By: Lea Kalc Furlanič, STA
On the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Dražgoše, a central memorial ceremony will be held at noon today in Dražgoše. The President of the Republic, Nataša Pirc Musar, will lay a wreath at the ossuary of the monument in Dražgoše. Some ministers, MPs, state councillors and mayors are also expected to attend the ceremony. The event, which is being prepared by the Association of Fighters for the Values of NOB Škofja Loka, will again be held in full this time, the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) announced. In the following, read the truth about the battle of Dražgoše, which the red comrades are praising to the skies.
At 12:00 p.m., there will be a central commemorative ceremony Po stezah partizanske Jelovice in memory of the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Dražgoše, during which the President of the Republic, Nataša Pirc Musar, will lay a wreath at the ossuary of the monument in Dražgoše, and the celebratory speaker will be Borut Sajovic, Member of Parliament of the Gibanje Svoboda party, the ceremonies will be also attended by the President of the Parliament Urška Klakočar Zupančič and Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko.
The myth of the Battle of Dražgoše, which was created by the communist authorities after the war in order to build on it the revolutionary values of the NOB in the people, even if it was fake, says as follows (summarised by STA): “The Battle of Dražgoše, which took place between the 9th and the 11th January 1942, in which Cankar’s battalion clashed with the Germans, was one of the major battles during the Second World War in Slovenia. As the organising committee for the events Po stezeh partisanske Jelovice points out, the first major rebellion on our soil together with the battle in Rovte nad Selško dolino, and the massive December’s Poljane uprising represent an important trilogy of battles, as it shook the myth of the invincibility of the German army. After the battle, the partisans retreated to Jelovica, with the loss of nine comrades, and the Germans responded by killing 41 locals, burning the village, and completely destroying it in January and February 1942.”
But the truth is completely different…
We also reported on the Battle of Dražgoše several times in Demokracija, including a year ago, on the occasion of its 80th anniversary. The following is an article from last year’s issue of Demokracija.
“The myth about the brave partisans who defended Dražgoše and the people is fictional and untrue. The truth is that Dražgoše was chosen deliberately, that the partisans were challenging the Germans. But when they occupied the village, the partisans fled to Jelovica, leaving the people at the mercy of the Germans,” testified Franc Kavčič, a (now deceased) local of Dražgoše.
After more than 60 years, the victory of the partisans and their defence of Dražgoše and its people against the Germans is still being celebrated. “It is sad that even some people, whose grandfathers and fathers died in Dražgoše, support this. Even the people of Dražgoše are divided into two camps regarding this,” says Franc Kavčič, a survivor of the Battle of Dražgoše. Kavčič is a witness who recognises the lie of the party’s myth about the Battle of Dražgoše. The myth of the invincibility of the German army and the valour of partisan troops.
“The partisans tucked their tails between their legs and left the locals”
“I do not condemn the young partisans who had to follow orders and pay for it with their lives. How much innocent blood was spilled in this infamous battle just because of the greed of party representatives for power?!” said a witness who confided his experience to the public in 2016, until then there was a kind of fear among the surviving locals to talk about what really happened, they feared that the communists are watching them. In the battle of Dražgoše, nine partisans fell, 41 civilians were killed, and 81 were taken to concentration camps. Today, more than other places where real battles took place, Dražgoše has become an annual pilgrimage route for the Slovenian left.
How did he see and feel the events of that time? “The partisans are glorified too much. At that time, when it was necessary to fight, they abandoned the people of Dražgose and ran into the ‘bushes’. They left us there so that the Germans could do their own thing. When the Germans came to our village, to the church, there were no partisans left in Dražgoše. They tucked their tails between their legs and left.” Officially, it is written in various sources that the partisans defended the German siege of Dražgoše for three days, and finally retreated to Jelovica, saying that otherwise the Germans would have destroyed Cankar’s battalion due to their superiority.
When Slovenia was dismembered by the occupiers during World War II, the Germans occupied Styria and Gorenjska, and the village of Dražgoše also came under German rule. It lies below the steep edge of Jelovica, the forest stretches almost to the village.
Between 1936 and 1938, teacher Bertot taught at the Dražgoše school. He was educated in the Soviet Union and was a member of the Communist Party. He won people over to communist ideas and founded communist Kominternas. He found favourable ground in Dražgoše, as a small group of residents were very enthusiastic about his ideas. Until the war, this activity was hidden. During the war, this was manifested in the way that people from the established Communist Kominterna invited the partisans, or the Cankar’s Battalion, led by Stane Žagar, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovenia, to Dražgoše for the winter. They arrived at the end of 1941. The village had a good position to retreat to Jelovica, if the Germans might attack. All this confirms the fact that the village was deliberately chosen. Kavčič testifies that among the partisans it was said: “There is no harm in destroying such a churchy village.”
