Burying the Dead

An oath by Slovene collaboationist Home Guard on Ljubljana Stadium, 20 April 1944 (source)

Slovenes like to divide ourselves along various lines. Political, geographical, alocholical, etc… One is therefore not surprised when one finds out that Slovenia sports its own version of the old Jewish proverb. Show me three Slovenes and I’ll show you five political parties. Most of these divisions are rather benign and can be used as a sightseeing attracion, much like hooligan clashes with the police.

However, Slovenes seem to be unable to bury our dead. As avid readers of the more serious posts of this blog know, Slovenia and Slovenes have had a rather nasty World War II. Being earmarked for extinction (ethnical clensing is the modern phrase, I believe), divided between three occupying countries and split internally between guerilla resistance and collaborators.

It all brought plenty of pain and suffering to everyone and even today, more than sixty years later, there are still innocent people who have suffered greatly during the war. Previous (socialist) regime maintanied the hollines of the war and held a position that only those who were on the right side were victims, whereas others were not to be compensated for their trauma. This left our plenty of innocent civilians who were hurt by Partisan or Allied forces (either through mistake or malice), people who were forcefully drafted into German military (and usually sent to the Russian front) or who were mistreated because some of their relatives were colaborators.

It is a shame the previous regime failed to compensate them and it is indeed an ever bigger shame that in sixteen years of democracy this country hasn’t been able to do that. But why is that? Well, because it goes down to the very core of what Slovenia is about and what our values are.

With emergence of democracy emerged (or “re-emerged”, rather) a different vision of Slovenia. A vision held by those, who were defeated in WWII. A vision of a Catholic, anti-communist Slovenia, which has to claim its rightful place among the ancient European nation, a place which it was denied by the success of the Communist revolution and the social upheaval which followed the end of WWII.

It soon became clear, however, that the not-so-secret agenda behind it had called for nothing less than equaling those who have actively fought against the occupator with those who actively fought with the occupator. And it all came down to a bill, which in its present form equals both sides, allowing everyone who was involved to be declared a victim of war. This bill was introduced several times already, but it never made it through the parliament. It always stirred too much emotion, and that was not a good thing for a country that was on the fast track to join the EU and NATO. So it was swept under the rug for as long as possible. Until yesterday, when the right-wing parties re-introduced the bill in the parliament.

My position on the issue is well known and you may freely call me biased. The Bible sayeth: “Judge not, lest ye be judged!“. But I’m more than willing to be judged (at least on this issue) and I say “judge on, oh Pengovsky!

Namely (and I will say this time and again, if necesary): There was no middle ground during WWII. Not in Slovenia. One had to chose sides. Some people chose unvisely and were ready to sacrifise their own nation to a “lesser evil”. Today, perhaps we understand their reasons better. Surely there must be place for forgiveness in our hearts and minds. Surely the choices of the losing side do not justify the attrocities that were commited when the war had already ended. But never – never – must a fight for a nation’s survival be equaled with condoning a nation’s destruction.

Yes, it is time for us, Slovenes, to finally bury our dead. But those who died for us to survive must be respected, and those who died in vain must be mourned and forgiven. But never glorified. Their deeds are deeds of us all. And their deaths only show that we must make moral choices every day and that we are not inherently right in making them.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

27 thoughts on “Burying the Dead”

  1. I think we should focus on today and on tomorrow. Without forgetting the past, of course, but still. Bringing up this highly emotional topic sporadically serves not only to pull party membership together and boost member loyalty (on both “sides”), but also to divert attention from ongoing issues that do actually affect our lives now and will affect them in the future. divide et impera, eh?

    That said, smrt fašizmu!

  2. @Sunshine: for a change? Really?

    @Luka: Na vekov veke! 😉

    @dr. filomena: That was my first reaction… Why now? And you have already provided the answer 😀 SF SN!

    @Morska: Eric Clapton would love you for it! 🙂

  3. Well, I never was an EC fan but I admit he wrote many good songs and he knows how to deal with a guitar which is the instrument I love the most. And deep inside I’m a romantic and and idealist…

  4. So that’s where he got the name Slowhand. It all comes together. :mrgreen:

    The WW II issue is, as you know a hot potato in Belgium as well. It’s not just a question of burying our dead, but there are still a lot of willing collaborators alive and they have a political party representing them. What transpired 67 years ago is still sending shock waves through the Belgian nation today. And we’re also presented with the same problems as you sum up. It would be great if everyone could bury their dead and move on, but alas I don’t see that happen just yet, however much I would like to…

  5. @ARF & Morska: Re Clapton: Exactly! :mrgreen: luckily for us, that is – I think the nineties would definitely not be the same without the unplugged version of Layla

    @ARF: Re WWII: I thought as much… I vaguely remembered us talking about it while you were here… Perhaps a topic for your next post? 🙂

  6. hehe, that’s a joke about clapton, right? i don’t believe we ever attended audition for the rolling stones. he earned the nickname slowhand because his forceful string-bending often resulted in broken guitar strings, which he would replace onstage while the crowd engaged in a slow hand-clapping.

  7. this is how it is for small countries. you pick sides, usually the side that means your country will still exist at the end of the day.

    just be thankful that slovenia doesn’t have a border with russia. countries that have a russian border still pay for the sides they chose, especially if that side was not russia.

  8. I can imagine that being a neighbour of the largest country in the world brings a whole new set of problems.

    Re: picking sides. I understand… But as far as survival is concerned (and I know I’m splitting hair): there is a difference between survival of a country and survival of a nation.

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