Slovenia: Hundreds of corpses found in WW2 mine

Ljubljana, 5 March (AKI) – Slovenian authorities have found the mummified remains of several hundred people believed to date from World War II in a disused mine. State prosecutor Barbara Brezigar told Slovenian television on Thursday that up to 300 corpses were discovered in a deserted mine near Lasko, in central Slovenia.

“What I have seen is the most horrendous thing that a person can see in a lifetime,” Brezigar said.

Andrija Valic, an investigator from Slovenia's Centre for National Reconciliation, said it would be difficult to identify the victims discovered in the mine before the investigation was completed.

But he said he was confident the massacre had been carried out by the communist partisans of late Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito.

Tito’s partisans reportedly killed thousands of Croat and Slovenian soldiers at the end of World War II who had collaborated with Nazi occupiers and were withdrawing with German forces in 1945.

Valic said a large quantity of military boots was discovered in the mine, which has been disused for the past sixty years, suggesting that the victims were soldiers.

Most Slovenian parliamentary parties ascribed the shocking discovery to the “crimes of the communist era”. The head of the Slovenian government's military graves department, Marko Strovs, said there was no proof that the victims had been shot dead, meaning it was possible they had been gassed.

But Brezigar warned: “After sixty years, I don’t know whether it will be possible at all to identify the perpetrators and whether they are still alive."

The massacres of several thousand Italians by Yugoslav partisans in and around the northeastern city of Trieste towards the end of World War Two, have remained a painful historical burden for Italy and a recurring source of tension between Italy and Croatia.

Italy's president gives an annual address in February to commemorate the victims of the killings, known as the 'foibe' in Italian.

'Foibe' is the Italian word for deep chasms into which several thousand Italians - some still alive - were thrown by Croatian and Slovenian partisans loyal to General Josip Broz Tito after Italy's capitulation in 1943.

The 'foibe' killings occurred in Trieste, in modern-day Slovenia and along the Istrian peninsula, which Italy lost to Croatia at the end of World War II.

The estimated number of people killed varies between 1,500 and 5,000. In addition, up to 400,000 Italians were expelled or emigrated from Dalmatia, Istria and the area bordering Slovenia.


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