First, they bragged, then they hid
The partisans lived in houses, stables, and Sokolski dom cultural centre. At the rally, Stane Žagar told them that they were well armed and that they would defend the people of Dražgose against the Germans. Above all, people were very afraid and were afraid of the coming days. The partisans were already asked to leave the village on the first day of the fighting, January 9th, 1942, because the Germans were too strong. They were ready to take their food to Jelovica. However, the partisans were determined to resist and to defend the people from the Germans. Those who disagreed had to resign. When the fighters saw what was happening, at least 120 of them fled on the first day of fighting. The partisans also did not have many weapons.
The Germans first began to penetrate into Dražgoše from the western side, but later turned back, towards Rudno. Cannons were fired from here, several houses burned down, but people retreated to the basement or to Jelovica. On the third day, they also attacked from the east, from Jelenšče, where many people had previously retreated. And it was here that the Germans captured many of them, they shot 21 men. Some managed to escape, said Kavčič. The Germans captured his father and uncle at home and killed them.
The partisans of Bičko’s platoon and headquarters, who were in the eastern part of Dražgoše only 200 to 300 meters away from the place where the Germans were shooting the locals, hid in the mist and just watched… Kavčič explained: “They saw what was happening, but they did nothing. None of the partisans came to tell the people what was happening in Jelenšče or to warn them to run away. So, the men who had previously boasted that they would defend Dražgoše from the Germans were now hiding!”
On the evening of the third day, there were no partisans left in the village, and the people of Dražgose were left at the mercy of the Germans. They all retreated to the Jelovica mountain, where the locals were chased out of the shelters to which they had retreated. The Germans captured the remaining locals in the village, including Kavčič’s father, and burned them alive in one of the buildings.
The “famous battle” in Dražgoše claimed 41 victims among the locals, seven partisans, and 27 Germans. “The claim that a hundred or more Germans fell is absolutely not true. There were 14 wounded Germans. I am 100% sure of their number because I had to search the room in the prison in Šentvid where the Germans who were wounded in Dražgoše were lying,” warned Kavčič.
The Germans wanted to burn the children, women, and the rest of the locals, who were crowded into three houses, but the mayor Mlinar intervened, so they decided to move them. So, 81 of them were transported to Šentvid to Škof’s institutions, and the village was mined. Kavčič, barely ten years old, was left without a father and without a home. They stayed in Šentvid for six weeks. Then they were returned to Gorenjska, to the surroundings of Škofja Loka, where they were welcomed by good people, despite the fact that anyone who would take locals of Dražgoše under their roof was threatened with the death penalty. Until the end of the war, Kavčič’s family remained in Železniki, but in June 1945 they returned to Dražgoše. The locals mostly renovated the village themselves for five years.
The battle of Dražgoše was just a struggle for power
“It is sad that we cannot call a spade a spade, that even today we cannot admit that the Battle of Dražgose was just a struggle for power at any cost. It is sad that they erected such a magnificent monument to the partisans who fell in Dražgoše, and the remains of the killed locals were transferred from the holy ground to an un-consecrated tomb under the monument, without any names, even though the majority of the locals were against the re-burial,” Kavčič emphasised. At the same time, the witness still wonders when this “celebration” in Dražgoše will end? And when will the mass be offered for the killed locals and fallen partisans?
Historian Jože Dežman, director of the Museum of Modern History, also pointed out the initiative for a properly arranged monument in Dražgoše. He noted the discomfort of disrespecting the victims’ faith; this respect is also emphasised by international conventions that speak of a decent burial, with church rites in the faith of the victims. “The murdered locals of Dražgoše were buried by a German priest, in 1976 they were moved from the former cemetery to the ossuary under the monument without a religious ceremony. It would be right for the Catholic Church to be included in the agreements on how the grave in Dražgoše should be arranged in accordance with the faith of the victims,” said Dežman. He also drew attention to inconsistently recorded data on the number of victims and to whether the provision of the rulebook on cemetery order at war cemeteries regarding behaviour, suitable place, and purpose of a war cemetery with respect for the dead is respected during events in Dražgoše. “The frequent desecration of the grave is particularly painful for some relatives of the victims. From their side comes the initiative that either the events should take place respectfully and piously, or the remains of the victims should be buried at the cemetery in Dražgoše,” concluded Dežman.