STA, 27 January - President Borut Pahor is in Poland to attend a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, accompanied by Slovenian camp survivors. He will lay a candle to honour the victims at a memorial plaque which features an inscription in Slovene since 2008.
The delegation includes Sonja Vrščaj, Elizabeta Kumar Maurič, Marija Frlan and Lidija Rijavec Simčič, who were deported to the camp, as well as Janez Deželak, one of hundreds of Stolen Children, who were separated from their parents after Nazi occupation.
The commemoration was held at the Oswiecim Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau under the auspices of Poland's President Andrzej Duda.
During the Second World War, some six million people died in Poland, including three million Polish Jews, mostly in concentration camps.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is honoured every year on 27 January, coinciding with the anniversary of Auschwitz liberation.
The Nazis killed more than a million people in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. More than 2,300 people were deported there from Slovenia, with over 1,300 dying before the liberation.
The camp was liberated on 27 January in 1945 by the Soviet troops. Merely some 7,650 ill and debilitated prisoners survived.
Pahor is attending the memorial due to its great symbolic significance, said the president's office. The Slovenian delegation is bearing witness to the horrors of WWII, which are still leaving bitter traces of memories and suffering, said Pahor in a statement.
It is our moral duty that we never forget, that we contribute to a peaceful resolution of all issues and fight to ensure that such atrocities may never happen again, he highlighted.
Meanwhile, Kumar Mavrič expressed satisfaction that the most horrible crimes of the Second World War were living on not just in the memory of the survivors but also in the memory of young generations.
Vrščaj said that the survivors' suffering was part of their fight for freedom, urging the young to love their homeland. "We never said 'if we come home', but 'when we come home'."
Another survivor, Frlan, who turned 100 today, was succinct in saying "a reminder for the young and remembrance for the elderly".
Pahor, who attended the World Holocaust Forum marking the anniversary in Jerusalem last week, will also address a memorial ceremony in Lendava's synagogue on Thursday.
He will wrap up the Holocaust remembrance series of events in May by holding an annual debate featuring the survivors and secondary school students.
Today, a series of events to honour the Holocaust Remembrance Day is taking place in Slovenia, among them a concert of songs performed in secret meetings by an internee of the Sachsenhausen camp. Moreover, the Jewish Cultural centre will screen Shoah, a 1985 film by Claude Lanzmann.
STA, 17 September 2019 - Lendava and Murska Sobota remembered on Tuesday local Jewish families that perished in the Holocaust, as Stolpersteine, granite cubes bearing the names of the victims, were installed in various locations around the two north-eastern cities in high-profile commemorations.
In Lendava, the "stumbling stones" with brass plates bearing the victims' names were installed in Glavna Ulica street in front of the former homes of the families Blau, Balkanyi and Schwarz.
Since Lendava is located in a bilingual area, each member of the families is remembered with two stones, one with a text in Slovenian and the other in Hungarian.
The first memorial stone was installed by German artist Gunther Demnig, who conceived the project in 1992, and Lendava Mayor Janez Magyar.
The commemoration featured a number of guests, including Jewish community representatives, the victims' relatives, and Erika Fürst as the only living Holocaust survivor from the region of Prekmurje, which used to have a thriving Jewish community before WWII.
It was also attended by Mirjana Gašpar and Beata Lazar, the authors of the book Jews in Lendava, and director of the SAZU's Science and Research Centre Oto Luthar, who comes from Prekmurje.
The president of the Jewish Community in Slovenia Boris Čerin Levy and Rabbi Ariel Haddad from Italy's Trieste were also on hand, with the prayer to be sung by cantor Isidoro Abramowicz from a synagogue in Berlin.
The artistic project of installing the commemorative stones was initiated by Demnig 27 years ago to remember the members of the Jewish community who died in Nazi concentration camps, symbolically bringing them back to their homes.
Since then, Stolpersteine have been installed in more than 610 cities in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ukraine, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Norway.
In Slovenia, the project is coordinated by the Ljubljana Jewish Cultural Centre and by the Maribor Synagogue Centre of Jewish Cultural Heritage, whose head Boris Hajdinjak will today recount some of the stories of the deceased families.
The ceremony in Murska Sobota will be held later in the day to remember the families Berger, Hahn and Frim apart from many other Jewish victims of the Holocaust that have been forgotten until recently.
Lendava and Murska Sobota are thus joining Maribor and Ljubljana, the cities where the first memorial stones were installed in Slovenia in 2012 and 2018, respectively.
