Ljubljana related

09 Jan 2020, 21:35 PM

At the Jewish Cultural Centre in  Ljubljana we were shocked and deeply concerned to learn about the decision of the Slovenian Supreme Court to annul the sentence of Leon Rupnik from 30 August 1946, and to return it for retrial.

It is our assessment that we are witnessing the first step in a politically motivated ambition to rehabilitate the criminal collaborationist regime in Slovenia during WWII whose “president” was the aforementioned Leon Rupnik, and who was justly tried and sentenced to death as a war criminal, and whom even the pre-war Yugoslav Royal Government, then in exile, renounced as a traitor.  

Rupnik’s police under the leadership of Lovro Hacin, likewise sentenced and executed in 1946 as a war criminal, organised the arrests and deprtations of the remaining Slovenian Jews in Ljubljana and its vicinity in the years 1943 and 1944; very few have survived. The Homeguard (Domobranci)  military formations that pledged allegiance to Hitler Rupnik led into a criminal, fratricidal war.  The Homeguard also collaborated in the Holocaust against the Jews in the Trieste region under the leadership of the infamous SS officer and war criminal Odilo Globočnik in the years  1944 - 1945. 

The Jewish Cultural Cenre Ljubljana will notify the world public about the shameful decision of the Slovenian Supreme Court. We will monitor closely all and any further developments of these contemptible acts of Holocaust denial, revision and perversion of history, and attempts at reviving and justifying the Fascist and Nazi horrors, and oppose them indefatigably.

Robert Waltl, director JCC Ljubljana

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

09 Jan 2020, 21:22 PM

STA, 9 January 2020 - The Association of WWII Veterans is appalled by the Supreme Court's annulment of the death sentence of Slovenian general Leon Rupnik (1880-1946), saying that numerous documents undoubtedly prove that he actively collaborated with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German occupation forces. Protest has also been expressed by the Social Democrats (SD).

The association promoting the values of the resistance movement in WWI said on Thursday it had received with indignation the report by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer about the verdict against Rupnik being sent for retrial at the Ljubljana District Court.

Rupnik collaborated with the occupation forces during WWII as he served as the head of government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana in 1943-1945, and was also chief inspector of the Domobranci collaborationist militia.

In May 1945, he fled to Austria, where he was arrested by the British and returned to Yugoslavia in early 1946. He was court-martialled and executed for treason and collaboration with the occupiers later that year.

One of his descendants, allegedly a grandson, had filed an appeal on a point of law, arguing that the verdict had not been sufficiently explained, that the reasons conflict each other, that his right to defence was violated, and that judges who had reached the verdict should have been excluded.

The appeal has now been granted by the Supreme Court, the verdict annulled and the case returned to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial.

The Association of WWII Veterans said in its response that Rupnik was also the mayor of Ljubljana under Nazi Germany and that he "led the treasonous fight against his own nation and subjected himself to the ideas of Nazism."

According to its president Marijan Križman, treason cannot be erased even with "bureaucratic pardon of the crimes that the traitors had committed against their own nation."

Court has thus become a tool for those who are not able to get over the shame and pain of treachery and use the judicial system for retaliation and spreading of hatred."

The Social Democrats (SD) said it would never accept "those who preferred collaboration with the occupier to the survival of the nation get acquitted," adding that Rupnik was "loyal to the alliance with the occupier to the last moment."

The party said that "untruthful interpretation of Slovenian history with rehabilitation of collaboration and Fascism" did not lead to reconciliation, but only takes Slovenians further away from dealing with the past.

The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana also responded to the Supreme Court's decision with "indignation and concern", saying that it was the "first step in the politically-motivated aspiration to rehabilitate the criminal collaborationist regime during WWII".

It noted that Rupnik's police, under the leadership of the co-defendant Lovro Hacin, had organised in 1943 and 1944 arrests and deportations of Slovenian Jews from the Province of Ljubljana, with only a handful of them surviving the ordeal.

09 Jan 2020, 11:33 AM

STA, 8 January - The Supreme Court has annulled the death sentence of Slovenian general Leon Rupnik (1880-1946), who collaborated with the occupying forces during World War II, on an appeal from his relative, and sent the case to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial, the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer reported on Wednesday.

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.

Wikimedia CC-by-0 1945 Leon_Rupnik.jpg

Wikipedia, CC-by-0

He served as the president 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.

In May 1945, Rupnik fled to Austria, where he was arrested by the British and returned to Yugoslavia in early 1946. He was court-martialled along with several other people and sentenced to death for treason and collaboration with the occupiers later that year.

