Gregorij Rožman

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His Excellency
Gregorij Rožman

Bishop of Ljubljana

Gregorij Rožman.jpg
Diocese Diocese of Ljubljana
See Ljubljana
Installed 17 May 1930
Term ended 16 November 1959
Predecessor Anton Bonaventura Jeglič
Successor Anton Vovk
Personal details
Born (1883-03-09)9 March 1883
Dolintschitschach, Austria-Hungary
Died 16 November 1959(1959-11-16) (aged 76)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.

Gregorij Rožman (9 March 1883 – 16 November 1959) was a Slovenian Roman Catholic clergyman and theologian. Between 1930 and 1959, he served as bishop of the Diocese of Ljubljana. He is most famous for his controversial role during World War II. Rožman was an ardent anti-communist and opposed the Liberation Front of the Slovene People and the partisan forces because they were led by the Communist party. The Yugoslav Communist government convicted him in absentia in August 1946 of treason for collaborating with the Nazis against the Yugoslav resistance. In 2009, his conviction was annulled on procedural grounds.

During the Communist period, official historiography portrayed Rožman as a Nazi collaborator. The Slovene branch of the Roman Catholic Church has been actively campaigning for his rehabilitation, claiming that his actions were purely to minimize the number of casualties during the struggle.[1]:630–643[2][3]:182 [Note 1]

He continues to be perceived as a controversial figure in Slovenia.

Pre-war years[edit]

Early life[edit]

Rožman was born on March 9, 1883 into a Carinthian Slovene family in Dolintschitschach (Slovene: Dolinčiče)[5] near Feistritz ob Bleiburg (Slovene: Bistrica pri Pliberku) in Austria-Hungary to Franc Rožman and Terezija (née Glinik) Rožman. The family lived on a medium-sized farm, had seven children (Gregorij was the youngest) and was severely indebted. In 1889 he started attending public school in Šmihel and then enrolled in a gymnasium in Klagenfurt. During his years in gymnasium he lived in the Marijinišče dormitory, which hosted students that were expected to study theology after graduating. He published essays in the newsletter of Carinthian Slovenes Mir and also (under the pseudonym "Emil Fanič") in the handwritten student journal Vaje, for which he edited six issues from 7th grade until graduation.

After graduating with honors in 1904 he studied theology in Klagenfurt. He joined the Academy of Slovene seminaries (Slovene: Akademija slovenskih bogoslovcev) becoming its president of it in his final year and published essays in its journal Bratoljub (which he edited in school year 1906/07). At that time, Slovene students were in constant conflict with German students, who published their own journal, Germania. The conflict was over nationalistic frictions in Carinthia. He was a member of Mary's congregation (Slovene: Marijina kongregacija). In his last school year he visited Rome with the priest Anton Benetko. There he met the Pope Pius X, who made a great impression on him.[citation needed]

Parish priest, prefect and docent[edit]

On 21 July 1907 he was ordained in his home parish of St. Michael (Slovene: Šmihel) by Bishop Jožef Khan. In 1908, he was sent as a chaplain to Ferlach. At that time Ferlach was politically controlled by German liberals. The workers were tending towards social democracy. He set to renew the spiritual life in his parish and was active in propagating Christian-social ideas and organising the workers. He stayed in Ferlach (Slovene: Borovlje) for one year.

On 1 October 1909 he went to Vienna to continue his study of theology. On 27 June 1912 he obtained a PhD (Slovene: Doktorat) in theology from Catholic Theology Faculty of University of Vienna. After returning he was appointed as a prefect in boys' seminary Marianum in Klagenfurt in 1912 and as a docent of moral theology in 1913. In the school year 1914/15 he was appointed as a docent of Canon law and relieved of prefect service. In 1914 he taught moral theology to 4th grade at Klagenfurt and moral theology and canon law to the first three grades at Plešivec. He participated in Eucharistic Congress in Vienna in 1912 and as a result wrote a prayer book titled "Presveta Evharistija" (published in 1915 by Družba Sv. Mohorja). After the publication of a new Code of church law in 1917 he was appointed to a committee for its realization in Klagenfurt Diocese. He also participated in the Slovene Christian-social (Slovene: Slovenska krščansko-socialna zveza) association as a lecturer.

The Treaty of St. Germain divided the plebiscite area in Carinthia into zone A and B. Zone A was under Yugoslav administration and lost control of Klagenfurt. Carinthian bishop Adam Hefter established a special vicariate in Ebendorf (Slovene: Dobrla Vas) in July 1919 and appointed Rožman as a judicial consultant of general vicar provost Matija Raindl. Because of his engagement with Carinthian Slovenes and his open support for Yugoslavia in the Carinthian Plebiscite it was quite clear that in case a majority in zone A decided against Yugoslavia in the plebiscite he would not be able to stay in Carinthia.[6][7]:19–21

Canon law professor in Ljubljana[edit]

Soon after the integration of the Slovenes in Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, on 23 July 1919 Regent Alexander signed a law creating the University of Ljubljana and in December lectures commenced. Janez Zore, a church historian from the Theology faculty, proposed that Rožman be invited as a professor of church law. Rožman accepted, with permission from Bishop Hefter. Rožman began lecturing on 7 January 1920. He lived in Ljubljana with professor Alfonz Levičnik and took a position of prefect in the student's seminary Marijinišče in the school year 1920–21. After less than five months of teaching, on 31 May, he was nominated by his colleagues for a docent position and promoted by the ministry on 27 August. He was listed as an associate professor in the school year 1924–25.