The honorary sponsor of the project in the country is President Borut Pahor.
Lean more about the Stolpersteine in Ljubljana here
STA, 25 August 2019 - A series of events will be held between today and 18 September in five Slovenian towns to mark the European Days of Jewish Culture. The all-European project, taking place in Slovenia for the 20th year in a row, will provide the visitors with a deep insight into individual aspects of Jewish culture and heritage.
For the 20th anniversary of the project in Slovenia, a diverse programme of events will be held in Maribor, Ljubljana, Negova, Lendava and Murska Sobota, almost all of the events being free of charge.
The European Days of Jewish Culture in Slovenia will be opened by the Maribor-based world music group Kontra-Kvartet with a concert featuring the traditional Jewish Klezmer music in the Maribor City Park.
The programme will also feature open day events, guided tours in museums, several exhibitions, a theatre performance, a concert of Jewish music, and various presentations and interactive workshops.
The aim is to introduce the audience into Jewish culture and raise their awareness of the importance of preservation and protection of Jewish heritage as an important part of European culture, the organisers say.
According to the Sinagoga Maribor centre for Jewish cultural heritage, the project involves various organisers from the entire Europe every year. Last year, events were held in more than 400 towns in 28 European countries.
You can see the full Slovenian programme here
STA, 24 April 2019 - President Borut Pahor addressed a ceremony commemorating the Jews deported during World War II from Lendava at the synagogue in this eastern-most Slovenian town on Wednesday. He underlined that the great European idea of peace and security must be protected, the president's office said in a press release.
Ob 75. obletnici deportacije lendavskih Judov je predsednik republike pred pričetkom komemorativne pietetne slovesnosti položil venec k spomeniku žrtvam nacifašističnega nasilja na judovskem pokopališču v Dolgi vasi. pic.twitter.com/IC5tRosx0u— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) April 24, 2019
The ceremony marked 75 years since a vast majority of Slovenia's biggest Jewish community was deported, a blow from which it never recovered.
Pahor dedicated his address to Erika Fürst, a holocaust survivor, inviting her to join him next year at the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Atrocities start when small signs of exclusion become the norm. Therefore, it is key to recognise the importance of early detection of exclusion, intolerance and hatred, said Pahor.
Before the ceremony, the president laid a wreath at the Dolga Vas cemetery, the biggest Jewish cemetery in Slovenia, alongside Lendava Mayor Janez Magyar and city councillor Ivan Koncut, who laid a wreath on behalf of the state of Israel.
All our stories on Jewish Slovenia are here
STA, 27 January 2019 - Slovenia is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, with events coming up in Ljubljana, Lendava and Ptuj today after having already been held around the country earlier this week. University professor Maca Jogan says that remembering Holocaust is important for distinguishing between the perpetrators and victims.
Jogan, professor emeritus from the University in Ljubljana who was the keynote speaker at a memorial ceremony in Ljubljana's Kino Šiška last Sunday, told the STA that equalising the perpetrators with those who suffered under them and fought against them needed to end.
The line between the two sides is being blurred in Slovenia since the 1990s by "all sorts of quasi journalists and then politicians", who wrap it in the language of tolerance.
"Anti-Semitism (with Jews as target) has been replaced in Slovenia in the last three decades with anticommunism (with Partisans as targets and perceived as criminals)," Jogan said.
All our stories on Jewish Slovenia can be found here
This also explains the results of an Eurobarometer survey published earlier this week, which showed that in Slovenia "only" 12% of respondents see anti-Semitism as a problem, while in the EU the share stands at about 50%.
The current situation should be addressed through education and remembrance of concrete victims, concrete perpetrators and concrete circumstances that had led to the crimes of Holocaust. "These were not just political or ideological, there was a big industry behind it."
In education, the danger is to reduce the Holocaust to the suffering of Jews and the Roma, Jogan said, pointing to Italy, where they spoke only of the crimes of Germans against Italians.
She also noted that a number of indicators showed that Israel was monopolising the right to Holocaust remembrance. "This is not acceptable, because overall the number of Jewish victims was lower than of all other victims combined."
In Slovenia, a series of cultural and educational events remembering Holocaust victims is held in January every year.
