Thursday, April 27, 2006
mass graves in Slovenia from 1945
And so glad to see the Townhall web page being broadcast on CNN with Tony Snow's column. Hey! I've been published there too!
Following is an article from a reader and fellow American Slovenian, Yul Yost. He asked me to post this article about this too often overlooked part of history.
Here is Mr. Yost's article.
Lest we forget mass graves in Slovenia from 1945
by Yul Yost
3015 Fairview N
St. Paul, MN 55113-1244
As World War II ended in Europe in May 1945, Slovenia was a bottleneck for the masses fleeing from the Eastern Front. Soviet forces that drove the Nazis westward stopped at eastern Yugoslavia.. This allowed Tito's forces to sweep westward mostly unopposed through Yugoslavia and to reach Trieste on The Adriatic.Tito was the leader of the resistance on the Yugoslav territory and Stalin's ideological protégé for a long time. In the wake of “liberation” from Nazi terror a new one was imposed, communism. Thousands of soldiers and civilians of various nationalities from the Baltics to the Balkan fearing Stalin and/or Tito's forces tried to reach the British and American armies that pushed north thru Italy towards Nazi Germany. Among these refugees were members of Slovenian Home Guards (Domobranci) who escaped to Austria in early May 1945. On May 26, 1945 in Ljubljana, Tito, declared, "...only a minority of traitors has managed to escape....This minority will never see our beautiful mountains and flowering fields, and if this did happen, it would only last for a very short time." Would Tito respect the Geneva Convention of prisoners of war? Not applicable, these were men and whole families that were never taken prisoner; moreover, the war was over by then. It was time to go home. But, Tito's threat was an ominous prediction of what was to come. A recent book in English, by John Corsellis and Marcus Ferrar, Slovenia 1945, 276 pages. I.B. Tauris, 2005 (available via Amazon.com) deals very comprehensively with those events. The book mostly deals with the plight of Slovenians who managed to reach Austria. Then in a shady deal between the British and Tito, instead of promised free passage to Italy, they were in the week starting Sunday, May 27 to June 4 returned to Slovenia. A passage on page 71 mentions the agony of two teenaged Slovenian girls and their anticipated family reunion with their parents who had already escaped to Italy: "...the two sisters found themselves crammed into a filthy, suffocating cattle wagon heading back to Slovenia." These returnees were a threat to Tito's totalitarian regime. So, some seven to eleven thousand of them were executed at various sites in Slovenia, mostly at Teharje near Celje and at Kocevski Rog. Complicity of the British is dealt with on p.188 of Slovenia 1945, and in books, Victims of Yalta, 1976,. as well as in The Minister and the Massacres, London, 1986, both books by N. Tolstoy.The Englishman, Corsellis is credible, for he was in charge of the refugees in Austria for many years. The views here on the book are mine; mine too are the recollections of the events. Our home was within eyesight and earshot of the Teharje site. We called it Teharski Lager. During the war it was a German training camp. I recall that in June and July of 1945, shooting started by late afternoon and continued into the night. I had seen starved young men who had escaped from the Lager. Often evenings, as we were returning home from making hay, shooting started at the Lager. My father would then say: "The communists are shooting people again."
Forced return of the refugees was stopped by an order of the British Field Marshall, Harold Alexander, at noon, June 4, 1945. Alexander was then Allied commander for the Mediterranean war zone. By his order, the lives of escapees, Andrej Percic, Franc Medved and their families were spared by some six hours. By 1950, Percic and Medved and their families had emigrated to Minnesota, where their grateful descendents, among them Frank Medved Jr. and Andrew Percic Jr., who shared their memories with me, now make their homes.
In March 2006. Frank Medved went to Rome to see his camp mate from 57 years ago in Austria, Franc Rode. Rode had emigrated to Argentina and was on March 24, 2006 consecrated a cardinal, the first cardinal from Slovenia,.
Another recent book that contains chapters on the massacre at Teharje. is: Iz Zgodovine Celja, 1941-1945 (From History of Celje) by Tone Ferenc, 256 pgs., 2004. It is written in Slovenian, but sections are synopsized in German and in English. It cites that 10,100 Slovenians were returned from Austria. According to member of the Mass Grave Commission for Slovenia, Joe Bernik, there are in Slovenia some 400 mass graves from that period; these are graves of tens of thousand of refugees of various nationalities. Inexplicably, by 2005, nobody was held accountable for post-war atrocities in Slovenia, where monuments to Tito and street names to his cohorts still exist. Tito died in 1980,
. By 1989 communist regimes in Europe had crumbled. Slovenians too have rejected the social order which, in order to get established in 1945, liquidated thousands of freedom loving citizens. Then, fifteen years ago, in October, 1991, the Yugoslav People’s Army left Slovenia for Serbia, never to return. That year Slovenia became for the first time in history a free and democratic nation. Free at last!!
Slovenian government now does much to reconcile with the past and memorialize the lives that ended so mercilessly. Monuments to the victims were established at Teharje in 2004 and at Kocevski Rog . I highly recommend the book, Slovenia 1945. It is a tragic, dramatic and spellbinding historic record about memories of death and survival of freedom yearning Slovenians, Slovenia's greatest generation.
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.