Rožman was known as a good professor, who delivered his lectures in simple, logical, systematic and understandable language and could explain dreary laws in an interesting way. He commonly emphasized the practical implications of the law, he also gave students many tips about its implications in the pastoral profession.[citation needed]

He published many essays, both professional and pastoral, mostly in Bogoslovni Vestnik (English: Theological Journal). As in his lectures, his essays explained the practical pastoral implications of a law for a common priest. He included current events in his essays. He wrote an important essay titled Church and politics (Slovene: Cerkev in politika) (publication date unknown) which would become very relevant in the Second World War. In it he said that the Church "has the task to protect the truths of Christianity, that is moral and religious truths, to protect, teach and accustom the nations for them to organize all their lives and acts according to these truths". In his opinion many areas are not related to the Church, giving it no right to take sides or even decide on such issues. Instead he claimed that the Church should limit itself to religious, moral or ecclesiastical issues. He also stated his opinion about coup d'état (or revolution) and any official government authority: he said that "the church is indifferent on different forms of authority, it considers none of them to be the only right one; it rejects none, as long as it is capable of reaching the purpose of the state". This purpose was to "protect justice for everybody and to care for public prosperity". The Church "condemns as immoral and violent change of government, every revolution". However if the violent takeover has occurred "the Church teaches that the highest duty of every government is to take care of public prosperity. At the time of revolution, the highest duty of the government and the citizens is to end chaos as soon as possible and to build on the ruins of the old a new state, which will function as a device of public prosperity. If the revolutionary government is strong and able enough to positively organize the state to reach its goal, than this highest duty requires of every citizen to recognize the new government.". In these essays he stated that in time of war, the Church's duty is to "reduce the horror of the war" and to take care of war prisoners.

Another important essay was Church and the state (Slovene: Cerkev in država), which was used for a lecture at the fifth Catholic rally in Ljubljana on 28 August 1923. In it he explained his relation to government, writing, "the source of every authority, even political, is God. Every authority is given for the welfare of the humanity". He added that state sovereignty cannot be absolute, as it is dependent on God, which limits that authority, the limits "which it should not cross, if it does not want to abuse its power against the will of God, in which name it wields the sword (Romans 13,4)". He says that the common concern of both, the church and the state, is marriage, children and education. Disagreement between them in these areas causes great damage to the citizens and also the state itself. He also criticized the Kingdom of Yugoslavia under the Vidovdan Constitution, which set harsh limits on church freedom. He said that the "annunciation of the religious truth is one of the main tasks of the Catholic Church and its inner affair", so "we must, on the basis of our catholic principles, reject every attempt to institute a police control over the church in its own matters" [7]:21–23[8]

Involvement in the Orel[edit]

Orel (in Slovenia) was a Catholic youth gymnastic and sport movement that was organized in the early 20th century as an alternative to a liberal gymnastic movement Sokol. The decision to create it was taken at a gathering of Slovene Christian-social association in Maribor, between 3 and 4 September 1905. The first club was established in Jesenice, in February 1906. Then on 10 April 1908, the Association of Gymnastic Sections (Slovene: Zveza Telovadnih Odsekov) was created. On 19 March 1909 at a local assembly of AGS in Bohinjska Bistrica, the organisation was officially named Orel.

Rožman learned of the organisation in Carinthia, as by 1913, its section had five sub-sections. In 1920, in Ljubljana, he was elected by the Orel president board as secondary vice-president. As a priest, he quickly became its spiritual leader. As the organisation in Orel began to evolve, he took leadership of debate club, high-school students and other elements.

After it was rebuilt in the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Orel greatly expanded its membership, but neglected its spiritual and religious side. In 1921 Rožman wrote an article in the Theological Journal titled Contributions for pastoral profession (Slovene: Prispevki za dušno pastirstvo) in which he expressed his ideas about pastoral activity of youth organisations (like Orel). He first asked whether the organisation should attend equally to everyone or focus on the elite athletes. He proposed a compromise, saying that the Catholic Church is required to pastorally attend anyone that counts himself as its member, but that its missionary activity could be advanced by success in sports, especially among the youth. He emphasized the need for youth to be part of Christian organisations, because if the youngsters were left alone, they could easily fall under the influence of materialism and so become communists or social democrats. He highlighted the importance of spiritual growth, advising Orel members to join Mary's congregation (as they were more focused on spiritual life than Orel). In addition, he emphasized the importance for Orel of family values, national consciousness and other Christian values.

He left Orel in 1929, when he became suffragan bishop. The Yugoslav government banned Orel, leaving only the state-controlled Sokol shortly afterwards.[9]

Bishop of Ljubljana[edit]

As a bishop, he set out to spiritually renew his diocese, starting with his priests, who he felt should not be involved in politics. After leaving Orel, he focused on the Marian societies (Slovene: Marijine Družbe), but mainly on Catholic Action, in which he saw the strongest tool for the renewal of his diocese. In the argument between two Christian youth organisations—Youth of Christ the King (sl) (whose members were known as the Mladci 'Youth'), led by the high-school teacher Ernest Tomec (sl), and the Guard (sl) academic club (whose members were known as the Stražarji 'Guards'), led by theology professor Lambert Ehrlich, which both claimed to represent Catholic Action—he decided in favor of the Mladci.