President Borut Pahor labelled the Second World War the "biggest aberration from moral standards in human history" as he addressed the main ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Maribor on Friday.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the genocide by the Nazi regime and its collaborators which resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million Jewish people, five million Slavs, thousands of Roma people, thousands of mentally and physically disabled people, and thousands homosexuals.
Some 63,000 Slovenians were taken to Nazi and Fascist concentration camps during the Second World War and 12,000 of them never returned home.
27 January commemorates the day when Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.
Between 1.1 and 1.5 million people, Jews and members of 26 other nations, mostly Slavic, including 1,700 Slovenians, died in Auschwitz during the war either in gas chambers or during scientific experiments.
The UN declared 27 January International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005 and Slovenia has been observing it since 2008.
On the global level, this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked by calls for human rights protection.
STA, 22 January 2019 - Only 12% of Slovenians surveyed in a EU-wide opinion poll believe that antisemitism is a problem in their country, and only 4% consider it a major problem.
The results, presented in Brussels ahead of 27 January International Holocaust Remembrance Day, found a gap between how the problem is perceived by Jews and how by the general population in the EU.
In the survey, conducted by Eurobarometer among 27,600 respondents across the EU in December, one in three respondents (36%) said that antisemitism increased in their country in the past five years.
Only 12% of respondents in Slovenia believe the same, against 62% who feel the level of antisemitism has remained the same and 9% who believe the problem has decreased.
However, a survey conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights among almost 16,500 Jewish people in 12 EU countries, found nine out of ten feeling that antisemitism increased in their country.
Half of respondents in the Eurobarometer survey feel that antisemitism is a problem in their country, the largest proportion in Sweden (81%) and France (72%) and the lowest in Estonia (5%), Bulgaria (8%) and Portugal (9%).
Fifteen percent of Europeans believe that antisemitism is a very important problem in their country, the highest proportion in Sweden (37%).
In Slovenia, 12% respondents said that they felt antisemitism was a fairy important problem and 4% thought it was a very important problem, against 30% who thought it was not really a problem and 45% who said it was not a problem at all.
Thirty percent of Slovenian respondents also said that people in their country were not well informed about the history, customs and practices of Jewish people, which corresponds to 16% of all Europeans.
13% of respondents in Slovenia said they had friends or acquaintances who are Jews.
STA, 17 January 2019 - An exhibition on Soviet World War II officer Alexander Pechersky, who led the uprising at the Sobibor extermination camp, will go on display at the Maribor Synagogue tonight, accompanied by the screening of the Russian film Sobibor, as an overture to the observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The exhibition and the film by Konstantin Khabenskiy, Russia's candidate for the 2018 foreign language Oscar, cover the mass escape of Jews from the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland in 1943, organised and led by Pechersky.
Although only 53 of those who escaped survived, it was the most successful break from a World War death camp. The camp itself was ordered by the SS chief Heinrich Himmler to be closed, dismantled and planted with trees within days after the uprising.
Alexander Pechersky – Wikipedia
The event is being organised by the Maribor Library and Centre of Jewish Cultural Heritage Synagogue Maribor in association with the Ljubljana-based Russian Centre of Science and Culture, the Russian Centre in Maribor, International WWII Research Centre in Maribor and the Association of History Students ISHA Maribor.
The event will officially launch this year's observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day as part of the project Shoah - Let Us Remember 2019 in Slovenia with Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček as honorary sponsor.
The project involves a number of cultural, research and education institutions. Every year they hold exhibitions, scientific conferences and various cultural events to keep alive the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, Porajmos, Nazi persecution and genocide in general and to warn of instances of hatred and intolerance that could lead to crimes against humanity.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on 27 January, will also be observed by an event hosted by the ZZB NOB association of WWII veterans this Sunday at the Kino Šiška urban culture centre in Ljubljana. It will be addressed by Maca Jogan, a University of Ljubljana professor emeritus, who was born in the Lössnitz labour camp.
All our posts on Jewish Slovenia can be found here
The Canadian Jewish News has just published an article by Michael Fraiman looking at an often neglected story, but one that’s been gaining more attention in recent years, the history and present of Jews in Slovenia.
While Ljubljana has a historic Jewish Quarter in the Old Town (as marked by Židovska ulica (Jewish Street) and Židovska steza (Jewish Path)) – and the site of the Jewish Cultural Centre – it hasn’t has a large Jewish community for many years. Indeed, Jews were officially banned from the city in 1515, a restriction that stayed in place until 1867, with lingering anti-Semitism deterring new arrivals.
