Bleiburg Massacres of Croatians – Lest We Forget


Memorial to the Croatian victims
of communist crimes at Bleiburg, Austria

The legacy of the Bleiburg Tragedy (Massacres/genocide of Croatian freedom fighters and civilians) by Yugoslav communist forces, aided by the WWII Allies, is catastrophic for human rights. Today, 12 May 2018, the annual memorial mass and remembrance at the field of Bleiburg, Austria, of hundreds of thousands victims who fell starting with 15 May 1945 and continued to fall after those that survived that massacre walked to their deaths on the so-called Way of the Cross that lasted months, most victims ending up in mass graves and pits strewn in their hundreds across Slovenia and Croatia.

Lest we forget!

History has not been written by the victims and it is up to today’s world to set the history right – to pursue facts so that justice for these victims does not remain elusive.

On the 4th of May 1945 began the exodus of the greater part of the Croatian Armed Forces and civilian population westwards in order to surrender themselves to the Allies before the advancing communist partisans. The Allies promised them safety; the Allies knew very well that only brutal death awaited them under Josip Broz Tito’s communist regime.

Croats fleeing from communist Yugoslavia, May 1945
In search for protection

The British war archives (War Office 1704465) there were 200,000 members of the WWII Croatian army who accompanied and protected about 500.000 civilians that walked towards Bleiburg, with the intention to surrender to the British military authorities there for protection. They arrived at Bleiburg on 14 May 1945, establishing contact with the British, telling them that they wanted to surrender to the British Army and to put the civilian population under British protection. The British commending officer replied that he had been informed of the coming of the Croats, and that the Croats would be allowed tomorrow to continue their march towards the West and to keep their arms. However, next day on the 15th of May the whole situation changed. The reversal happened after the political adviser of the Supreme Allied Commander for the Mediterranean Fieldmarshal Harold Alexander, with his seat at Caserta near Naples, Harold MacMillan, directly responsible to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the 13th of May 1945 in Klagenfurt ordered to the commander of the 5th Corps of the British 8th Army, General Charles Keightley, that „a great number of the renegade Yugoslav troops, excluding the „chetniks“, should be handed over to the Yugoslav partisans.“ That order was contrary to the promise given by Fieldmarshal Alexander that the Allies would receive as war prisoners the Croatian troops after these surrender their weapons. This promise was given by Alexander to a representative of the Holy See, when Pope Pius XII, at the request of the Croatian Cardinal Stepinac, intervened with the Allied Commander to save the fleeing Croatian people. That the intention of the partisans was to prevent the surrender of the Croatian refugees to the Allies could be concluded from the telegram sent by Tito, as the supreme commander of the Yugoslav Army, to his troops on the 13th of May 1945, that is after the end of the war. In essence Tito’s telegram ordered his communist Partisans that these Croats fleeing Yugoslavia must attack and destroy them.

In the morning of the 14th of May 1945 the Croatian liaison officer of Jewish extraction Deutsch-Maceljski offered to the British the surrender of the Croatian armies and of the civilians. Second World War had already ended. Weapons put down and white flag raised among the Croatians seeking protection at Bleiburg field.

Croats at Beliburg field May 1945

According to the eyewitness report of the Dominican priest Drago Kolimbatovic, during the surrender English soldiers were lying at the rims of the meadow with machine-guns pointing at the Croats. Kolimbatovic further stated:“ What followed was a bitter experience, which we could have expected from the wild Bushmen but never from the cultured Englishmen. Under the pretence of checking whether we were hiding weapons, their soldiers indulged in robbery. They took away all golden and valuable objects which some of the Croats carried with themselves in order to ease their hardships in foreign lands.“ Kolimbatovic summarized the behaviour of the British in the following words: “In the English instead of refuge, we found executioners.“ (Quoted from the weekly „Glas Koncila“ of 13th May 2007). In order that the British perfidy be even greater, Fieldmarshal Alexander sends Tito a strictly confidential telegram on the 16th of May 1945, that is one day after the surrender of the Croats to the Yugoslav communists, telling Tito that the British would like to hand over the Croatian prisoners to him and asking Tito, whether he agrees with this proposal. Tito replies to Alexander on the 17th of May that he had received his telegram concerning the proposed handover of 200.000 „Yugoslavs“ and that he (Tito) consents with gratitude to this proposal. All this was happening after the Croats had already been extradited to Tito’s communists and after many of them had already been slaughtered.

What had actually happened on the 15th of May 1945, the day of the surrender? When after the laying down of the weapons Tito’s partisans were certain that their victims could no longer defend themselves and that the British did not intend to intervene (the British, namely, threatened that they would bombard the Croatian troops and civilians if the Croats did not immediately lay down their arms), the partisan commissioner Milan Basta, a Serb from Lika, issued his order.