Second World War[edit]

Background and wartime situation in Slovenia[edit]

In the interwar period Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia. The strongest political force in the province was the Slovenska Ljudska Stranka (SLS-Slovene People’s Party), under the heavy influence of the Catholic Church. The Canadian historian Gregor Kranjc notes “In [SLS] propaganda the Catholic Church and national traditions were facing a colossal struggle against atheistic, international revolutionaries”.[10] Fascism exerted a strong attraction. In 1933 the SLS-friendly Catholic daily “Slovenec” (The Slovenian) wrote: “Whatever is positive in Fascism is taken from Christianity, and in this course Fascism must absolutely be part of the anti-Bolshevik front”.[10] The strongly anti-semitic leader of the SLS, Anton Korošec, was responsible for anti-Semitic laws Yugoslavia enacted in 1940, restricting Jews in entering schools and universities (see Antisemitism in Europe). Right-wing, fascist-inspired Catholic student organizations, such as Straža were active.[10] All these became part of the collaborationist forces soon after the occupation.

Following the invasion on 6 April 1941, the Axis powers divided the occupied territory between themselves. Nazi Germany annexed Lower Styria, but later dropped annexing Carinthia because of partisan activity. Italy annexed the so-called "Provincia di Lubiana" on May 3, 1941. Hungary realized their formal annexation on December 16, 1941. Although fascist Italy had for 20 years brutally repressed Slovenes in the Littoral, they initially promised some (never-delivered) autonomy for Slovenes in the annexed Ljubljana Province and left most of the old administration in place. Italian was introduced as an optional language in schools and universities and at first, there was little violence. They accepted 18,000 refugees expelled from the German zone. This can be to some degree attributed to the cooperation ("collaboration") of notable Slovenian public figures. Collaboration with the occupiers began almost immediately. Bishop Rožman, then SLS-head Marko Natlačen and other prominent Slovenes promised their loyalty to fascist Italy in April and May 1941. Later as the resistance grew, Italian fascist authorities interned some 40,000 Slovenes in concentration camps, where 7,000 of these Slovenes died[11]

The Nazis chose a policy of violent Germanisation. They planned to expel 240,000 Slovenes, but due to partisan resistance expelled som 83,000 Slovenes to other parts of the Third Reich, as well as to Serbia and Croatia. More than 63,000 Slovenes were interned in Nazi concentration camps The Slovenian language was banned from public use, Slovenian cultural associations were dissolved, etc. The Nazis were hostile to the church: much of its property was confiscated, 448 priests were forced into exile, and the authorities rejected any intervention by the church. The Hungarian regime was similar to the German approach.

Resistance was organized by the Liberation Front of the Slovene People, led by the Communist Party (CP), but including 18 other groups (Christian Socialists, the gymnastic group Sokol, etc.) The CP saw the occupation as a chance to gain power. It was weak in numbers but experienced in underground activities, because it was banned in Yugoslavia. The Liberation Front at first developed in the Italian occupation zone. On September 16, 1941 it declared it was the only "authorized" resistance. Traitors were to be sentenced to death. In this ways Slovenes, including Church representatives (most notably Lambert Ehrlich, assassinated after he wrote a letter to the Fascist authorities, asking they arm Slovenes, to jointly fight against the Partisans[12]), were „liquidated“ by “Security-Intelligence Service“, called VOS, a unit recruited solely from CP and communist youth organization SKOJ. The inhabitants of the Province of Ljubljana, especially peasants, suffered from both Italian attacks on their lives and property and from partisan attacks. Partisans stayed in a village for a few weeks, confiscating food and property in return for "freedom loan" certificates promising the return of property after liberation. When the Italians located the partisans, the partisans fled and the Army punished the villagers. After a short period the soldiers retreated to their base, the partisans would return and the cycle continue.

According to the fascist Commissar Grazioli, the Partisans liberated two-thirds of the Ljubljana Province by Spring of 1942.[11] This caused the Italian fascist authorities to organize a brutal offensive against the Partisans in Summer 1942, with 80.000 well-armed Italian troops to combat some 2,500 to 3,000 poorly-armed Partisans. The Italians shot on the spot all Slovenes caught with arms or forged documents, relatives of Partisans and thousands of young Slovene men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. With the aid of Slovene collaborationist forces, the fascist authorities also managed to kill some 1,000 Partisans.[11] In fall of 1942, at the urging of Bishop Rožman, the collaborationist forces gathered in "The Legion of Death", became part of the MVAC forces, armed and led by the Italian military. Later these collaborationist forces joined the SS-commanded Domobranci, to fight with the Germans against the Partisans. Meanwhile, American and British Allies sent observers to the Partisans. In recognition of their success in fighting Axis forces, the Allies formally recognized the Partisans in 1943, supporting them with arms and material

Partisans also performed "revolutionary" or "red" violence – violence targeted against enemies. The enemies included people who didn't agree with communism, especially Catholics, wealthier people, Romani and German civilians[citation needed]. This violence was especially frequent and brutal in spring and early summer 1942 (which led to spontaneous creations of village guards against such violence)".[3] Among the victims of the red violence during the war were 46 diocesan priests and 6 priests belonging to different religious orders. By comparison, the occupiers killed 24 diocesan priests and 10 priests of different religious orders.

