Leon Rupnik during World War II
|Born||10 August 1880|
Lokve, Gorizia and Gradisca, Austria-Hungary (now in Slovenia)
|Died||4 September 1946 (aged 66)|
Ljubljana, PR Slovenia, FPR Yugoslavia
|Allegiance|| Austria-Hungary (1895–1918) |
Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1919–1941)
|Years of service||1895–1941, 1942–1945|
|Unit||Slovene Home Guard|
|Battles/wars||First World War, Second World War|
Leon Rupnik, also known as Lav Rupnik or Lev Rupnik (10 August 1880 – 4 September 1946) was a Slovene general in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia who collaborated with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German occupation forces during World War II. Rupnik served as the President of the Provincial Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana from November 1943 to early May 1945. Between September 1944 and early May 1945, he also served as chief inspector of the Domobranci (Slovene Home Guard), a collaborationist militia, although he did not have any military competences until the last month of the war.:97, 295–96
Rupnik was born in Lokve near Gorizia, a village in what was then the Austrian county of Gorizia and Gradisca (now part of Nova Gorica, southwestern Slovenia). A career soldier, from 1895 to 1899 he studied at the infantry military academy in Trieste and graduated as a junior second lieutenant. His schooling continued in Vienna from 1905 to 1907. After World War I, he joined the Royal Yugoslav Army in May 1919 with the rank of active staff major. He thereafter climbed the ranks, becoming a lieutenant-colonel (1923), colonel (1927), brigadier general (1933) and major general (1937). When the Wehrmacht invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, Rupnik was Chief of Staff of 1st Army Group.
The Rupnik Line
After the Third Reich and the Kingdom of Italy had formed the Axis alliance, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia decided to construct a line of fortresses along the borders to defend itself against possible attacks from the north and the west. The constructions was mostly carried out on the border with Italy in the Drava Banovina. The line was initially staffed by 15,000, but the number increased to 40,000 by 1941. As Rupnik was in charge of their completion, the 'Rupnik Line' became the common name for these fortifications.
The defences were built on the French Maginot Line and Czechoslovak models, adapted to local conditions. After the invasion of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, few of them were ready and the German Wehrmacht campaign quickly rendered the line obsolete.
After the quick defeat of the Royal Yugoslav Army, Rupnik was released from German military prison and moved to the Italian-occupied southern Slovenia (known as Province of Ljubljana) on 17 April 1941. On 7 June 1942, he accepted the position of President of the Provincial Council of Ljubljana, thus replacing Juro Adlešič as mayor under Italian occupation. After the Italian armistice in September 1943, Ljubljana was occupied by the Germans. Friedrich Rainer, Nazi Gauleiter of Carinthia, nominated Rupnik as president of the new provincial government, after an alleged consultation with bishop Gregorij Rožman who agreed with Reiner's intention to put Rupnik in charge of the provisional government.:95–96
Together with Anton Kokalj, Ernest Peterlin and Janko Kregar, Rupnik was also one of the founders of the Slovene Home Guard, an auxiliary military unit of the Wehrmacht, formed as a voluntary militia to fight the partisan resistance movement. The militia was organized mostly by members of Slovene anti-Communist politicians gathered around the underground organization Slovenian Covenant (Slovene: Slovenska zaveza) in agreement with the German occupation forces. Soon after the formation of the militia on 23 September 1943, Rupnik nominated himself its commander-in-chief. In his first order to the Home Guard on September 30, Rupnik proclaimed, “whoever is not directly tied to cooperation with the German Army or the police is an armed bandit, and must be attacked and destroyed without delay”, urging his men to handover captured partisans to the closest German army or police garrison. He was dismissed by Rainer on 4 November 1943.:295 In September 1944, he was nominated chief inspector of the Slovene Home Guard, a function with virtually no competence.:295
In his function of president of the provincial administration, Rupnik organized a large-scale bureaucracy which tried to cover all spheres of civilian life, from local administration, to social security and cultural policies. For this purpose, he relied on two groups of aides: on one side, mostly apolitical civil servants and cultural functionaries active already in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (such as Stanko Majcen and Narte Velikonja); on the other side, he involved several highly ideological and fervently pro-Nazi young individuals, such as Ljenko Urbančič and son-in-law Stanko Kociper.:96–97 Rupnik succeeded in keeping almost all Slovene cultural and educational institutions functioning under Nazi occupation, and in 1944 he even managed to rename the "Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana" to Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Throughout his presidency, Rupnik maintained complete loyalty to the German Nazi occupation authorities. He organized several "anti-Communist rallies", in which he delivered violent speeches against the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People, the Western Allies and the "World Jewish Conspiracy". He maintained friendly contacts with the SS general Erwin Rösener, who was later convicted of war crimes.