Rupnik on stage with fellow Nazis in Ljubljana

The verdict was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Yugoslav Army, and the appeal for clemency was rejected on 2 September 1946.

Rupnik was executed by firing squad in Ljubljana on the same day and buried in Žale Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

One of his descendants, allegedly a grandson, had filed an appeal on a point of law through an attorney, and the appeal has now been granted by the Supreme Court.

The part of the verdict relating to Rupnik has been annulled and the case has been returned to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial.

According to the newspapers, the court says that the verdict was not in compliance with the legal principles at the time, and that not all accusations of the acts he had been sentenced for had been supported with facts and circumstances.

For one of the acts the court has found that it does not bear signs of a criminal act.

Rupnik's relative claimed, among other things, that the verdict had not been sufficiently explained, that the reasons conflict each other, that he was violated his right to defence, and that judges who had reached the verdict should have been excluded.

01 Dec 2019, 12:36 PM

STA, 29 November 2019 - The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Wednesday evening aired a documentary about the 106-year-old Boris Pahor, believed to be the oldest living survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. Pahor, one of the most celebrated Slovenian writers, talks about life and death at the Natzweiler concentration camp.

Pahor tells BBC journalist Alan Yentob about his experiences with Fascism and Nazism in the 63-minute documentary The Man Who Saw Too Much, which is aimed at raising awareness of the horrors that happened in Europe more than seven decades ago.

The BBC crew visited Pahor at his home in Trieste. "Boris, a Slovenian, was born in the tolerant, cosmopolitan city of Trieste in 1913. After World War I, when it became part of Italy and Mussolini rose to power, fascists burned down the Slovenian cultural centre, closed their schools and the speaking of Slovenian in public was banned," BBC says on its website.

In the interview, Pahor remembers in Slovenian the events from 1944, when he was 30 years old. He was arrested by the Gestapo, beaten and forced into a small closet where he thought he would suffocate.

He was then sent to concentration camps. He stayed the longest in Natzweiler in the mountains of Alsace. Nearly half of its 52,000 prisoners died due to forced labour, malnutrition, illness and execution.

Natzweiler was the first concentration camp in western Europe to be discovered by the Allies - but the camp was empty, its prisoners had already been taken to Dachau by then.

"Pahor's harrowing descriptions are illustrated with remarkable drawings by fellow prisoners, creating a unique record of conditions in the Nazi death camps. His testimony, along with details from a shocking report into the camp by British intelligence officer Captain Yurka Galitzine and the chilling testimony by SS commandant Josef Kramer, infamous as the Beast of Belsen, combine to tell an extraordinary story," according to the BBC.

Pahor also mentions a section from his best-known book Necropolis about his return to the camp site 20 years after its liberation to find a luxury ski resort there and tourists who knew nothing of the place's past.

Sections of Pahor's books are read out in the documentary aired 75 years after the allies first discovered the horrors of Holocaust by breaking into Natzweiler shortly after the departure of Nazis.

Although the documentary was aired late in the evening, many watched it, and shared their observations on social networks.

It also obviously prompted many to read Necropolis, as Amazon ran out of copies almost immediately.

The documentary will be available on the BBC's website the entire month, but only in the UK.

03 Nov 2019, 19:26 PM

STA, 3 November 2019 - A 500kg World War Two bomb was safely defused in Maribor on Sunday, hours after hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the direct vicinity, with sirens sounding the end of the alarm.

 In the largest such operation in Slovenia's second largest city since 1945, the authorities called on 1,000 people living within a 300-metre radius of the bomb to leave their homes.

A further 2,200 residents in a 300-600-metre radius were told to keep indoors and away from the windows facing the bomb site close to a rail track near the city's main coach station.

The approximate location of the bomb

A similar, but much smaller operation was carried out in Maribor on Thursday as a 250kg bomb from WWII was safely disposed of near the city's biggest shopping mall, leading to the evacuation of 80 people.

"The pyrotechnicians have succeeded in safely defusing the bomb," Maribor police spokesman Miran Šadl told reporters after sirens signalled the end of danger at around 2pm. "The danger is over and people can return to their homes," said Šadl.

The evacuation started at around 8am, completing shortly before noon, after which members of the national unexploded ordnance disposal team got down to work.

"481 people got evacuated," Šadl said, adding that the operation proceeded smoothly except that in three cases residents had to be prompted by police officers to retreat to safety.

The pyrotechnics Sašo Turnšek and Aljaž Leban did not specify the procedure, expect for saying that they removed the detonator with a special tool, and thanking everyone involved in the operation for allowing them to work in peace.

