Commemoration of Ljubelj liberation calls for peace and end to evil

Ljubelj – A ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Ljubelj concentration camp noted the importance of recalling horrible events in the past to prevent new horrors of war. Speakers at Saturday’s ceremony urged efforts to prevent the spread of evil and called for peace in light of the war in Ukraine.

The keynote speaker, Anica Mikuš Kos, head of the Slovenian Philanthropy humanitarian organisation, pointed out that the horrors of the concentration camps could ignite vigilance and a rapid response to developments that can again lead to mass suffering.

“I’m here as a person who is reacting to a great evil and warning against the proliferation of evil in the social fabric of our time, calling for active resistance against the weavers of evil who weave among us threads of humiliation, of hatred towards those who are different or different-minded,” she said.

Mikuš Kos said there were various ways to oppose evil, including by making sure that those inciting hatred are not in positions of power and by drawing attention to injustices.

She warned of the danger that in a democracy, “in the name of tolerance, of open opportunities for all, including for those who deliberately incite hatred among people, we overlook or fail to respond to a looming danger because we naively think that democracy provides us with safety from social developments that lead to mass suffering”.

Another speaker, Herman Janež, who was speaking on behalf of the Coordination Committee of War Victims of the ZZB NOB Slovenije, Slovenia’s WWII veteran organisation, noted that, unfortunately, the war in Ukraine showed that history is not remembered at all.

“And this in 2022, when we expected that certain civilisational norms had been reached,” he added.

The Ljubelj camp, a branch of the Mauthausen concentration camp and the only such WWII camp in the Slovenian lands, included some 2,000 prisoners of 13 European nationalities who were forced to build the nearby Ljubelj Pass.

Poles were the most numerous ethnic group of prisoners at Ljubelj, alongside the French, so the event was also addressed by Polish Ambassador to Slovenia Krzysztof Olendzki.

The ambassador noted: “When we look back at Auschwitz, at Mauthausen, where the Germans murdered the elite of the Polish nation, and at Ljubelj, we repeat: War never again, genocide never again.”

That is why, he said, people must speak today and every day about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is a crime, and not only an armed attack on a peaceful and sovereign European country, but also an attack on European values, he said.

“In the name of the victims of the Third Reich who were abused here, we must support the citizens of Ukraine in their struggle for dignity, freedom and democracy,” he added.

The event at the Ljubelj Memorial Park was also addressed by Daniel Simon, president of the French association of Mauthausen prisoners, and Dušan Bodlaj, interim mayor of the Tržič municipality.

Before the ceremony, delegations from the municipality, ZZB NOB Slovenije and a number of embassies laid wreaths at the J’Accuse memorial. The Slovenian Armed Forces Guard laid a wreath on behalf of President Borut Pahor.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič, Defence Minister Marjan Šarec and Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik.