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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

From Katyn to Macesnova Gorica

By: Dr Metod Berlec

The Katyn Massacre (also known as the Katyn Forest Massacre) is a horrific war crime that was brutally carried out by the Soviet Security Intelligence Service (NKVD) in the spring of 1940 on the orders of the Soviet communist leader Jósif Visariónovich Stalin. They descended on captured Polish officers, soldiers, and civilians.

The number of those executed is still not completely known. The most common estimate is that at that time around 22,000 officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the Polish armed forces were executed in three mass graves. They became prisoners of war shortly after Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, following the military attack on Poland in September 1939, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, divided the country territorially. Along with them, many civilians who were accused of espionage and hostile anti-Soviet activities were murdered. These were entrepreneurs, traders, landowners, officials…

The Soviet communist government carried out this crime in strict secrecy, while at the same time camouflaging the mass murders. But the surrounding residents heard and felt that something terrible was happening. When Germany occupied the Katyn Forest area near Smolensk in the months following the invasion of the SU (June 1941), the German Wehrmacht was told by the surrounding residents what had most likely happened in the area. In the spring of 1943, an international commission of forensic physicians and pathologists from 12 universities of neutral countries began an investigation of the area. They came across piles of corpses. The evidence pointed to the undoubted responsibility of the SU for this crime, which the latter denied, saying that it was vile Nazi propaganda. In January 1944, when the German army had already withdrawn from the area, a special Soviet commission published its report, in which it blamed the Germans for this crime, saying that they had published false reports and evidence less than a year before. Similarly, the SU blamed Hitler’s Third Reich at the Nuremberg Trials. The Western Allies closed their eyes and ears to this, as the SU was still their ally at the time. With the Cold War this changed, and the truth gradually came out.

It was not until 1990 that the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Soviet reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, admitted responsibility for this terrible, barbaric war crime almost unparalleled in modern history. Almost. A similar crime also took place on Slovenian soil in the first weeks after the end of the Second World War. The Yugoslav communist regime under the leadership of Josip Broz – Tito, Edvard Kardelj, Boris Kidrič and comrades had tens of thousands of their real and imaginary political opponents killed after the Second World War. Members of various military formations who fought against the communists. And, of course, civilians too. Among them were more than 15,000 Slovenians. Thus, it is not surprising that more than 700 mass graves or murder sites are known in Slovenia today.

And as this year’s excavation of skeletons from the chasm in Macesnova Gorica in Kočevski rog showed, this is clearly the largest killing field of Slovenes after the end of the Second World War and no longer the chasm under Kren, where memorial ceremonies have been held since 1990. Namely, the archaeologists, according to the order of the government commission for issues of hidden graves, which for years has been led by Dr Jože Dežman, excavated as many as 3,200 skeletons of members of the Slovenian Home Guard or the Slovenian National Army in Macesnova Gorica. This is evidenced by the many found images of Marija Pomagaj of Brezjan and nearby also the Home Guard’s cockade. In doing so, the Yugoslav and Slovenian Communist Liquidation Units (KNOJ) acted differently from the Soviet ones, which left the victims clothed. In order not to recognise the victims, they had to undress first. Then they were brought to the Kočevje abysses, in the specific case to Macesnova Gorica, where they were thrown into an abyss, 16 meters deep, during the shooting. As archaeologists involved in the excavation said on Friday, about 40 victims survived the shooting and the fall, but then did not find a way out of the cave. Some miraculously succeeded and later testified about the horrific events at that time. Some testimonies are published in this magazine.

But the Slovenian communist authorities, like the Soviet ones in Katyn, tried to cover up their crime. Immediately after the massacre, they blew up the entrance to the abyss, in the middle of the fifties of the last century, almost three thousand cubic meters of rock were blown into the air in Macesnova Gorica. Then they planted spruce trees there. Thus, in recent years, they had to remove huge amounts of rock and soil to get to the abyss and the remains in it. To the tragic, terrible truth, which shows all the cruelty, brutality of the communist terror, which in its ruthlessness and primitiveness is completely comparable to the National Socialist one.

Therefore, today it is quite bizarre and unbelievable that we are being preached about hate speech by the ideological, political and (in some cases) blood descendants of those who carried out these barbaric “liquidations” after the Second World War. That the descendants of those who dealt with their compatriots in such a ruthless and inhuman manner preach to us about this. And that we even have a Prime Minister in power who has totalitarian, autocratic tendencies reminiscent of those tragic, dark times.


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