75th Anniversary of Liberation of Ljubelj, the Only Concentration Camp on Slovenian Soil

By , 15 Jun 2020, 09:34 AM Politics
The camp during wartime The camp during wartime www.visit-trzic.com

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STA, 13 June 2020 - A ceremony on Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the only concentration camp on Slovenian soil, the labour camp below Ljubelj Pass. Speakers highlighted the need to preserve the memory of the atrocities and drew parallels with the present.

Jana Babšek, the director of the Tržič Museum, stressed that around 2,000 internees of what was a branch of the notorious Mauthausen camp were forced to work in harsh conditions for 23 months to build the mountain pass.

"As we browse through the memories of the former inmates, who endured inhuman conditions and evil, two wishes transpire: never to forget what happened, and to prevent something similar from happening in the future," she said.

She said it was necessary to educate youths in particular and explain what had led to such extreme events, noting that the current circumstances were creating challenges that are in many ways very similar to those in the past.

Jani Alič, a senior official of the WWII Veterans' Association, likewise evoked the current global events when he said that "Our veterans say that if we defeated the enemy during the war, we will defeat the contemporary hidden enemy as well."

This year a series of large-scale events was supposed to be held around Europe to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, but many had to be cancelled or scaled back due to to the coronavirus epidemic. The ceremony at Ljubelj was therefore smaller than usual.

Prior to the event, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the monument "J'accuse - Obtožujem" on the site of the camp. Delegations of several European countries laid wreaths, as did President Borut Pahor, who made special mention of the move by Germany and France to lay a wreath together.

"This is s nice symbolic event that invites everyone to remember the past in the spirit of reconciliation, and in particular to build Europe together," he said.

Ljubelj is the site of the remains of the only concentration camp in Slovenia, a branch of the notorious Mauthausen camp that served as a labour camp.

Around 1,800 internees, mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime and the majority of them French nationals, were forced to build a tunnel between Slovenia and Austria in very difficult conditions. At least 34 people died.

The camp was liberated on 8 May 1945.

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