By: Sara Bertoncelj / Nova24tv
The testimony of partisan Anton Cizel has reopened the debate on the extrajudicial murders by the communist authorities and the investigation of post-war crimes. “Investigations need to be concluded, a lot has already been done, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us. All human rights violations need to be investigated, and we also need to find out who is responsible for what happened. There will be no reconciliation if we do not discover the historical facts first, take note of them, and only then can we move forward. I think that a country that does not know its roots has no future,” said historian and expert in this field, Tamara Griesser Pečar. In Slovenia, we have this special feature of calling communist murders national heroes, and not a single one of them has been convicted yet.
“Whoever is not able to condemn all three totalitarianisms, despite everything the former partisan and president of the Association of Fighters of the National Liberation Movement just told us, has no basic morals and is not a democrat, but rather a threat to Slovenian society,” author and host of the show Pričevalci (Witnesses) Jože Možina said in regards to the former partisan Anton Cizel’s testimony. Namely, in the latest episode of the show Pričevalci, the guest was the almost one-century-old Anton Cizel, a partisan who even presided over his local Association of Fighters of the National Liberation Movement for a while. In his testimony, he spoke about the killing of prisoners from Teharje in the summer of 1945, which he witnessed as a partisan. When the prisoners were being loaded into a car, no one in Teharje knew that they were actually being led to their graves. “It was only when we got there, and they saw people with shovels that they knew. And then came the tears,” Cizel said while holding back the tears. “Those who killed were mostly members of the party, and they protected each other,” he also explained.
Historian Tamara Griesser Pečar has been dealing with this topic for decades. Regarding the testimony of Anton Cizel, she said that this is something extremely positive because we now have another testimony about the terrible events that happened in the time after the war – and such testimonies are very rare. No one was willing to talk about what happened for a long time, as they were somehow sworn to secrecy. The historian believes that this testimony is definitely extraordinary and also a very important historical document. “It is of particular importance that Mr Možina succeeded in getting this witness to talk about what happened,” she pointed out.
Why the massacres were never condemned
She, of course, also pointed out that the murders should have been condemned but that the perpetrators can no longer be brought before the court because they are mostly gone. “But we should absolutely condemn it because this is a unique case in our country of what I would call genocide,” she added. She also gave the justified criticism that we have not yet come far enough to have the parliament condemn the communist system like it has already condemned the Nazi and fascist ones – and it is high time for that to happen. This topic has already been presented several times in parliament, but the majority has not yet been reached, she added.
The conviction would be difficult to reach, legally speaking. It could only go through the legal process if any of the perpetrators were still alive, but because that is no longer the case, this is a matter of history. “In this case, in my opinion, lawyers should also help. Because this also has to do with legal issues. Lawyers could work with historians because legal history is also history, and so we could finally get to the bottom of all these issues,” Griesser Pečar said. The historian once again pointed out that not a single crime had been convicted in Slovenia. “Even Mitja Ribičič was never brought before the court, not to mention others, like Zdenka Kidrič, for example.” Therefore, in Slovenia, nobody was held responsible for their crimes – on the contrary, they enjoyed good pensions and died peacefully. The same thing happened with Franc Sever Franta – he died this year at the age of 99, and although he basically revealed that he was a perpetrator of these crimes in his book, he left the world, at least in the legal sense, an innocent man.
People suspected of major crimes are included in lists of honorary citizens
What kind of people are considered heroes in Slovenia is also evident from the case of Edo Brajnik – Štefan. “Slovenia’s recent history is filled with great personalities who have never received real recognition for their exceptional lives and achievements /…/ A similar thing happened to Edo Brajnik, a Slovenian who led the secret diplomacy between Yugoslavia and Israel after World War II. He was even called the “Slovenian Schindler,” and his actions supposedly contributed, among other things, to the American recognition of independent Slovenia.” This is what the newspaper Dnevnik wrote in 2011, in an article about Brajnik. However, a few days ago, a recording from the archives of the Republic of Slovenia, made in 1979, was broadcast on Radio Ognjišče. In the recording, we can hear Brajnik very frankly describe the communist assassinations of Slovenians in particular, during the time of the occupation – the national hero Brajnik carried out liquidations, following the instructions of the Security and Intelligence Service. Among others, he also liquidated the well-known Slovenian entrepreneur Avgust Praprotnik, about whom we have already written a lot in our media. Namely, Brajnik shot Praprotnik in the back in the middle of a bar located on Tavčarjeva street in Ljubljana. It is interesting that the District Court in Ljubljana has finally rehabilitated Praprotnik’s image only a couple of years ago, while Brajnik is still considered a national hero. The title “Slovenian Schindler” does not really suit him either, Dr Jože Dežman pointed out. The Jews had to give up their property in exchange for a trip to then-emerging Israel. We could say that this was more about expelling another minority than actually rescuing it.