On the other side, Slovene collaborationist forces, like the "Black Hand" organization, arrested, tortured, killed and turned over many Slovenes to the fascist and Nazi occupiers.[13] One example is the noted Slovene author Boris Pahor who along with 600 other Slovenes was turned over to the Nazis by Slovene collaborationist forces, all of them sent to the Dachau concentration camps. Altogether at least 11.000 Slovenes were killed in Italian and German concentration camps.[14] During the war, close to 70,000 Slovenes were killed by the fascist occupiers and their domestic collaborators, while some 4,000 Slovenes were killed on the collaborationist side during the war, and an additional 14,000 in reprisals after the war (the vast majority of the latter were soldiers in the collaborationist forces)[14]

Relations with Italians[edit]

From left: Ignacij Nadrah, Emilio Grazioli (it), Gregorij Rožman and Franc Kimovec (sl)

The Bishop and Church dignitaries wanted the people to survive the war with as few victims as possible. Rožman was convinced that for such a small nation an armed struggle against the occupying forces was doomed to fail, because the sacrifices would be out of proportion to any possible gains.[3]:182

After the Italians issued the Statute of Autonomy on 3 May 1941, they expected the bishop to write a declaration of loyalty. He addressed a so-called declaration of loyalty to High Commissioner Emilio Grazioli (it), but the High Commissioner was not satisfied with its wording. He forged another declaration and directed it to Mussolini. Grazioli's text was published in the press. The original version read

"Excellency! A decree has been published today, via which the Slovenian territory occupied by the Italian army has been incorporated into Italy. When I consider this, I thank your Excellency ... I express absolute loyalty and ask God to bless you and our aspirations for the welfare of our people".

Rožman actually only emphasized free development in cultural and religious spheres and promised loyalty and sent blessings for the efforts of the authorities for the good of the people. The forgery was so effective that many publications still use it as a proof of Rožman's collaboration.[15]:51–54, 215–217 Former politicians such as former Ban Marko Natlačen and the mayor of Ljubljana, Juro Adlešič were brought to address a declaration to Italian authorities. The Italiansw dictated its wording.[3]:180

He celebrated Masses for the Italian troops, provided Italian-speaking confessionals and organized a Mass of thanksgiving to Mussolini on 22 May 1941 at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Ljubljana. Rožman referred to the Italians as powers "which God has established" with whom Church representatives will "be pleased to co-operate".[16] Italian propaganda effort took full advantage of his willingness to oblige, leading to Rožman being criticized by priests from Primorska region.[2]

Rožman condemned the occupiers twice. On 24 October 1941 he wrote a letter to the clergy in which he complained about the devastation of the part of his diocese occupied by the Germans: in it all Church property was confiscated, religious enrollees of both sexes were expelled from their convents and 193 members of secular clergy expelled from 148 parishes and that about 200.000 of his people were without spiritual care.[15]:224, 225 [17]:175–184 On 26 September 1942 he handed Grazzioli a memorandum, in which he criticized Italian means and proposed facilitating measures in 20 points. Grazzioli was furious and told him that if Rožman weren't a bishop, he would have arrested him.[1]:261–264 [15]:56, 69–70 Rožman wanted to condemn Italians from the pulpit, but during his visit to Rome in May 1942 the Pope advised him not to, because in that case the Italians would detain him in Italy and he would not be able to help people in Ljubljana.[15]:46

12 September 1942 memo[edit]

In August 1942 the Italian generals Mario Roatta and Mario Robotti visited the bishop and told him they would burn the whole Province of Ljubljana and kill or deport all of its inhabitants if the partisan attacks did not stop. Rožman invited 21 representatives of the former political parties and of cultural institution to discuss the Italian threats (20 of which actually came). They agreed only to organize help for the victims[citation needed]. After the meeting a memorandum was written. Only the German translation was ever found, leaving unanswered questions about its authors and quality of translation (the memorandum is in many respects similar to one written in April 1942 by the Reverend Lambert Ehrlich, Ljubljana University theology professor and supervisor of a right-wing Slovene Catholic student youth group, asking the fascist authorities, to similarly arm Slovenes to fight the partisans[18]) The bishop's contribution is unknown other than that he delivered the memorandum to General Robotti, commander of the Italian 11th Army Corps. The memo read:[15]:60–70, 236–238

From the sound part of the Slovene people, who have declared themselves ready to seriously work together with the Italian authorities for the purpose of reestablishing order and destroying subversive and rebellious elements, the following is proposed to the military authorities:
  • We should be allowed to establish protective armed units under Slovene command in all rural areas. The names of the members and commanders of these armed units will be supplied to the military authorities. (...) The commanders of these units will be selected from men worthy of trust, to fully guarantee that the arms will be used exclusively against rebellious elements that endanger the land either with arms or revolutionary propaganda.
  • We are convinced that without the proposed system of protective units, no self-supporting or lasting order can be maintained. The soldiers have already dispersed the camps and groups of the rebels, but many of them are still in the woods and in villages, where they are camouflaged as peace-loving citizens. Such persons are not known to the Italian armed forces. Because of their unfamiliarity with the language and the difficulty of finding those who help those who hide in the woods, it will be very difficult to find the culprits. But for the local young men such difficulties are nonexistent or can easily be overcome...
  • In addition to the protective units stationed in rural areas, it would be necessary to establish a few central units under the command of former Yugoslav officers. The task of these units would be to keep wooded areas under surveillance and to prevent the formation of armed Partisan groups.
  • To achieve the given objective, it would be necessary to bring back some young, dependable former Yugoslav officers from prisoner-of-war camps, but in an unobtrusive fashion, as if letting the officers home on furlough. Their names would be proposed by us.
  • In regard to Ljubljana, the following is proposed as urgent: (...) We should be allowed, so to speak, to establish a Corps of Secret Police of 500 men, to be armed with revolvers. We can give assurances that within six weeks, dangerous elements would be found, arrested and turned over to the authorities. Those persons who have false identification cards and who freely circulate in the streets would be identified and arrested with the help of the citizens. In this way Ljubljana would become a peaceful and orderly city in which there would be no more Communists. At the same time everything would be done to remold public opinion with the help of strong and continuing anti-Communist propaganda.

