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On the 17th of May, We Remember the Victims of Communism in Slovenia

“I think that such symbolic acts are also important due to our past. Remember the reconciliation in Kočevski rog, the arrangement of various burial grounds, but we must also be aware that a dictatorship which lasts for 45 years, as communism did, leaves serious traces in people and consequences that are still visible to this day,” said one of the victims of communism, Franci Kindlhofer, a former internee of the Petriček children’s camp, regarding the announcement that the 17th of May is now a day of remembrance for the victims of communism. 

The current government has declared the 17th of May as the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Communist Violence. It based its decision on the civilisational norm that the perpetrators of violence and evil acts be measured by the same criteria and followed the efforts to prevent the most tragic events in our history from being repeated. In the explanation of its decision, the government wrote, among other things, that many of those who resisted the communist system and the one-mindedness of it, in any form, have been forgotten. And even though Slovenia has taken certain measures to ensure transitional justice, we have so far not had a day that would honour those who died or were otherwise the victims of communism in Slovenia.

The results of the latest elections are an indication that many do not know enough about our past
Slovenia was founded in 1991 on the basis of condemnations of all totalitarianisms and also on the basis of condemnations of the crimes of communism. However, the likely Prime Minister-designate, Robert Golob, said in response to the government’s decision in question that we obviously need to also start celebrating the 9th of May – Victory Day – more often in order to remember what the truth is. To show their criticism, the Left party (Levica) warned that the government and its right-wing parties are trying to “get everyone involved in the everlasting cultural fights that have nothing to do with today’s problems,” but the guest of our show Tema dneva (Topic of the Day), Franci Kindlhofer, disagrees with the Left’s opinion, as he believes that such symbolic acts are also important for Slovenia’s past. “Remember the reconciliation in Kočevski rog, the arrangement of various burial grounds, but we must also be aware that a dictatorship which lasts for 45 years, as communism did, leaves serious traces in people and consequences that are still visible to this day,” he said. Kindlhofer believes that the latest elections were an example that shows us that everyone who defends the left is trying to exclude this past from Slovenian political life, which was also apparent from the results of the elections. Many people do not know enough about Slovenia’s past and want to build its future in the clouds. “The past must be on the citizens’ minds so that they can build on the basis of it. We must condemn ideology itself, the ideologies that gave birth to dictatorship; we must condemn them. It is different with people, who cannot choose the time they are born into but simply have to adapt to it, and we must be aware that not every person is a hero who risked their own life or the life of their family; we must reach a consensus,” Kindlhofer said.

“Reconciliation is no longer possible; the reconciliation staged by Milan Kučan in Kočevski rog is just an attempt to sweep things under the rug. Thirty years have passed since then; there are no people left who could reconcile, I do not even consider myself to be a victim of communism; it was my mother who was the victim. The lives of the victims of communism were not taken away, as says the Slovenian judiciary – this was a slaughter, these were murders, and we need to get used to the right words for the actions that were committed,” Kindlhofer believes. According to him, some people in our country are trying to make the actions of the past regime seem way less terrible than they were. Many people who were young at the time understood things differently.

On the 17th of May 1945, a massacre began, due to which Slovenia paid a high tax – in blood
“The people who are not experts always have the most to say about history in Slovenia,” Tino Mamić, a history professor, journalist and editor, said regarding the criticism for the day of remembrance of the victims of communism and the criticism that came from the future coalition. “An alliance of the so-called fighters, politicians and even some local drunks know everything about history and things that happened between 1939 and 1946.”

Mamić said that he would very much like to hear from an expert who can explain what exactly is wrong with having an occasion when we remember the day when the greatest massacre in Slovenian history began. Namely, according to Mamić, on the 17th of May 1945, the massacre began, due to which Slovenia had to pay more in blood in the Second World War than, for example, Italy or Austria. “100 thousand unburied people in forests and caves have turned Slovenia into the largest unmarked burial ground in Europe.”

Anti-fascism is the food of communists
Kindlhofer believes that the terminology in our country is completely wrong, because in the world, we talk about right and left politics in terms of democracy – “those who advocate for left politics defend the social side of life, while the right defends tradition, these are two healthy, opposing poles, which are fighting for power,” he explained, adding that when it comes to fascists and communists, we cannot talk about the left and right, as they are absolutists who do not know what democracy is. As long as we live in a democracy, a few communists are not harmful, but the danger arises if they come to power, because “nowhere in the world has the Communist Party come to power in a democratic way because they are always in the minority. I resent the communists for using the time of war, which was already horrible enough for the people, for occupation. When Stalin made a pact with Hitler, he took away everyone’s arms, and they were powerless, as no communist was allowed to resist Hitler. Anti-fascism is present in our country because it was the main fuel of the communists; it was their oxygen.”

Golob has no sense of Slovenia’s past
According to Kindlhofer, choosing Tanja Fajon as the Minister of Foreign Affairs shows that Golob “has no sense of Slovenia’s past and of what weighs heavy on our people or where the problems are. We often talk about political hygiene and things that a politician should not do as a role model to citizens. A politician can send positive or negative signals, so the media and the public are the “watchdogs” who keep an eye on this. Fajon publicly bowed to a criminal, and one can therefore rightly assume that she is a supporter of his actions and a defender of what the criminal in question did,” said Kindlhofer, who believes that Fajon is compromised and that, as such, she cannot be a role model for young people. As far as communism in Slovenia is concerned, Kindlhofer pointed out the fact that in Slovenia, we still have lots of symbols of communism that do not allow us to move forward, as we are still forced to look at them.  

This year’s presidential election is important precisely because of overcoming our past, Kindlhofer believes. According to him, the parliament is not the best place for this, as its main task is to work for the good of the people, “while the role of the President of the Republic is something else. The president is a neutral person according to the constitution, he is the one who seeks ways out of the dilemma of who were the criminals and what was right or wrong in the past. The president should eliminate these dangers for the good of citizens and make coexistence meaningful.” Kindlhofer urged the voters who were not critical enough in the last election to rethink and give a voice to a person who will show enough common sense, who will not say they are open to all sides but will try to bring everyone together on the basis of respect and etiquette.

Tanja Brkić

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