In the years before World War II there were thus less only around 1,500 people who self-identified as Jewish in the whole of Slovenia, and this community was then essentially destroyed with the murders that took place as part of the Holocaust.
Two of the Stolpersteine. Photo: JL Flanner
It was only last year, 2018, that the Jewish community was symbolically welcomed back to Slovenia by President Borut Pahor as part of the events marking the laying of the first Stolerpsteine, a story you can read about here (along with a map of the stones’ locations). Two men who played key roles in that event were Robert Waltl and Rabbi Ariel Haddad, who are the subjects of The Canadian Jewish News story.
Robert Waltl. Photo: Mr Waltl's Facebook page
Mr Waltl is a familiar face to many, being a performer and theatre director, active in the cultural life of the city in the context of his Mini teater (sic), as well as putting in appearances as Dedek Mraz (Grandpa Frost) around the end of the year. But Waltl is also the man who runs the Jewish Cultural Centre (at Križevniška 3 SI-1000 Ljubljana – see the map at the end of this story). It’s here that you’ll find artworks and exhibits related to Jewish history in the country, including ones that mark the 587 Slovene Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Rabbi Ariel Haddad at the laying of the first Stolpersteine in Ljubljana. Photo: JL Flanner
The same building also houses the only working synagogue in Slovenia, and it’s here that Rabbi Ariel Haddad enters the picture. The Rome-born Rabbi lives in Trieste, about an hour from Ljubljana, but often visits the city in his capacity as Chief Rabbi of Slovenia. Rabbi Haddad’s connection with the Slovene capital started in 2000. He visited the city ahead of Passover and, since the local community lacked a Rabbi, he was invited to hold what was perhaps first seder of Pesach in Slovenia since the war.
A visit to the Jewish Cultural Centre
It’s an interesting story of a community returning to life after unimaginable pressures and suffering, and now slowly reclaiming its place at the heart of a city that has hopefully left behind the horrors of anti-Semitism, and is blossoming into a more tolerant and open society, and you can read more of it at The Canadian Jewish News.
You can learn more about the Jewish Cultural Centre and synagogue, in English, here, visit it at the location shown below, or follow its work on Facebook. The schedule for the nearby Mini Teater, with performances in all genres and for all ages, can be found here.
STA, 26 November 2018 - Education Minister Jernej Pikalo discussed how to prevent anti-Semitism at Monday's session of the EU's Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council in Brussels, pointing to the thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech and noting that the educational system played the key role in preventing the spreading of hatred.
Pikalo said that all European societies had the problem of defining the line between freedom of speech and hate speech, which was why all kinds of deviations were taking place.
Related: Our stories on hate speech can be found here
The minister stressed that more proactivity in the prevention of spreading of hatred towards any individuals or groups would be introduced in the educational system.
"Policies and approaches in this field must be especially sensitive and proactive, because we must not allow any of the historical situations we were in to repeat," Pikalo stressed.
He said that the Holocaust must not be only a history lesson, but a lesson for the present time, adding that Slovenia was playing an active role in that respect.
Pikalo noted that around 50 teachers from Slovenia went to Israel every year as part of an educational programme, adding that Slovenia also had curricular and extracurricular activities which promoted democratic awareness.
In the context of hate speech, the minister also commented for the press on the call by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to state-owned companies to reconsider pulling ads in the media which instigate hate speech.
Related: Our stories on Jewish Slovenia are here
Pikalo said that he supported Šarec's call. "It does not matter at the moment what direction the matter will take," he said, noting that the prime minister was not calling on the companies to act, but to consider an idea.
The EU ministers also discussed youth-related topics, focusing on the question of how to best implement the new European strategy for youth.
Pikalo said that from now on, the sessions of the government council for youth will feature relevant ministers, who would get better acquainted with the problems and challenges faced by the youth sector in Slovenia.
The ministers further discussed the Towards a European Education Area by 2025 document, a new initiative recently unveiled by the European Commission, which includes the idea to establish a network of European universities.
As a country which wants to be at the core of the EU, Slovenia wants to be connected in the field of education, said Pikalo, while noting that educational policies were always national policies.
The minister said that he had received initiatives from two Slovenian universities for cooperation at the EU level, adding that his ministry supported such integration.
STA, 1 September 2018 - Slovenia will join the European Days of Jewish Culture 2018 on Saturday as theatre actor Robert Waltl tells Jewish tales to visitors of Maribor Park.