These sincere proposals show the goodwill of the majority of the population and create the possibility of achieving the given objective in a manner that must also please the authorities. His Excellence, General Roatta, has said that the people must now choose between order and Bolshevism. We have chosen order, and propose the only way that in our humble opinion will be effective and certain to achieve complete order in active collaboration with the authorities.

The document containing the German translation is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Also preserved are Robotti's notes in which he refers to Rožman as the author and adds, "[T]he security guards that the Bishop suggests, correspond with local militias that have the task of defending their villages against communists, and to be available for actions in the local area – there are many such militias, which count a total of 1,000 men. These are doing their work decisively, not only from a military standpoint, but also as police, as the Bishop says...".[19]

Memorandum Aftermath

The Italian fascist authorities followed through on many of the recommendations in Rožman's Memorandum, Jozo Tomasevich indicates that the Bishop's support led to the rapid growth of the Italian-led MVAC units, which absorbed the previous collaborationist forces (Slovene Legion, National Legion, Sokol Legion and Slovene Chetniks – recently all gathered together as "The Legion of Death"), which had informally collaborated with the Italians in their brutal offensive against the Partisans in the Summer of 1942.[20] The Italians also released Yugoslav Army officers. At the urging of the SLS and other Slovene collaborationist groups, in March 1942 the Italians apprehended and sent to POW camps 1,100 Yugoslav Army officers, since Slovene collaborationist groups saw them as a threat. Now at the urging of the same SLS and Rožman, the Italians released some of the officers, but only those willing to fight against the partisans[21] Many released officers became leaders of collaborationist, Italian-led MVAC units, and later of the SS-led Domobranci

Stance towards communism[edit]

For Rožman as well as for the most Church representatives, the fact that by communists dominated the "Liberation Front" (and performed murderous sanctions against the perceived traitors) presented a special dilemma. The Church detested the violation of human rights and repression, but also found Marxism and Bolshevism incompatible with Church doctrine. The ideological differences were the subject of the anti-communist encyclical Divini Redemptoris issued in 1937 by Pope Pius XI on which Rožman based his stance. The Bishop rejected in 1938 as irrelevant for Slovenia the Pope's clarification to French Catholics that the encyclical did not require absolute noncooperation with Communists.[4]:75

The Communists began using violent methods to gain political power, which Church authorities could not accept. In 1943, after the fall of Turjak and Grčarice, followed by mass liquidations at Jelendol, Mozelj and other places and the show trial in Kočevje[22] he dedicated all four Advent sermons to the evils of Communist ideology, citing Russia and Spain.[17]:233–245

Rožman said that it is his duty to speak the truth, otherwise he would have to justify himself in front of God. He preached »Do zadnjega bom trdil in učil, da je brezbožni komunizem največje zlo in največja nesreča za slovenski narod« (English: To the end I will claim and teach that atheistic communism is the greatest evil and greatest tragedy for the Slovene nation). At the funeral of Marko Natlačen, who was executed by a member of VOS at home on 12 October 1942, Rožman said there can be "no co-operation, no association with godlessness or those to whom godlessness is a leading opinion. Stand firm in your belief in God, build your future on God's Commandments, which alone can be a firm basis of healthy development of any nation, big or small. Stay alive – my nation – don't kill yourself and don't provoke measures able to hit your life force." [Note 2][17]:210–211

In the well-known "Pastoral letter about godless communism" (Slovene: "Pastirsko pismo o nevarnosti brezbožnega komunizma") on 30 November 1943 he asked the Catholics to "fight godless Communism" through prayers. Rožman wrote "I know that advocates of Communism and some other blind Catholics will reproach me that I am meddling in politics in a pastoral letter, which isn't a matter for a Bishop and doesn't appertain to the Church. But, dear believers, the battle against communism isn't political, but a religious matter, as it touches upon belief in God, one of the most basic truths of every faith, especially our Christian faith. To reject atheistic doctrines, to defend the truths of our global religion is a religious matter and a religious duty, that admits everyone with common sense." [Note 3][17]:225–232. In his Christmas message to the Domobranci in 1944 Rožman talked about shepherds in Bethlehem keeping watch over their flock in the fields and asked the Domobranci to take an example by them. "You are defending your nation against wolves and jackals who destroy lives and property of their own fellow-countrymen, against 'tenants, who do not care about their sheep', who are poisoning souls with foreign mentality of godless communism and through that they break down the spiritual foundations, on which all the spiritual wealth that we have in common with Christian Europe, has been built for centuries". [Note 4][17]:253–254

Interventions for prisoners[edit]

