By: Ž. K. (Nova24TV.si)
When representatives of the authorities pledge against violence at public commemorations, they are only pledging against violence that has affected their ideological allies. They conveniently omit violence against everyone else. Otherwise, how else could we explain why, for example, Nataša Pirc Musar, who should represent all citizens of Slovenia, does not attend commemorative events for the victims of communist violence? The last commemoration she conveniently skipped was in Podlesje, where politically and religiously defiant Slovenian women suffered in a communist camp. Dr Janez Juhant, who offered a mass at the event, warns that the ideas of the post-war period are returning to the scene but in a more subtle form.
“It is our survival that is at stake here, not because of the disaster that made us solidaric but because of the craving for absolute rule that excludes others so that only a few can rule without limitations. Lies, the immortal soul of communism, are increasingly blinding and alienating us, preventing us from looking each other in the face and acknowledging the truth. They want to destroy us again with cunning and insidious methods, with orders and commands that jump behind a person, throw them to the ground like a number, and trample them,” says Juhant in Podlesje.
Juhant begins his speech by recalling that the women in the Podlesje camp and the prisoners in other camps in Škofja Loka and Rajhenburg experienced the cruelty of totalitarian authority, which deliberately and brutally subjected them to inhuman and impersonal suffering, hunger, heat, and cold. Juhant notes that our society has developed sensitivity to Nazi and fascist torture, but not to communist torture.
“A decent person will not wonder about the difference between Auschwitz, Srebrenica on the one hand, and Ferdreng, Škofja Loka, Teharje, and Rajhenburg on the other. […] For everything that communist leaders did in Podlesje to women or to Home Guards in Kočevski Rog or elsewhere in Slovenia, the same criteria apply as for other torture here or around the world,” explains Juhant.
Juhant: This is extremely reprehensible
Juhant also addressed the abolition of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communism. As he puts it, the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarianism calls for empathy with the victims. “It is extremely reprehensible that a democratic state simply abolishes the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communism. What about the hearts of the people who cold-bloodedly pressed the button and thus repeated the impersonal task of the killers, and once again murdered those who were already killed?” he warns.
Podlesje is a settlement in Kočevje, which was once inhabited by Kočevje Germans. Later, an abandoned settlement became the site of a women’s concentration camp established by the post-war communist authorities, where political prisoners were interned. They were sentenced to “community service”. Between 600 and 800 women worked in forced labour under extremely poor hygiene conditions in 1949. The camp operated until 1953, after which the prisoners were relocated to Škofja Loka Castle following the camp’s dissolution.
They encourage us to be determined!
Juhant then says that the memory of resolute women and victims in Podlesje encourages us to be determined. He mentions that today, too, determination is appropriate within us, but not out of self-interest, but to preserve the foundations of an orderly human society. “It is not just about preserving faith, hope, and other Christian virtues, but about truth and justice, and ultimately the survival of man, human society, and all of us,” he explains.
“With your determination, you encourage us to be courageous, so that humanity defies the seductive sirens of consumerism and exteriority spread by political and other whisperers. As people, citizens, and believers, we are duty-bound to defy, unite, and preserve the heritage of our ancestors, who died for it, for future generations,” he concludes.
Speech by Dr Janez Juhant:
Courageous defiance of evil
Respected ladies and gentlemen,
This place carries a sense of sanctity within it, as we remember the suffering and death of determined and defiant women who, in conscience and heartfelt dedication to Christian traditions, resisted – or more precisely, were morally bound to resist – the destructive tyranny that aimed to turn people into mere numbers. Like other victims of the inhuman conditions of that time, these women were cast into this place of suffering and ordered to turn it into a desert. They were coerced into martyrdom, even though they longed for life, yearned for the embrace of their loved ones, for love and the warmth of home, for human closeness, and dreamed of peace and family happiness. Their intimate longing was eroded by the lust for power that thrived on intimidation, enslavement, and the destruction of human beings. The determination and resistance to the contempt and dehumanisation systematically perpetrated by the regime of the new class that came onto the political stage in Slovenia compelled people dedicated to Christian tradition to remote places of suffering and death. Those who resisted the trampling of human dignity were subjected to the same maltreatment. Out of cowardice and ideological blindness, the authorities tore them from the embrace of their homes and loved ones, condemned them in staged criminal trials, killed some, and, like these women in Podlesje, left others to die gradually. The suffering here was even more dreadful than in a German camp, as emphasised by the 93-year-old survivor and participant in this gathering, Dragica (Karolina) Senica. Terror, however, enveloped most people, enslaved them, even the very oppressors and instigators, as the whole land languished under its yoke. It took away faith, culture, humanity, and honesty from all. More and more, socialist self-management’s gradual dying, infused with a consumerist mindset, as a necessity for survival in inhumane conditions, dehumanised and alienated us over the long term. Under the influence of consumer addiction, soft totalitarianism spread among us. Its vague veils still entangle us today, especially the young, and they attempt to make everyone obedient tools of political planners.
