The Barbara Pit (Slovene: Barbara rov, Croatian: Barbarin rov) is a pit near Huda Jama in Slovenia, known as the site of a post 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 pit site, although the exact location of any graves was then unknown.
Investigation of the Barbara Pit site began in August 2008. On 3 March 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, some of whom appear to be women, were stripped naked before being killed, and so identification is difficult. By 7 November 2009 there were 726 bodies removed from the site.
Still today, Slovenian political parties (Social Democrats (Slovenia), Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia, United Left (Slovenia)) associated with the communist regime are hiding information regarding the persons responsible for these crimes.
After the fall of communism, a memorial chapel was first dedicated at the site in 1997. Shortly after its dedication the chapel was defaced and slogans were scrawled along the walls, including "Death to traitors".
According to eyewitness accounts, the victims were mostly Axis soldiers, probably Croatian Home Guard regulars and members of the Slovene Home Guard militia, killed by the Yugoslav People's Army between May and September 1945. Some of the victims may 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 reported that residents in the local area had indicated the victims may have been "pro-Nazi collaborators from Slovenia or Croatia".
It took crews eight months to remove 400 m2 (4,300 sq ft) of gangue and penetrate eleven reinforced concrete partition walls (each 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) thick) to reach the graves. Investigators initially found a mass of 427 corpses that were largely mummified due to the climate in the mine. Excavating a further 5 metres (16 ft) into the mine shaft uncovered another 346 corpses before further works were stopped by the government of Slovenia. The Borut Pahor government subsequently stopped further excavation works in the site and also stopped further documentation of mass graves in all of Slovenia by the state's Commission on Concealed Mass Graves in Slovenia.
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 Partisans where they were killed. According to Marko Štrovs, head of the Slovenian government's military graves department, the victims appear to have been killed by gas. Officials believe further investigation 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 after the uncovery on the 3rd of March 2009 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 topic". He dismissed the calls to visit the grave as "political manipulation".
Türk's statements that these killings must be understood "in the context of World War Two" provoked the Slovenian Minister of Defence Ljubica Jelušič to maintain that there can be no excuse for not condemning the killings, thus being the first high-ranking official of the Slovenian left wing government to take a stance on the issue.
On 9 March, the vice-prime minister of the Croatian Government Jadranka Kosor and the minister of internal affairs Tomislav Karamarko visited the site. On 10 March, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader called for a joint Croatian-Slovenian investigation into the grave.
On 15 March, 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 repatriations
- Foibe massacres
- Kočevski Rog massacre
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