Rožman intervened for detainees directly with the Italian authorities and via the Vatican. He attempted to protect those deported to Serbia, Croatia and Germany, clergymen, refugees, orthodox Serbs, Jews, arrested, prisoners of war, Jugoslav officers, hostages, condemned, children, internees in Rab (Arbre), Treviso (Monigo), Renicci concentration camp (it), Gonars. He intervened 1318 times for 1210 individuals.[Note 5] He intervened for various groups (for example 350 priests, deported to Croatia by Germans or 1700 children in the Italian concentration camps) covering more than 2495 people. [Note 6] The Bishop's secretary, Dr. Stanislav Lenič (sl), testified that up to 50 petitioners came on a single day and that he helped them regardless of their political views. Among many documents a letter written by Gastone Gambarra, the Commander of Italian XI. Army corps, on April 26, 1943 documents that 122 internees were released because of his intervention. But Italians soon noticed that the Bishop made no distinctions in his choices, so Grazioli ordered his subordinates to treat the Bishop's interventions as anyone else`s, because he intervened for the "unworthy".[23] [24]:37–64

According to some historians,[weasel words] Rožman's messages to Italian authorities (such as the September 1942 memos) suggest that the goal of some of those interventions was to acquire experienced officers for the Village Guard units.[4]:85

Relations with the German occupiers[edit]

Bishop Gregorij Rožman and SS General Erwin Rösener in conversation

After the capitulation of Italy (September 1943), Ljubljana was occupied by the Germans. Rožman agreed with Friedrich Rainer's intention that Leon Rupnik should become the president of the new provincial government, although Rupnik had already been chosen by Reiner.[25] Rupnik was appointed as a president of provincial government on 22 September 1943.

He was twice seen at formal and informal events chatting with SS General Erwin Rösener, the commander of German forces in the province. From 1943 until the end of the war, Rožman was closely associated with the anti-Partisan, anti-communist Domobranci, the Slovenian Home Guard forces formed by order of SS General Rösener on 24 September 1943.

Rožman held a silent mass prior to Domobranci swearing a collective oath of allegiance at Ljubljana central stadium on 20 April 1944. According to some witnesses, he chose to observe events from the background despite the offer of place on the main stand, and left quickly afterwards. He declined to hold the mass at the second swearing in on 30 January 1945, but was present at the subsequent Domobranci parade in front of the Ursuline Church. This decision led to speculation about his motives.[15]:292 In his Christmas message to the Domobranci at the end of 1944, Rožman wrote: "You are defending your nation against wolves and jackals (…) who are poisoning souls with the foreign mentality of atheistic communism".[17]:132


At the end of the war, he fled to the British zone of Austria.[26][27] Rožman was tried for treason in absentia by the military court of the 4th Yugoslav Army. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment and forced labour, lifelong loss of citizenship and limitation of citizen rights on 30 August 1946.[1]:334–346

After the war[edit]

Various leading Catholic figures from Yugoslavia were indicted for alleged war crimes, but managed to escape. These included Bishop Ivan Šarić of Sarajevo, who had set about forcibly converting the local population to Catholicism. Rožman, Šarić and others were living under the British supervision at the Bishop's Palace at Klagenfurt, Austria, in October 1946.[28] Rožman began to appear in American and British intelligence reports as being involved in ratlines that spirited wanted Axis and collaborationist fugitives out of Europe.[29] Although in some books and in internet one can read that bishop Rožman was funneling money to South America from a Swiss bank account set up "to aid refugees of the Catholic religion", there is absolutely no evidence to that and in his correspondence there is no evidence of any contacts to such Croatian circles. To get an American visa bishop Rožman did not visit the consulate of Berne, he communicated with the United States Consulate General at Zürich on May 25 for the purpose of obtaining a visitor's visa to come to the United States. On May 28 he appeared at the Consulate general where he was informed about the United States regulations regarding the issue of a non-quota immigration visa as a minister of religion. Rožman and Šarić were not together in Switzerland. Rožman was residing at the Institut Menzingen, near Zug and Šarić was residing at Haute Rive near Friborg. Šarić was not interested in coming to US and he remained in Europe.

“In Berne, Rožman's Ustashi friends were engaged in wholesale fraud, using the black market to convert the gold into dollars, and later, into Austrian schillings. 'Aid to the refugees is accounted for at the official rate of exchange for dollars', the American officers noted, adding that 'malpractices have been carried on (officially, the dollar is worth 10 schillings; on the black market, 100 to 150). According to reliable information: 'Rožman is going to Berne to take care of these finances. The money is in a Swiss bank, and he plans to have most of it sent through to Italy and from there to the Ustaše in [the] Argentine.'”[30]:132–33

“A short time later Rožman duly arrived in Berne, accompanied by Bishop Ivan Šarić, the 'hangman' of Sarajevo. By the end of May 1948, Rožman had apparently carried out this money laundering operation for the Ustashi, for he visited the U.S. Consulate in Zurich and was given a 'non-quota immigration visa as a minister of religion'. He then traveled to the United States and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. The circle was now almost complete. Pavelić's stolen 'treasure' had been tracked down through close monitoring of the movements and activities of the quisling Bishop of Ljubljana....” [30]:133

After settling permanently in Cleveland, Rožman is recorded as having visited Argentina on three occasions, in 1949, 1952 and 1956. He died in Cleveland on 16 November 1959, aged 76. Rožman was buried in the Franciscan cemetery in Lemont, Illinois. Rožman's remains were returned to Ljubljana and reinterred in the Ljubljana Cathedral on 13 April 2013.[31][32][33]

Rehabilitation and lawsuits[edit]

