The Slovene struggle against occupation


Slovenia's struggle against occupation during the Second World War was made complex by internal divisions between partisans and anti-communist nationalists. Radio Slovenia International talked to historian Dr. Marjan Znidaric, director of the Museum of National Liberation, about this fateful period in Slovenian and European history:

"Slovenes were on the side of the anti-Hitler, anti-nationalist coalition in the Second World War, and this army contributed to the final victory of democratic forces over Nazism and Fascism. Some of the final battles of the war took place on Slovenian soil -- even a week after the war had officially ended and Germany had capitulated. The last battles in Slovenian Carinthia took place on May 15, 1945. That's why May 9 and the days in mid-may 1945 were a turning point in Slovenian history, especially if we look at these events through a prism of the year 1941.

"It was in this year that the occupation began and the three occupiers: Hungary, Germany and Italy, had decided that the small nation at the edge of the Alps and the Adriatic had to be wiped off of the European map. This would have happened if there hadn't been any armed resistance as early as 1941, because the occupiers had annexed the country and were already working on destroying its identity. All of this was a kind of genocide, which was going on among Jews, Romany, and other peoples.

"The Slovenian realm was divided into ten administrative units. No region was so intensely divided. Most of Slovenia would eventually be freed by the Slovenian partisan army. Because of this, there was no regime set up here -- as was the case in other Eastern European countries freed by the Red Army. The Yugoslavian socialism that developed after the war was considerably different from the kind of socialism in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

"The post-war communists didn't share power. This had its origins in the time before World War II. On the basis of a papal order, quadregissimo anno divine redentoris, it was declared that the church wouldn't cooperate with the communists or the Christian socialists. Later on during the war, this paralysed the Slovenian nation. And the effect of this was that part of the Slovenian people took sides with the occupier, because they thought the war was an opportunity to finally settle the score with communism.

"This was a type of crusade against communism. Because there was no agreement among people for a unified Slovenian uprising against the occupier, people took sides with the occupier -- in the sense that they fought the liberation movement. This almost doomed the existence of the Slovenian nation. The result of this was that at the end of the war, the losing side was - as in all wars - punished by the victors.

"Young generations aren't interested in these issues. They're interested in historic truth, which is that the Slovenian nation was divided during the war and that this division resulted in illegal killings. These crimes, and collaboration with the occupier, cannot be excused. Most of Europe didn't experience this. The only thing they know is the experience of resistance against fascism."