By: dr Jože Dežman
I have published my assessment that the Institute for Contemporary History (INZ) committed a crime against science and the nation by closing the registry of victims of World War II and post-war terror for scientific research in Demokracija Magazine on September 21st, 2023. Dr Andrej Pančur, the director of INZ, did not respond in Demokracija, but on September 29th, he posted a “public notice” on the INZ website.
In this notice, he further complicated matters and confirmed that he has a task for which he does not know how to wrap it in a somewhat digestible justification. At the same time, he does not respond to my justifications and questions. Let me add some concerns.
INZ itself has wasted World War II
Pančur somehow implies that INZ is no longer dealing with World War II because they are budgetarily disadvantaged compared to the Study Centre for National Reconciliation. However, if, according to his words, INZ has gained many projects and employed researchers for other topics, how is it that he did not decide to take on new projects and new researchers for the time of World War II? Certainly not because of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, but due to their (anti)development policy. How is it possible that the national INZ is not concerned with the pivotal period of recent national history? It is evident that this is indeed a new attack on the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, as shown by the fact that Luka Volk, with Pančur’s encouragement, added more fuel to the fire in Mladina Magazine on October 6th, 2023.
Another one of Pančur’s evasions is entirely pulled out of a magician’s hat, the excuse that they are closing the registry of victims because Slovenia will enter a golden age of “open science”, and it will be time to supplement the registry of victims. Such hocus-pocus clichés do not address the issue.
The INZ registry reveals how we lived in falsehood during Titoism
The INZ registry of victims is a ground-breaking scientific act of national importance. It revealed that during Titoism, we lived in a lie. Titoism concluded its death accounting in the 1970s by listing 46,000 victims to whom it acknowledged the right to a grave and memory, with a note mentioning 14,000 tabooed victims (5,000 forced mobilised to the German army and 9,000 “Whites Guards”, and other collaborators of the occupiers). That is a total of 60,000 fatalities, while today, the INZ registry mentions more than 100,000. The lie was enormous, which is why uncovering the truth has been so challenging.
The INZ registrars did a heroic job. They had to find several thousand victims that the regime might otherwise have acknowledged but “forgot” to record. Most importantly, they had to discover over 40,000 victims to whom Titoism had denied the right to a grave and memory. Is it not glaringly shocking that INZ registrars found only “53,473 names recorded in death registries” out of around 100,000 fatalities in the state registers? Is it not a terrible outcome of Titoist lies and the communist atheistic burial that around two-thirds of the victims do not have a recorded burial place?
So, the INZ is not to blame for an incomplete registry. However, the INZ is to blame for not issuing a fundamental report on what they have achieved with the registry, the challenges they have faced, and how to supplement the registry.
Exclusivity and censorship
Jasna Fišer was the director of INZ when the registry began. She did not want to cooperate with those of us who were researching the victims at that time, nor did she take into account the experience I had in establishing a list of the consequences of war in the partisan district of Jesenice. The consequences were substantial for the INZ registry. The closure of the INZ registry is a continuation of this exclusionary policy and the prevention of research on specific patterns that would show us where we are and how to move forward.
Let’s be more explicit. When Jože Možina, in the most-watched Slovenian documentary “Zamolčani – moč preživetja” in 2004, told the Titoist hardliner Marko Vrhunec the data from the INZ registry that the partisan movement during World War II killed more than four thousand civilians, Vrhunec was almost struck by this truth.
In 2004, at a conference on victims in the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Boris Mlakar, who was then leading the INZ registry, presented the Slovenian fratricidal slaughter
There were 21,490 victims of fratricide with a known date of death, and the communist side caused 18,420 or 86% of the victims, while the anti-communist side caused 3,070 or 14%.
In 2013, the victims of fratricide with a known date of death were presented by Dr Vida Deželak Barič, who was then leading the INZ registry.
The number of victims of fratricide increased to 28,419. The communist side caused 24,456 or 86% of the victims, while the anti-communist side caused 3,963 or 14%.