After Slovene independence, a request was made by the Catholic Church, supported by many historians and other journalists and publicists, to reevaluate Gregorij Rožman's conviction.[34] An official request for the reevaluation was made by Slovenian Public Prosecutor Anton Drobnič prior to the visit to Slovenia by Pope John Paul II in 1999.[35] Anton Drobnič ordered two historians, Tamara Griesser Pečar and France M. Dolinar, to prepare an expertise for this retrial. It was later published as the book Rožmanov proces.[15]:13 On the basis that he should have had the right to defend himself, Rožman's 1946 conviction was overturned by the Slovenian Supreme Court in 2007 and his case sent to the court of first instance for retrial. On April 10, 2009 the trial was terminated.[1]:630–643[36]

See also[edit]



  • Čipić Rehar, Marija; Dolinar, France M.; Griesser Pečar, Tamara; Otrin, Blaž; Visočnik, Julijana (2010). Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovene). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  • Dolinar, France M.; Griesser Pečar, Tamara (1996). Rožmanov proces [Rožman's process] (in Slovene). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 961-222-088-3. 
  • Kolarič Rehar, Jakob (1967). Škof Rožman : duhovna podoba velike osebnosti na prelomnici časa [Bishop Rozman: the spiritual image of the great personalitie on the turning point of time] (in Slovene). Celovec: Družba sv. Mohorja. 
  • Pleterski, Janko; et al. (2008). Škof Rožman v zgodovini [Bishop Rožman in History] (in Slovene). Ljubljana: Društvo piscev zgodovine NOB Slovenije. 
  • Rožmanov simpozij v Rimu [Rožman's symposium in Rome] (in Slovene). Celje: Mohorjeva družba. 2001. ISBN 961-218-355-4. 
  • Pignataro, Luca, La Slovenia tra primo Novecento e secondo dopoguerra, in “Nuova Storia Contemporanea”, XIII, 1(2009), pp. 11–30 (Italian)


  1. ^ Statements, such as that he thought "...[U]rgently necessary for Slovene Home Guard to have more priests-curates than is customary for an ordinary army", because he believed it was necessary to maintain fighting spirit in volunteers by emphasizing the moral ideals of struggle against the Communist revolution, are by them considered as proof that he acknowledged the Home Guard a military force in a religious war against communism.[4]:88
  2. ^ Slovene: Nobenega sodelovanja, nobene zveze z brezboštvom in tistimi, ki jim je brezboštvo vodilni nazor. Trdno stoj v veri v Boga, zidaj prihodnost svojo na božje zapovedi, ki so edini trdni temelj zdravega razvoja vsakemu narodu, velikemu in malemu. Ostani živ – narod moj – ne ubijaj samega sebe in ne izzivaj ukrepov, ki te morajo zadeti v tvoji življenjski sili.
  3. ^ Slovene: "Vem, da mi bodo zagovorniki komunizma in še nekateri zaslepljeni katoličani očitali,da se s tem pastirskim pismom vmešavam v politiko, kar ni zadeva škofa in kar ne spada v cerkev. Toda, predragi verniki, boj proti brezbožnemu komunizmu ni politika, ampak verska zadeva, saj se vendar tiče vere v Boga, torej najbolj osnovne resnice vsake vere, posebno še naše krščanske vere. Zavračati brezbožne nauke, braniti resnice naše svete vere je verska zadeva in verska dolžnost, to pač spozna vsak, ki ima zdravo pamet"
  4. ^ Slovene: "Vi branite svoj narod pred volkovi in šakali, ki uničujejo življenje in imetje svojim lastnim rojakom, pred »najemniki, ki jim za ovce ni skrb«, ki s tujo miselnostjo brezbožnega komunizma zastrupljajo duše in s tem rušijo duhovne temelje, na katerih je bilo v stoletjih zgrajeno vse, kar imamo duhovnega bogastva, skupnega s krščansko Evropo"
  5. ^ This number is probably larger, as families for which he has intervened were counted as 3-member families, although families at that time normally had more than only three members
  6. ^ It is assumed that the groups, for which the number of persons is not known, together counted several hundred people


