Appeals for reconciliation at ceremony for victims of post-war executions

Kočevski Rog – Victims of post-WWII summary executions were honoured on Saturday with a ceremony in Kočevski Rog, an area in south Slovenia where multiple mass graves have been discovered. Novo Mesto Bishop Andrej Saje and President Borut Pahor called for efforts towards reconciliation.

Saje, the president of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, recalled how thousands of prisoners, the wounded and other innocent victims had been killed by the totalitarian authorities in Kočevski Rog and elsewhere in the country.

The executions were “a decision taken by revolutionary leaders who silences and ostracised potential and actual opponents with violence in the form of death, expulsion or silencing.”

The actions “destroyed the spiritual, cultural and civilisational heritage of twelve centuries of Christianity on Slovenian national territory,” he said.

As a democratic country, Slovenia must now “establish foundations that will right the wrongs,” which Saje said extends beyond just condemning these crimes.

“It is our duty to give them peace and tranquillity in their native soil… We have to give them appropriate recognition and rehabilitation through all institutions of society,” he said.

But more than that, all citizens have the duty to “prevent injustices and eliminate any violence against others, to respect the inviolability of the human person and his property.”

He called on people to “encourage each other to achieve reconciliation and cooperation.”

Pahor quoted a section from a statement on reconciliation that the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts adopted last year at his urging.

It says that both sides share responsibility for the internecine conflict and that many crimes were committed by both, with the killing of thousands after the war a particularly brutal chapter.

“There is no apology for crimes. We can only regret then and provide for the memory of the victims as a reminder to all that a similar tragedy may never occur again,” the statement says.

The ceremony was held at Kren, perhaps the best known mass grave in an area of Karst chasms into which the bodies of victims were thrown after they were shot by Communist authorities.

Bringing together several hundred people, it featured prominent politicians including Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša and New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin as well as several conservative MPs.

Pahor laid a wreath at the site. Before going to Kočevski Rog, he also laid a wreath at a memorial near Turjak dedicated to the victims of the national liberation struggle among Partisans.

The president has made national reconciliation over post-war executions one of the central priorities of his presidency.