The unit commander Darko Zonjič too praised cooperation with all the services involved and lauded the people of Maribor for following the authorities' instructions.

The air bombs were discovered last weekend during construction work, the smaller bomb was found at a site close to the Europark shopping mall and the larger one at a railway construction site.

Both bombs will be destroyed within three months through phased burning of the explosive. Zonjič said that a potential detonation today would have caused extensive damage to property.

Due to the operation, several roads as well as the central coach and railway stations were temporarily closed, and gas supply was disrupted. Europark area was sealed off again today.

Maribor, which the Nazi Germany made part of the Third Reich, was heavily bombed by the allied forces during World War Two. It is estimated that close to 16,000 bombs were dropped on the city, some 200 of which are believed to continue to lie unexploded across the city.

Today, officials did not make estimates about further potential operations needed, but Zonjič welcomed the city authorities' plans to make detection of the ground mandatory before construction work.

03 Nov 2019, 10:26 AM

People living within a 300-meter radius around the site on Plinarniška ulica, Marbor, where a WW2 bomb was recently found, will need to leave their homes around noon today, as the area is being evacuated. However, those living within 300-600 meters of the bomb are being asked to stay at home during the operation to defuse the device. At 12 noon an alarm will sound, signally the start of the process, and there will be another siren when the danger is over.

maribor nbomb city.jpg

Source: City of Maribor

The evacuation area is shown below, in a map produced by the City of Maribor

maribor bomb evacuation area.jpg

The approximate location of the bomb is shown below

31 Oct 2019, 18:27 PM

STA, 31 October 2019 - The first of two WWII-era bombs discovered at construction sites in Maribor last week was successfully defused in the early afternoon on Thursday. Sirens signalled it was safe for residents living within a 300-metre radius to return to their homes just before 2 pm, less than two hours after the start of operation.

The 250-kilogramme bomb, one of thousands dropped on Maribor by the Allies between 1944 and 1945, was deactivated by experts of the national unit for protection against unexploded ordnance. Maribor police PR officer Miran Šadl told the press that technicians managed to unscrew both detonators.

The bomb has been found by construction workers near the Europark shopping centre, which is closed today, as Slovenia observes Reformation Day, a bank holiday.

Today's evacuation, overseen by the Civil Protection and Rescue Administration, was not too demanding, as it involved only some 80 people.

About two dozen came to the Tabor sports hall to wait out the operation. Most of them were Bulgarian construction workers and a few families. Some brought their pets with them, fearing that a potential explosion would upset them.

"We would have probably spent the day elsewhere if weather were better. But it's raining and we're better off here," Aleksander Rotman, one of the evacuees at Tabor sports hall, told the STA.

The second bomb is to be detonated on Sunday. That operation will be more demanding. The bomb is twice as strong and located at a site that will demand the evacuation of about a thousand people, including an entire hospital wing. Another 1,000 will have to stay indoors.

While today's detonation was completed at the site of the bomb, the second bomb will have to be moved to avoid an even more extensive evacuation.

07 Oct 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 6 October 2019 - Retired Celje Bishop Stanislav Lipovšek stressed at the annual Teharje ceremony remembering an estimated 5,000 victims of war and post-war summary executions the need "for true reconciliation with the past" if Slovenia wants to build a safe and happy future.

Addressing the ceremony in the Teharje Memorial Park (Spominski park Teharje) near Celje on Sunday, Lipovšek said 74 years were passing this year since the end of World War 2, 50 of which passed in forced silence and an guided concealing of the truth about events during and following the war.

While speaking of 600 execution sites around the country as proof of that, Lipovšek expressed gratitude to all who made sure that these sites are finally being tended to and that Slovenia is approaching the basic civilisational norm of giving the dead the right to a name and a grave and the living the right to remember.

Mass Graves in Slovenia: An interactive map

"For a lasting an true peace and a future of our nation, a reconciliation of with the past is vital, since we cannot build a safe and happy present time and future without making sure true reconciliation with the past occurs.

"Reconciliation is only possible if we're willing to forgive. And forgiveness is only possible when we're ready to admit the truth, no matter how painful, difficult and burdensome it may be. Only the truth sets you free," Lipovšek said.

The ceremony was also addressed by researcher Slavko Žižek, who said "no nation can survive with a burden that began with the murder of several hundred victims in the autumn of 1941 and spring of 1942 and ended with the executions of thousands at the end of the war".

He rejected the continuing accusations of treason, collaboration etc, saying that the "only sin of these people was to resist the terror of the red star".