  1. ^ a b c d Čipić Rehar, Marija; Dolinar, France M.; Griesser Pečar, Tamara; Otrin, Blaž; Visočnik, Julijana (2010). Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  2. ^ a b Čepič, Zdenko et al. (1995). Ključne značilnosti slovenske politike v letih 1929 – 1955 (in Slovene). Inštitut za novejšo zgodovino. p. 42. ISBN 961-90261-0-1. 
  3. ^ a b c d Griesser Pečar, Tamara (2004). Razdvojeni narod (in Slovene). Ljubljana: Mladniksa knjiga. ISBN 86-11-16799-6. 
  4. ^ a b c Pleterski, Janko; et al. (2008). Škof Rožman v zgodovini [Bishop Rožman in History]. Ljubljana: Društvo piscev zgodovine NOB Slovenije. 
  5. ^ Kattnig, Franc, & Janzo Zerzer. 1982. Dvojezična Koroška / Zweisprachiges Kärnten. Klagenfurt: Morhorjeva založba / Hermagoras-Verlag.
  6. ^ Malle, Avguštin (2001). "Rožmanova koroška leta" [Rožman's carinthian years]. Rožmanov simpozij v Rimu [Rožman's symposium in Rome] (in Slovenian). Celje: Mohorjeva družba. pp. 7–21. ISBN 961-218-355-4. 
  7. ^ a b Dolinar, France M. (2010). "Gregorij Rožman (1883–1959)". Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. pp. 19–35. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  8. ^ Metod, Benedik (2001). "Gregorij Rožman – profesor prava" [Gregorij Rožman – law professor]. Rožmanov simpozij v Rimu [Rožman's symposium in Rome] (in Slovenian). Celje: Mohorjeva družba. pp. 23–38. ISBN 961-218-355-4. 
  9. ^ Jamnik, Anton (2001). "Rožman – duhovni vodja orlov" [Rožman – the spiritual leader of Orel]. Rožmanov simpozij v Rimu [Rožman's symposium in Rome] (in Slovenian). Celje: Mohorjeva družba. pp. 39–50. ISBN 961-218-355-4. 
  10. ^ a b c Kranjc, Gregorr (2012). To Walk with the Devil: Slovene Collaboration and Axis Occupation, 1941–1945. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 
  11. ^ a b c Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  12. ^ Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  13. ^ Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 127. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  14. ^ a b Tominsek-Rihtar, Tadeja. "Zrtve vojne in revolucije". Republika Slovenija – Drzavni Svet. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Dolinar, France M.; Griesser Pečar, Tamara (1996). Rožmanov proces [Rožman's process] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 961-222-088-3. 
  16. ^ He had visited Italian High Commissioner Emilio Grazioli on Sunday 20 April 1941, two weeks after the Wehrmacht invasion, and, explaining his reasons for this in Ljubljanski škofijski list (Ljubljana Diocesan Gazette), published on 31 July 1941 Rožman wrote that he had expressed to Grazioli the following:
    "the gratitude of the clergy and of believers that the military has occupied the region peacefully, kept order and allowed the people freedom, especially in a religious sense; regarding the co-operation of Church representatives with the new Fascist Italy, for we Catholics God's word is decisive, which says 'Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no authority except God and those 'which God has established' (Romans 13:1). Via this standpoint we acknowledge the higher power that is above us and we will, following our consciences, 'be pleased to co-operate' to the honourable and eternal benefit of the people, among whom God's care for priests is asked".
    "We are grateful to God that He has inspired in the leader of Greater Italy the thoughts of generous justice and considerate wisdom with which His Majesty … suggested the foundation of the Ljubljana region". Ljubljanski škofijski list, pp. 4–6, 31 July 1941; quoted by Tamara Griesser Pečar, France Martin Dolinar, 'Rožmanov Proces' pp. 50, 52, Ljubljana 1996. Slovenia 1945 by John Corsellis, Marcus Ferrar. Available online at Slovenia 1945, written by John Corsellis, Marcus Ferrar
  17. ^ a b c d e f Čipić Rehar, Marija (2010). "Pridige in pastirska pisma škofa Rožmana v vojnem času" [Sermons and pastoral letters of bishop Rožman in war time]. Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  18. ^ Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  19. ^ Ferenc, Tone (1987). Ljudska oblast na Slovenskem 1941–1942, prva knjiga: Država v državi (People's authority in Slovenia 1941–1942, book one: "A state within a state"). Založba Borec
  20. ^ Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 107. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  21. ^ Tomasevic, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-8047-0857-6. 
  22. ^ More on this in: Ferenc, Tone (2002). Dies irae : četniki, vaški stražarji in njihova usoda jeseni 1943 [Dies irae : chetniks, village guards and their faith in autumn 1943] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Modrijan. ISBN 961-6465-02-3. 
  23. ^ For a full list of people he had intervened for read:
    Griesser Pečar, Tamara (2010). "Časovni pregled intervencij ljubljanskega škofa dr. Gregorija Rožmana" [Timeline of interventions of Ljubljana bishop dr. Gregorij Rožman]. Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. pp. 64–123. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  24. ^ Griesser Pečar, Tamara (2010). "Rožmanova posredovanja pri okupatorju" [Rožman's interventions at the occupator]. Med sodbo sodišča in sodbo vesti [Between judgment of the court and judgment of conscience] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Družina. ISBN 978-961-222-774-6. 
  25. ^ Grum, Janez (1995). "Predlog ali mnenje" [Proposition or opinion]. Zaveza (in Slovenian) (Nova Slovenska Zaveza) (19). Retrieved July 2011. 
  26. ^ Ladislav Bevc, an eyewitness wrote that "Despite the British roadblocks around Lienz, the refugees generally could find a way to circumvent them and filter into Anras, a mountain village to which Bishop Rožman had removed himself. The bishop still had his car which was driven by his chaplain". See
  27. ^ Google books, Jožo Tomašević, ''War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945''. Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  28. ^ PRO, FO 371; Jasenovac-Donja Gradina: Industry of Death, 1941–45
  29. ^ MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Stephen Dorril, The Free Press, New York, 2000, pp. 864–907; ISBN 0-7432-0379-8. pp 330, 332, 335, 339, 341–2, 350, 434.
  30. ^ a b John Loftus and Mark Aarons. Unholy Trinity – The Vatican, the Nazis, and the Swiss Banks. St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN 0-312-18199-X.
  31. ^ "Slovo od Rožmana: verniki napolnili ljubljansko stolnico." 2013 Delo (13 April). (Slovene)
  32. ^ "Ob sprejemu posmrtnih ostankov škofa Rožmana verniki napolnili stolnico." 2013. Dnevnik (13 April). (Slovene)
  33. ^ "Na pogrebu škofa Rožmana okoli tisoč ljudi." 2013. Siol (13 April). (Slovene)
  34. ^ Anton Drobnič (4 December 2009). "Škof Rožman v vojni in revolucij". Nova Slovenska Zaveza. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  35. ^ Vecernje novosti, 13 February 1996
  36. ^ Grgič, Jožica. 2013. "Prekop škofa Rožmana, življenje in časi." Delo (12 April). (Slovene)

External links[edit]