appointments.
STA, 23 January 2020 - An exhibition launched in Maribor on Thursday tells about the hardship of some 2,300 people from Slovenia who were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, some 1,300 never to return.
The documentary exhibition Here Is Where Death Worked Itself to Death ... was launched at the Maribor Synagogue as part of the events commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Among the 2,300 deported to the camp from Slovenia, 350 were Jews, at least 78 were Roma, and at least one was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses from Slovenia.
"For around 1,300 of them, Auschwitz is the place of death, which means it's one of the largest cemeteries of the Slovenian victims of World War II," said Boris Hajdinjak, the author of the exhibition.
He noted that one third of the victims were women, while the most tragic fate befell the Roma. "None of them would survive the war. Most of those identified were deported from Dolenjska", south-eastern Slovenia, Hajdinjak told the STA.
People were deported from all parts of the country. "No region was excluded. Interned in Auschwitz were the Logar sisters, after whom the Logar Valley (N) is named," he said, offering one example.
On display until 17 March, the exhibition tells personal stories of various groups and types of people who ended up in the camp, Hajdinjak's way to show that nobody was spared.
The exhibition is part of the project Shoah - Let Us Remember, a series of events held annually across the country to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The project's honorary sponsor is Culture Minister Zoran Poznič, who was unable to attend the ceremony in Maribor.
Speaking on his behalf, State Secretary Tanja Kerševan Smokvina said that remembering the Holocaust was particularly important today in the face of new kinds of hatred.
"New concentration camps are at Europe's doors, children are drowning in our seas and rivers, while the Holocaust denial, attempts at historical revisionism, xenophobia and hatred are on the increase."
The official urged everyone to ask themselves what each can do to alleviate and turn around those trends.
She noted that Minister Poznič is in talks with his counterparts from the countries of the former Yugoslavia to renovate what used to be the Yugoslav exhibition pavilion at the Auschwitz-Birkenau remembrance centre to mount a joint exhibition there as "a lasting memory and above all a reminder".
The main ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be held in Lendava on 30 January with President Borut Pahor as the keynote speaker.
STA, 19 January 2020 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is attending a ministerial meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Brussels on Sunday ahead of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and International Holocaust Remembrance Day observed on 27 January.
In a press release, the Foreign Ministry said that as an IHRA member Slovenia is aspiring for the preservation of historical memory of the Holocaust and for respect for the victims of Nazism and Fascism.
In his brief address to the ministerial, Cerar said that Slovenians experienced the rise of Fascism as early as 100 years ago when their National Home (Narodni Dom) in the city of Trieste was burnt down.
He pledged Slovenia's continued commitment to preserving the awareness and historical records of the Holocaust, genocide against the Roma and persecution of other victims.
The ministerial is expected to adopt a declaration expressing political support for IHRA's efforts in Holocaust education, remembrance, and research, and support for the efforts to preserve historical records about the persecution of victims at the hands of Nazi Germany, its fascist and extreme-nationalist allies and other collaborators, and for condemnation of present-day anti-Semitism.
Established in 1998, IHRA brings together 34 participating countries, one liaison country, seven observer countries and eight standing international partners, including the EU. Slovenia has been a member since 2011.
STA, 14 January 2020 - The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organisation researching the Holocaust, on Tuesday criticized the recent decision by the Slovenian Supreme Court to annul the 1946 conviction of Leon Rupnik, who headed the Provisional Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana.
In a letter sent to the Slovenian ambassador in Israel, the organisation said the "notorious anti-Semite" had played "a major role in the arrest and deportation of Jews from Ljubljana in 1943 and 1944" and actively participated in Holocaust crimes.
"This shameful decision constitutes a shocking distortion of the history of the Holocaust and a horrific insult to Rupnik's many victims and their families, the centre's director of Eastern European Affairs Efraim Zuroff said.
"We kindly request that you promptly convey our protest to the pertinent Slovenian authorities so that the proper measures can be taken to undo the enormous damage wrought by this unjust decision of the Slovenian Supreme Court," he said according to a press release published on the organisation's web page.
The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana responded to the Supreme Court's decision last week with "indignation and concern", saying that it was the "first step in the politically-motivated aspiration to rehabilitate the criminal collaborationist regime during WWII".
After annulling the Rupnik verdict, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial, but since it is impossible under Slovenian law to try a dead person - Rupnik was court-martialled and executed for treason in 1946 - the most likely outcome seems to be a termination of procedure.
You can see videos of Leon Rupnik as the main speaker at a pro-Nazi rally in the centre of Ljubljana, saluting a Nazi flag, below
More on this story can be found here
STA, 10 January 2020 - The Supreme Court's controversial annulment of the guilty sentence for a WWII collaborationist general has raised questions about the legal and historical implications of the decision. While the court has ordered a retrial, the most likely outcome seems to be a termination of procedure.
The Supreme Court recently annulled the death sentence of Slovenian general Leon Rupnik (1880-1946), who collaborated with the occupying forces during World War II, on an appeal on a point of law lodged by his relative, and sent the case to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial.
Rupnik was a general in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in WWI and later collaborated with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German occupation forces during World War II. He served as the head of the Provincial Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana in 1943-1945, and was also chief inspector of the Domobranci (Slovene Home Guard), a collaborationist militia.
The Supreme Court's ruling rests on procedural grounds: the court held that the military court's ruling had not been sufficiently reasoned, even under the standards applicable at the time.
The annulment means the case will now be sent into retrial, and Miha Hafner, an associate professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law, believes it will either be thrown out by the prosecution, or that the court will declare it cannot conduct a retrial since the accused is already dead.
Under the criminal procedure act, courts cannot try dead persons, which means that Rupnik's guilt will not be examined once again, Hafner told the STA.
The end effect of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, is that "since the procedure will be terminated whereas the previous ruling was annulled and the presumption of innocence applies [in Slovenia], Rupnik cannot legally be regarded as guilty of this criminal act," according to Hafner.
Hafner stressed, however, that the decision does not strictly mean Rupnik is rehabilitated. "If the gentleman were still alive, a retrial would start and the court of first instance would carry out the entire procedure."
Another consequence of the ruling may be that Rupnik's heirs may claim the return of property since Rupnik's property was seized by the state after the trial, said Hafner.
The ruling has earned the Supreme Court fierce criticism, in particular from the left, but the court told the STA it had no other choice than to decide on the Rupnik heir's appeal on a point of law.
All our stories on Leon Rupnik are here