Many had to leave Slovenia because of their "love of God, of the nation, homeland and life" and they managed to preserve the Slovenian language and love of the homeland and transfer them to their offspring, which "simply does not square with the definition of treason", he said.

Among the victims the Teharje Memorial Park pays respects to were members of the Home Guard, a militia that collaborated with the Nazis; soldiers; civilians; and refugees from Croatia and Serbia apprehended by the Allies in May 1945 in the northern Koroško region as they were fleeing north.

Book: Post-War Massacres in Slovenia

The Allies turned them over to the Partisans, who brought them to the Teharje barracks, a facility formerly used by the Nazi Germany military.

In the subsequent two months, some 5,000 people were killed without a trial on several locations nearby Teharje, including the notorious Huda Jama mine shaft near Laško.

It took a long time until the locals dared to speak about what had happened. Many mustered the courage to speak up only after Slovenia gained independence in the early 1990s.

A memorial park was inaugurated at the site of the former barracks in 2004 but it still not fully finished.

29 Aug 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 28 August 2019 - Work has started on another mass-grave site in the woods of Kočevski Rog in south-eastern Slovenia to prepare it for exhumation of the remains of victims executed in reprisal killings after the Second World War. The victims are presumably mostly Slovenians.

Currently the main project of the government commission for mass graves, the Macesnova Gorica site is being cleared out with the exhumation scheduled to begin next year.

According to the commission, the remains of more than 1,500 Slovenians lie in the underland of the Kočevski Rog woods, where numerous summary execution sites and mass graves have been discovered in the past years.

Following the government's backing of the commission's programme for this year, the Economy Ministry selected the Kočevje public utility as the project's contractor.

Related: Mass Concealed Graves in Slovenia, an Interactive Map

The company started preparation works in August and has already completed site deforestation. Last week, it started to clear the site of rocks which were piled up after the Second World War to conceal the grave.

"We will remove about 800 cubic metres of rocks, protect embankments and prepare an access for archaeologists this year. We will also create a work site for them out of removed rocks," the commission's president Jože Dežman told the STA.

Selected experts will then exhume the remains and analyse them - a process that will presumably start next year.

Objects, such as prayer cards, crosses and Home Guard paraphernalia found near the pit indicate that the bodies of Slovenian victims lie inside the mass grave. The burial site for them is yet to be determined.

Dežman told the STA that a burial site location for the victims of reprisal executions committed by the Communists just after the Second World War could be set at the Ljubljana Žale cemetery this year pending an agreement on the cooperation between the government and the Ljubljana city.

Historians have determined that there are around 750 mass graves and execution sites across the country, with some 150 possible new locations of concealed graves being considered.

03 Jul 2019, 19:44 PM

STA, 3 July 2019 - Several monuments to WWII resistance members in Ljubljana's city centre have been vandalised. Police are investigating the incident, in which at least three monuments were sprayed with orange graffiti carrying political messages. President Borut Pahor and Culture Ministry condemned the act and called for tolerance.

Anti-revolutionary and anti-Yugoslavian messages were sprayed onto the 1975 Monument to the Revolution in Republic Square, while the statues of Partisan resistance leader Boris Kidrič (1912-1953) and Toni Mrlak, the pilot of a helicopter that was shot down over Ljubljana during the independence war, were in parts sprayed with orange.

"Vandalising monuments is not freedom of expression but a threat to it," Pahor tweeted, expressing hope that the authorities would investigate this and similar cases and act accordingly.

He called for tolerance that "allows us to present our views freely, while also considering the views and dignity of others.

The Culture Ministry also strongly condemned the incident, noting that the monuments of national and local importance were already being cleaned.

"The contents of the graffiti shows that this is more than just vandalism but enticing of intolerance and hatred," MEP Milan Brglez, former parliamentary speaker, wrote on Facebook.

The incident was also strongly condemned by the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who forwarded the photos of the vandalised monuments to the media.

It said it was "more than obvious" that the incident had been organised. The party said that nobody, regardless of their belief, had the right to vandalise joint monuments that serve as a reminder of the lessons of the past.

The SD said that although the memories of the recent history are very painful to some, vandalism would not bring them peace or unity.

This was echoed by the Left, which said that the monuments that were vandalised represented the achievements of the post-war Yugoslavia, which include workers, housing and social rights. This is also the time when the foundations of the modern public health and education system were laid, it noted.

This is not the first case of vandalism in the city centre. The 2013 monument to the victims of all wars in Congress Square has been vandalised four times already.

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