It is more than clear that with 12,000 victims who do not have a recorded wartime role in the INZ registry and 20,000 victims where the cause of death is not recorded, we cannot provide a final assessment of the scope and consequences of the Slovenian civil war. Of course, we could list many important topics that, due to the incompleteness of the registry and its closure, will not be able to be professionally researched and presented to the public. Therefore, the closure of the INZ registry is a crime against science and the nation.
2004: The Slovenian fratricide in the INZ registry
2013 (updated in 2022): The Slovenian fratricide in the INZ registry
|After the end of the war||15.111|
The online publication of INZ registry data
Pančur casually claims that INZ can treat the registry of victims as its
private property and do whatever it wants with it. He also mentions that the partial publication of INZ registry data on the website is in line with the limitations imposed by the Archives and Documentary Material Protection Act (ZVDAGA).
However, the positions adopted by the Information Commissioner Nataša Pirc Musar in 2007 (https://www.ip-rs.si/mnenja-zvop/objava-podatkov-o-zrtvah-iz-2-svetovne-vojne) and the legal opinion prepared by the Čeferin Law Firm in 2005 indicate that the INZ registry is a data collection that must be publicly accessible and that there are no obstacles to the publication of data.
The Information Commissioner has stated that she evaluates the publication of the INZ registry only according to the Personal Data Protection Act. She emphasises “that the publication of personal data that have already been publicly disclosed is certainly permissible. The publication of personal data collected from private and public archival material, for which the deadlines for permissible access have expired, as defined in the Archives and Documentary Material Protection Act (ZVDAGA), is also permissible. In any case, the following data are permissible for publication: personal name, father’s and mother’s names, date and place of birth, date and place of death, place of residence, citizenship, membership in a political party or association, affiliation with military units, nationality, gender, education, and employment in accordance with Article 102 of the ZVDAGA, as well as other public data from other public or private archival material in accordance with the ZVDAGA”.
The Čeferin Law Firm analysed the potential limitations on the publication of the INZ registry based on the Personal Data Protection Act, the Access to Public Information Act, the Copyright and Related Rights Act, and the Obligations Code in 2015.
They began by stating that INZ is a “public research institute that performs a public service in the field of scientific and research and development activities” and that “from the Catalogue of Public Information, it is evident that INZ, as a public research institute, has a public record or database of information about the fatalities among the population in the territory of the Republic of Slovenia during World War II and immediately after it”. I wonder whether the status of the INZ registry as a “public record” has really changed significantly to justify its closure.
In their assessment under the Personal Data Protection Act, the law firm, like the Information Commissioner in the publication of the INZ registry, did not find anything objectionable. Regarding the Access to Public Information Act, they summarised that “information of a public nature is freely accessible to legal or natural persons (hereinafter: applicants). Each applicant has the right, upon their request, to obtain information of a public nature by viewing it or by obtaining a copy, photocopy, or electronic record. Each applicant has the right to obtain the right to reuse information under the same conditions as other persons, for gainful or non-gainful purposes”. They concluded that “according to the information provided, the INZ data collection is freely accessible in accordance with the provisions of the Access to Public Information Act”.
I had already proposed in the first initiative that the INZ authorities, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Innovation, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Information Commissioner, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, and other relevant bodies should assess the legality of the INZ decision to close access to this national data collection.
This possibility is even more open because MP Jelka Godec has also raised a parliamentary question about the legality of closing the INZ registry.
Of course, INZ can fulfil its obligation to science and the nation by adding the missing data for each victim to the online publication. This would include the victim’s wartime role, the cause of death, and the sources from which information about the victim was derived. Then, most users would be able to independently verify the data.
Study centre or Archives of the Republic of Slovenia?
Indeed, considering its decision to terminate research on World War II, INZ could transfer the management of the INZ registry to the Study Centre for National Reconciliation. Alternatively, and perhaps even more justifiably, the INZ registry could be permanently archived and managed by the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia.
Pančur’s promises of “open science” in a probably even more “free future” can remain a magician’s rabbit in the hat. INZ does not need any hocus-pocus!