Even in the twenties of the last century, Antonio Gramsci preached that communism should not be enforced by force but through lies and seduction of man. While totalitarian leaders imposed lies by force, today’s leftist successors use more refined methods, well known from the false self-management era in Yugoslavia. That is why we are now witnessing the resurgence of informants and lies spreading through all aspects of party, social, and even church life. The same notorious Article 133 of the Criminal Code of the SFRY is returning in subtle forms to the decision-making political fortresses of society, from the media, especially RTV, to the economy and other areas of independent Slovenia. Where have we come to when the police are searching for a journalist on the national television, a journalist who thinks and works with his own mind? The left-wing agenda of soul addiction is being systematically spread through propaganda means, paid political cyclists through advertisements, artificial intelligence, and even legislation. The introduction of legal grounds for forced – not a good death for the elderly – dangerously brings us closer to the Nazi and communist methods of eliminating the “socially useless” and all those who are different, marginal, or simply unwanted. This Schindler’s List knocks on our conscience and calls for determination: First, they came for the right-wing, and I looked to the left. Then they came for the left-wing, and I looked to the right. But in the end, I was next in line. The survival side of the bell is ringing for us. Not because of a disaster that made us solidaric but because of a desire for absolute rule that excludes others so that only a few can rule without restrictions. Lies, the immortal soul of communism, still blinds us, alienates us, and prevents us from looking each other in the face and admitting the truth. They want to destroy us again, subtly, and treacherously, with orders and commands that jump behind a person’s back, throw him on the ground as a number, and trample him.
Women, prisoners of Podlesje and other destructive camps, experienced this on their own bodies and souls. Totalitarian rulers consciously and brutally exposed them to impersonal inhuman torture, hunger, cold, heat, which Zygmund Bauman describes as the “loss of all decency”. Unconscionable and violent tyrants lose their sense of humanity and become “vampiric”. The darkest forces in humans thrive through intimidation, as Angela Vode notes: “How pitiful are these people who revel in their power and torment a person who is powerless, sick, and battered… The female guard shouted so loud that it shook me. I have experienced such screaming before: in the German camp, the Gestapo women also screamed. It is not about judging: a German, but rather: a Nazi. Similarly, not a Slovene, but rather: a communist.”
But if we have an ear for Nazi or fascist torture and established criteria, some in our country pretend that communist torture is somehow different. A decent person will not question the difference between Auschwitz, Srebrenica on one hand, and Ferdreng, Škofja Loka, Teharje, and Rajhenburg on the other. Everywhere, they will fall silent in the face of the monstrosity of evil that blinded human beings driven by the lust for power. The same standards apply to everything that communist leaders did in Podlesje to women or to Home Guard members in Kočevski Rog or elsewhere in Slovenia as for other tortures here or around the world. Bishop Lenič wrote that the most terrifying thing for him was being in solitary confinement without books and without anything else. He endured this torture for 26 months, which is more than two years.
European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarianism calls on all of us to show empathy for the victims, and it is extremely reprehensible that a democratic state simply abolishes the Day of Victims of Communism. What can we say about the hearts of those who coldly pressed the key and thus repeated the impersonal task of killers, killing those who had already been killed? “What kind of people are we, or what material are we made of… what kind of state do we have?” we can ask ourselves with the words of Cicero. Do we not have constant and eternally valid human standards written in our conscience that no one can erase? Why this damage to humanity in a so-called humane and free society? What should we think about the mutilation of human beings with hearts and minds? What will their descendants and all future generations who will pay the price of these deviations think? Because the criteria of decency are above human stubbornness and audacity. We are in a serious crisis, as Žiga Turk says, because in our country, only one or two commandments remain valid, “do not kill” and maybe “do not steal”, and that is the end of the Decalogue. During the suffering of these women and all others, the world of the Ten Commandments began to collapse fundamentally, to turn upside down, as Justin Stanovnik would say. People were doing something that ordinary, culturally living people could not imagine. Therefore, neither these two nor the other commandments had any right under the sun. We still bear the consequences today when we have only ended up with two or maybe not even two commandments. Unfortunately, this applies not only to ordinary mortals; even Catholics in Slovenia have been infected with this virus that has been working in Slovenia for a long time. That is why it is understandable that Žiga Turk suggests a return to Christianity. Bishop Vovk, like these women, resisted and did not yield to the new rulers, but he clearly told them: “The Church will remain. But you and I will not.” Unfortunately, violent systemic degradation of the traditional world, moral mutilation, and consumer mentality have taken their toll. The Christian world is collapsing before our eyes.
The memory of the determined women, the sufferers here in Podlesje and in many other places in Slovenia and the world, encourages us to be resolute. They and other witnesses from Ehrlich, Terčelj, to Ivanka, who wrote a letter to her unborn child before her death, bind us and remind us. Today, determination is active within us, not out of self-interest but to preserve the foundations of an organised human society. It is not just about preserving faith, hope, and other Christian virtues, but about truth and justice, ultimately for the survival of humanity and all of us.
The women and girls imprisoned and tortured in this place were aware of this. A woman supports three corners of a house, and it is the woman who is the foundation of a home, as the folk wisdom says. That is why you, women, are the foundation of society and its survival because you bring us new lives and enable survival. With your determination, you encourage us to be courageous, so that humanity can resist the seductive sirens of consumerism and externalisation, which are forcibly propagated by political and other whisperers. As people, citizens, and believers, we are obligated to resist, to connect, and to preserve the legacy of our ancestors, for whom they died so that future generations can live and survive as well.
Thank you for coming here to share and strengthen this hope together.
In Podlesje in Kočevje, a place of suffering and death for women and other victims, on September 10th, 2023.