While Italians returned the National Hall (Narodni dom) to Slovenians, the SD party is still refusing to return the property they stole after World War II to the Jewish Community, which also includes the rather high-profile case of the Moskovič’s villa, which is currently owned by the party. The European Jewish Association has called on the party to return the villa to its original owners, but the party’s president, Tanja Fajon, refuses to do so, referring to the applicable legislation and legal documents. The Jewish Community of Slovenia warns that the successors of the Communists are referring to the revolutionary Yugoslav legislation, and they also believe that the conduct of the SD party is contrary to today’s view of justice. And as far as peaceful resolution of the issue in question is concerned, they also pointed out that the SD party has shown no real political will to resolve the dispute.
“I am wondering if Slovenia feels any shame, since Italy has finally fulfilled its promise and returned the National Hall to the Slovenian minority, but Slovenia has not yet done anything to return some property to its small Jewish Community, which is now even struggling to restore some old building which would become its cultural centre. President Pahor – you attended the ceremony in Trieste. What if you took the initiative and took care of the rights of Slovenian Jews?” Keith Miles wrote in an article for Portalplus some time ago, and his words give this matter an even deeper meaning. The Social Democrats party (SD) could actually follow the example of the Italians and their honesty and return what is not theirs.
Miles then points out that the state is extremely slow in finding the owners of the nationalised and stolen property and hides behind legal details, claiming that former owners can unimpededly demand their former property back; however, if the ownership is not entirely clear, then it does not have to do anything. This means that often, the current beneficiaries, who are very poor, cannot afford the costs of making claims, and so they do not receive any compensation. In recent days, the call that was made by the Jewish Community several years ago, asking the party to return Moskovič’s villa to its original owners, has caused quite a stir in public.
The European Jewish Association has joined the efforts of the Jewish Community of Slovenia (Judovska skupnost Slovenije – referred to as JSS), which has, for more than two decades now, asked that the Community receive at least symbolic compensation for the confiscated property of Jews during World War II. “However, there seems to be no real political will for this,” they wrote. We also wrote to them with a few questions, asking about the return of the property which had been revolutionarily seized during the Yugoslav era, namely, how many such cases were recorded, how such proceeding took place, how successful they were, and if they have witnessed any cases similar to that of the Moskovič’s villa.
They say that there are many cases similar to this one and that data on this are collected in a research study currently being prepared by the Ministry of Justice. “Since there were no heirs who would inherit property from those who were killed in concentration camps, the solution to this issue that was created at the European level, is that for moral reasons and due to special historical circumstances (the Holocaust), the property is returned to the destroyed Jewish communities,” the JSS explained. This process was particularly encouraged by the USA with the adoption of the JUST Act of 2017, and the process is now almost complete in most of the EU Member States, with the exception of Poland and, of course, Slovenia. As they noticed, any serious interest in returning the stolen property so far was shown by the first Janša government, even without the intervention of the USA. “Now it seems that there is a real possibility to end the process in the regular mandate of this government.” They hope that the injustices could be corrected in Slovenia, just like they were in the other European countries.
The Jewish Community of Slovenia is Clear: you got Moskovič’s villa legally under revolutionary law, but this does not match today’s view of justice On its website, the Jewish Community states that the takeover of Villa Moskovič was carried out legally but following the principles of the revolutionary law of post-war Yugoslavia, which does not match today’s view of justice. The Social Democrats, led by Tanja Fajon, do not want to return the villa, and in this case, are referring to the law that was in force in post-war Yugoslavia at the time, and they themselves received the villa due to a contract exchange that happened then. It is also worth
mentioning that even under the legislation, which was in force in Yugoslavia, the villa should be owned by the state and not by private interests, which is what the party is.
As Miles already pointed out, the Jewish Community is also convinced that Slovenia is successfully evading the returning of property to Jews in general. “The returning of the property to Jews who died in the Holocaust and had no heirs has been resolved in most European countries, except Poland and Slovenia. The Republic of Slovenia has been successfully avoiding this issue for more than 20 years now,” they explained. The JSS hopes to reach a fair agreement with the state regarding the return of the assets, including the land and the demolished synagogue in Murska Sobota. In 1954, despite the protests, the state tore down the synagogue in question and built an apartment building in its place.
The JSS wants to solve the problem of Moskovič’s villa with the SD party in a constructive manner “We understand that the leadership of the SD party feels uncomfortable in this building, and we are willing to meet them halfway, within the framework of a comprehensive solution for the restitution of Jewish property,” added the Jewish Community of Slovenia. Due to the general problem in Slovenia, regarding the return of property to Jews, and the problems of the aforementioned Moskovič’s villa, we also turned to the Sector for Redressing Injustices and for National Reconciliation at the Ministry of Justice, asking about their role in such cases, whether or not they have previously dealt with similar cases, and what is their position in the case of Villa Moskovič. We will publish their answers as soon as we receive them.
The Jewish Community also believes that the MEP (who in this case does not act as the president of the SD party) is trying to focus on the feelings of anti-fascism while forgetting the horrible acts committed by communism. “However, she is forgetting, or perhaps faking ignorance when it comes to the fact that it was actually the Communist Party of Slovenia which took away the property of our surviving members through the state apparatus, as part of denationalisation; and in addition, it also treated the surviving Jews as class enemies, or even as collaborators of the Nazis,” they explained. In this case, they did not only take away their property but also their human dignity, which led to many being forced to move to Israel between the years 1947 and 1948, as they were impoverished and pushed to the margins of society. “In addition, they had to hand over all their property to the state – without compensation, which was one of the conditions for the issuing of a passport. They also lost their citizenship, which is similar to wrongful deportation,” they added. Fajon has so far not said a word about all of this, despite the fact that she constantly emphasises that she sympathises with the victims of Nazism. Putting a memorial plaque on the façade of the stolen building and not even inviting the Jewish Community of Slovenia to be present at the unveiling is not enough to wash away their guilt.