Rupnik disagreed with all attempts by members of the Slovenian Covenant and some military leaders of the Slovene Home Guard to rise against the Nazis, nor did he intervene when several of his former collaborators were arrested by the Nazis and sent to Dachau concentration camp.:100
Arrest, trial, and execution
On 5 May 1945, Leon Rupnik fled to Austria with a small group of 20 collaborators. He was arrested by the British on 23 July and returned to Yugoslavia in January 1946. He was put on trial alongside Rösener and others, and was sentenced to death for treason on 30 August 1946. He was executed by firing squad on 4 September 1946 at Ljubljana's Žale cemetery, and was buried the same day in an unmarked grave. In January 2020 the Supreme Court of Slovenia annulled the court judgement of 1946 for not meeting the necessary legal standards in force at the time of trial. In response, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate, issued a condemnation of the annulment, stating that Rupnik "played a major role in the arrest and deportation of Jews from Ljubljana in 1943 and 1944". They further noted "This shameful decision constitutes a shocking distortion of the history of the Holocaust and a horrific insult to Rupnik's many victims and their families. We kindly request that you promptly convey our protest to the pertinent Slovenian authorities so that the proper measures can be taken to undo the enormous damage wrought by this unjust decision of the Slovenian Supreme Court". Because some had understood the court's decision to constitute political rehabilitation, statements were issued that this was in fact not the case.
Known for his antisemitic and openly pro-Nazi views already prior to the war,:91 Rupnik was a notorious anti-Semite, who wrote anti-Semitic tracts and made antisemitic speeches. Some notable examples include:
In a lecture he gave in Ljubljana in 1944, entitled 'Bolshevism: a tool of international Judaism' and subtitled 'Jewish endeavours towards global supremacy', Rupnik said the following:
The Jews straight dogmatic hatred of all who are not Jewish is finally challenged everywhere by a revolt by the home nation that sooner or later removes all parasites from their country or limits by law their economic, religious and political activity. (A transcript of the entire lecture is available.)
In a lecture at Polhov Gradec, on 5 June 1944 Rupnik stated:
With solid trust in the righteousness of the leader of Europe, of the German nation, we must calmly and with all fanaticism lead the battle against Jewish global supremacy serving Stalin’s and Tito’s bandits and their assistants, Anglo-American gangsters.
At the ceremony where the Domobranci (Slovenian Home Guard) swore oaths of allegiance, 30 January 1945 Rupnik said:
If the German soldier and you, my bold Domobranci, allowed these Jewish mercenaries to flourish, they would yet kill all decent thinkers, believers in the nation and homeland of true Slovenian birth together with their children – or we will make cannon fodder or slaves of them, steal their property, homes, villages, devastate the national body and suppress the Jew. These are the nations of Europe, our broader homeland, in whose centre the largest, German nation has taken upon itself the struggle against the Jewish corruption of the world.
His son, Vuk Rupnik, was an active officer of the Slovene Home Guard and commander of one of the most belligerent units in the militia. His son-in-law, Stanko Kociper, later emigrated to Argentina and wrote a book in which he tried to vindicate Rupnik's role in the war.
- Tamara Griesser Pečar, Razdvojeni narod. Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 2007.
- Boris Mlakar, Slovensko domobranstvo (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 2003)
- Rupnik Line pictures from military photos on webshots
- Brigham, Daniel T. (4 June 1942). "Heydrich Reprisal Executes 25 More - Nazi Leader Is Still Critically III Following an Operation and Third Transfusion - Croats Ambush Italian - Pavelitch Broadcasts Appeal to Communists and Others to End Their Resistance". New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Griesser-Pečar, Tamara. 2007. Razdvojeni narod: Slovenija 1941-1945: okupacija, kolaboracija, državljanska vojna, revolucija. Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, p. 305.
- Boris Mlakar, Slovensko domobranstvo (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 2003)
- Kranjc, Gregor Joseph (2013). To Walk with the Devil: Slovene Collaboration and Axis Occupation, 1941-1945. University of Toronto Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-4426-1330-0.
- Bojan Godeša, Kdor ni z nami, je proti nam (Ljubljana: Cankarjeva založba, 1995)
- Three photos of Rupnik, SS General Erwin Rösener and Gregorij Rožman. The first is outside Ljubljana central stadium on 20 April 1944 when the Domobranci swore oaths of allegiance; the last is on 30 January 1945 as the Domobranci paraded past after again swearing loyalty: http://muceniskapot.nuovaalabarda.org/galleria-slo-7.php
- Rupnik, Rožman and Rösener in conversation. Date and place unknown. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Yugoslavs Doom Trio in War Crimes Case". New York Times. Associated Press. 31 August 1946. p. 3. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- "Three War Criminals Executed". New York Times. Associated Press. 9 September 1946. p. 3. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- More on his execution in:
Velikonja, Tine (September 1996). "Pred petdesetimi leti – Strelišče na Dolenjski cesti". Zaveza. Nova Slovenska Zaveza. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Planinšič, Elizabeta (8 January 2020). "Razveljavljena sodba generalu Rupniku". Večer. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
- "Razveljavljena sodba generalu Rupniku". Delo. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
- "Wiesenthal Center Slams Cancellation by Slovenian Supreme Court of Conviction of Leon Rupnik, World War II President of Provisional Government of Ljubljana". www.wiesenthal.com. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
- Planinšič, Elizabeta (10 January 2020). "Primer Rupnik: Razveljavitev sodbe še ne pomeni rehabilitacije". Večer. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Lebar, Jolanda (12 January 2020). "Razveljavitev obsodbe generala Leona Rupnika ne pomeni njegove rehabilitacije". RTV SLO. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- "Boljševizem: Orodje Mednarodnega Židovstva" (PDF). Peace Institute. pp. 202–206.
- Repe, Božo. "No Title". theslovenian.com. Glasilo Magazine. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Sajovic, Bogdan (16 August 2007). "Predsednik Ljubljanske pokrajine" (PDF). Demokracija: 46–48. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Media related to Leon Rupnik at Wikimedia Commons
| Mayor of Ljubljana