The Barbara Pit (Slovene: Barbara rov) is a pit near Huda Jama in Slovenia, known as the site of a World War II-era mass grave. The mass grave site was first publicly discussed in 1990, after the fall of communism in Yugoslavia. In the 1990s a memorial chapel was raised at the Barbara Pit site, although the exact location of any graves at that time was unknown.
Investigation of the Barbara Pit site began in August 2008. On March 3, 2009 investigators removed concrete walls built after the war to seal the cave. Behind the walls were found between 200 and 400 unidentified bodies. The victims, among whom there appear to be also women, were stripped naked before being killed, so identification is difficult. By November 7, 2009 there were 726 bodies removed from the site.
According to eyewitness accounts, the victims were mostly Axis soldiers, probably Croatian Domobrani regulars and members of the Slovene Home Guard militia, killed by the Yugoslav People's Army between May and September 1945. According to Marko Štrovs, head of the Slovenian government's military graves department, the victims appear to have been killed by gas. Some of the victims may also have been civilians. Andreja Valić, head of the Slovenian Research Centre for National Reconciliation, said that "current information, based on oral testimony, indicate that the slain people could have been Slovenian or Croatian citizens." It was also reported that residents in the local area had indicated the victims may be "pro-Nazi collaborators from Slovenia or Croatia".
The remains are to be removed to the nearby city of Maribor for further analysis. Slovenian investigators believe that the soldiers were brought from the nearby Teharje concentration camp to the site by Yugoslav officials where they were killed. Officials believe that further investigation of the area may reveal many more human remains (at least 1,000 more corpses). Croatian medical doctors offered their assistance in DNA analysis of the remains, which could potentially be used to identify Croat victims.
Political and institutional response
The first high-ranking official to visit the mass grave was the Slovenian General Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar, who described the scene as "horrific". In the following days, the site was visited by Slovenian Member of European Parliament and former Prime Minister Lojze Peterle. Peterle criticised President of Slovenia Danilo Türk for failing to visit the site. When asked to comment on the issue during a visit to the town of Trbovlje on the 8th of March, the International Woman's Day, only 10 kilometers away from the mass grave, Türk refused to comment on the issue, qualifying political manipulations with the mass grave as a "second rate theme". He also dismissed the calls to visit the grave as "political manipulation".
In polemics to Türk's statements that these killings must be understood "in the context of World War Two", the Slovenian Minister of Defence Ljubica Jelušič maintained that there cannot be any excuses for not condemning the communist killings, thus being the first high-ranking official of the Slovenian left wing government to take a stance on the issue.
On March 9, the vice-prime minister of the Croatian Government Jadranka Kosor and the minister of internal affairs Tomislav Karamarko visited the site. On March 10, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader called for a joint Croatian-Slovenian investigation into the grave.
On March 15, Montenegrin opposition parties, the People's Party and the Democratic Serb Party, called on Montenegro to sign an international agreement with Slovenia to facilitate the exhumation of Montenegrin victims of the war.
- Commission on Concealed Mass Graves in Slovenia
- Bleiburg tragedy
- Foibe killings
- Kočevski Rog massacre
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