Teharje – An estimated 5,000 victims of war and post-war summary executions were commemorated at a memorial mass in Teharje on Sunday. More than 600 unmarked killing sites across Slovenia bear witness to these atrocities, said retired Celje Bishop Stanislav Lipovšek at the annual ceremony.
A total of 76 years have passed since the end of the Second World War, including 45 years of enforced silence and deliberate concealment of the truth about what happened during and after the war, said Lipovšek, highlighting the 600 and more unmarked killing or burial sites located in various areas of Slovenia.
This silence represents a dark side of Slovenia’s WWII and post-WWII history, he said, adding that efforts to mark the graves, properly bury the victims and remember them had been a bright spot in all of this.
These efforts include the concealed war graves and burial of victims act from 2015 and the government commission for concealed mass graves, he said, noting the effort the latter had put in. He is glad all of the commission’s findings have been published.
Lipovšek is also grateful for the work by the association Nova Slovenska Zaveza (New Slovenian Testament), which, he said, keeps the memory of the victims alive and takes care of their relatives. The association has set up some 250 memorial plaques featuring names of more than 15,000 victims, he said.
The retired bishop is also pleased that there is a growing conviction that a society or nation that denies or fails to address its past does not have a healthy, fertile and creative present, nor a bright future.
He also urged stepped-up efforts to tackle open issues related to war and post-war events and reach national reconciliation.
After the mass, the ceremony was addressed by Peter Sušnik of the association, the event’s organiser. Sušnik highlighted the importance of preserving the memory of the victims and reflecting on the past.
Among the victims commemorated at the Teharje Memorial Park are members of the Home Guard, a militia that collaborated with the Nazis, soldiers, civilians, women and children, and refugees from Croatia and Serbia apprehended by the Allies in the northern Koroška region in May 1945 as they were fleeing north.
The Allies turned them over to the Partisans, who brought them to the Teharje barracks near Celje, a facility formerly used by the Nazi Germany military.
Most of them were then killed without a trial on several locations nearby Teharje, including the notorious Huda Jama mine shaft near the town of Laško.
The memorial park was inaugurated in 2004 on the site of the former barracks. The project has not been completed yet as there is a lack of political will for this, according to the Teharje parish.