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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The anniversary of the discovery of one of the worst communist crimes on Slovenian territory

By: C. R.

On March 3rd, 2009, the Commission of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for solving the issues of hidden graves, after many bureaucratic and physical obstacles, broke through the 11th barrier in the Barbara Pit and then reached the shaft, in which they came across a pile of white mummies, which turned out to be lying in one of the largest Slovene marshes left behind by Tito’s partisans. In the following, we publish the photo story of Marko Štrovs, a member of the government commission, published on his blog.

Upon the discovery of the mass murder of victims of communism in Huda jama, I took many photos, most of which I have not yet published. Here I collected some of them in a photo story.

Barbara Pit had long since been abandoned. The closed door to the tunnel, for which the locals knew was hiding a mass murder ground, haunted the end of the gloomy ravine.

After 1991, many delegations walked in front of the tunnel and guessed what to do. They all found that nothing. And they went home.

The trench was firmly secured from visitors. First, the heavy iron door.

In 2008, the Service for War Graves was established in the MDDSZ. They put me in charge. Immediately after the start of the service, we agreed with RTH to break through the wall that blocked access to the murder site in a side tunnel 300 meters from the entrance. Since neither the Ministry of Mining nor the Ministry of Construction issued permits due to bureaucracy, we made an agreement with a team of cave rescuers who broke through the wall under the name of “cave rescuer exercises”.

Disappointment followed. The bandits filled the tunnel to the top with tailings.

Since the Huda Jama coal mine was abandoned a long time ago, there were no installations in it that would allow mechanical mining. We dug in the same old way, pickaxe, and shovel. The excavated material was almost transported to another abandoned tunnel.

From time to time, it was necessary to look at what was ahead. Nothing. Only bulk.

When the first 40 meters of the tunnel, which was cut through solid rock, was excavated, we came to a section in the crumbling marl. Miners strengthened it according to the old method with bolts. Hafner from RTH and cave engineer Kenda, cave manager for the owner, the Laško brewery, checked the strength of the supports.

When leaving the cave, we admired the work of Permet, who knew how to place a chapel for the Society of Silenced Graves exactly in the axis of the entrance trench.

When 90 meters of the tunnel were excavated, 11 barriers were breached, we were able to crawl forward under the ceiling of the tunnel to see what was behind.

RTH broke through all the blocks by February 24th, 2009, but at that time it was found that there was too much carbon dioxide in the open continuation of the tunnel, so it was necessary to wait until the tunnel was ventilated. On March 3rd, 2009, a team consisting of Štrovs from MDDSZ, Dr Ferenc, Jamnik, criminalists from PU Celje, and responsible bosses from RTH went into the tunnel. This party first encountered a mass of shoes covering the floor of the trench all the way to the first shaft. The trench at the shaft was filled with material that had invaded from the trench, which lied perpendicular to the direction of the main trench. The team went over this embankment and 10 meters further in the tunnel found a mass of corpses that covered the entire width of the tunnel and reached the second avalanche about 20 meters further.

Apparently, the communist killers killed the victims in the tunnel, who were the last to be driven into the cave. Previously, masses of victims were thrown into a shaft dug to the left of the trench. According to the cave documentation, the shaft is 45 meters deep and runs diagonally under the tunnel. When discovered, the shaft was empty to a depth of 5 meters, where the backfill reached.

The miners began digging out the fill in the shaft. The work was insured according to the mining rules.

After excavating 3 meters of dirt, they found the remains of the victims at a depth of 8 meters. The investigating judge from Celje ordered that the remains be lifted from the shaft from 5 meters to a depth of 13 meters.

On June 2nd, 2009, the investigating judge ordered that the excavation be stopped. The remains of more than 300 victims were lifted from the 5-meter-long shaft, i.e., 60 per meter. There are still 32 meters left to the bottom of the shaft, so I assume that there are still around 2,000 victims of communism inside.

The investigating judge ordered and paid for a forensic examination of the remains of 500 victims found on the floor of the trench and 300 victims lifted from the shaft. The miners then drove the remains to the entrance of the tunnel, where the medical examiners set up a makeshift laboratory and cleaned and examined each victim.

Then they put the remains in plastic boxes, and the miners wheeled them back into the tunnel.

After 2009, nothing sensible was done in Huda jama, even though several million euros of budget money were thrown into it. Instead of lifting the remains of 2,000 victims from the shaft, which remained in it after the conclusion of the judicial investigation, the already lifted bodies are moved here and there through the tunnels, one of which was named “The Ossuary”.

Huda jama was closed again with new partitions, nets, and locked. A plaque with the inscription “War cemetery” was hung above the entrance. What cemetery! It is still just an untidy murder ground with unburied bodies of victims.

At the time of the mass killings in Huda jama, the commissioner of Ozna, Konrad Pevec, was in charge of that district. After the war, he was the director of the Laško coal mine for several years, in which Barbara Pit was also included. It was probably then blocked off with barriers and covered with clay and tailings. It was the airtight filling of the tunnel that helped to preserve the remains, so that after the discovery they proved the horrors of communist crimes as mute witnesses.

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