What followed could only be described as an apocalyptic massacre. Here is the testimony of one eyewitness. „Men, women and children were falling down in sheaves while the partisans were mowing left and right with their machineguns over the open field. Soon so many people were slaughtered that the partisans ventured to descend among the survivors and with visible pleasure to beat them to death, to kick them with boots and to stab them with bayonets.“ (Report of the eyewitness Ted Pavic in Nikolaj Tolstoy’s book „The Minister and the Massacres“, London 1986, p. 104).

Croats who were not massacred at Bleiburg field
in May 1945 were forced to walk
to their death by communist Yugoslav forces
Photo: Celje, Slovenia, 18 May 1945

When the slaughter at Bleiburg was finished on the 16th of May, the remaining mass of disarmed and frightened Croatian prisoners was driven on foot into Yugoslavia, to the blood-fields of Kocevski Rog. Huda Jama, Tezno, and others further on, on a death march known as the Way of the Cross – across Slovenia and Croatia all the way to the Romanian border. Just under 1,000 mass graves with victims of these communist crimes have been discovered in Croatia to date.

Huda jama/pit
filled with Croatian victims of communist crimes

Although communist Yugoslavia government murdered and repressed more people than any other regime in the history of Croatia, their crimes have gotten only a tiny fraction of the public awareness, recognition and justice. We must do more, much more, to give justice to the victims and perpetrators of communist crimes. It isn’t yet too late. But it might well be in a few years, as more members of both groups die of old age and, in general, people become so impoverished in spirit and sustenance. Human rights pressure for victims of communist crimes must get its day in the sunlight of a just world. Without justice dished out to the past, the future is almost not worth having, as it will be the same as the past. Ina Vukic

Buried Alive – Abyss of Communist Crimes

The enormity of communist crimes against Croatian people, part of the former Yugoslavia (WWII and post-WWII), is staggering, overwhelming, astonishing… utterly cruel and bestial. These crimes on the whole still go unpunished, ignored and covered up or justified particularly through today’s so-called antifascists labeling all attempts to muster up justice for the victims of communist crimes as ‘neofascism’!

Roman Leljak’s book “Huda Jama” (Huda Pit) about which I have written before has now been released in English. Its title is “Buried Alive – Mass Killings of POWs and Civilians by Tito’s Partisans” and it can be purchased online via several leading online bookstores.

In the Foreword of the book Roman Leljak writes:

“My research for this book started in the spring of 1989. When I look back on that period of my life now I cannot help but deeply appreciate Descartes’ maxim: ‘I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am’. Precious few people on the planet today would dare dispute the veracity of the proposition. In that sense I have to admit that until that fateful year of 1989 I had been living in ignorance. The Communist educational system was based on parroting state propaganda. I was not allowed to think. The system needed to produce intellectually challenged people in order to survive. Many of us remember those days well. The teacher would always start the class with the words: ‘Long live Yugoslavia.’ We would have to readily reply with: ‘With Tito forward!’ Many times I heard my father complain, ‘This country is slowly but surely destroying itself. We have to travel to Italy and Austria – countries where rotten capitalism rules – to buy clothes and fruit.’ I did not exactly understand what he was saying. Maybe I was too much of a coward to understand.

Dear reader! This is an expanded edition of the book I wrote back in 1989. It was published that same year in Yugoslavia in Slovenian. That year I started my collaboration with Janez Jansa, Igor Bavcar and many others who would later play an instrumental part in achieving independence for Slovenia.

I finished my first book, titled Alone against the World in the late ‘8os. At that time Janez Jansa was the editor in chief of the Znanost (Science) magazine and he published my book. The book deals with the methods, techniques and tactics used by Yugoslav Military Intelligence. In 1990 the book was translated into Croatian. Unfortunately, and in a sense inexplicably, it did not draw a lot of attention in Croatia. In Slovenia, on the other hand, the book is considered an important work of history, especially in the context of theTen-Day War.

Roman Leljak

I was born in the Croatian Zagorje region. My father Rudolf worked in the city of Krapina as a photographer and my mother Milica Belosevic worked in the Zutica textile factory. In 1964 my father got a job in the Ingrad construction company in Celje and we relocated to Slovenia. I was six months old at the time. We lived in the village of Prosenisko, near the town of Teharje. One spring day in 1989, in front of St. Anne’s Church in Teharje, I read again, mesmerized by the words, Ivanka Skrabec’s letter:

In a few hours my life will end.Oh dear God! You know I die innocent, just like your Son. My child, my gentle angel. How I long to see your face, graced with a smile, cheering me up and taking all the worries away! Oh my child, my gentle white flowers! I will not live to see your tiny white hands. I will not live to feel your tender embrace. I will never pull you close to my bosom, let you feel my heartbeat, even though you are so close, so very close to me. Never, my sweet child! Down yonder, in the darkforest’s grasp, we’ll will adorn our eternal home.

My lips will never sing a soft lullaby to you. I will be your cradle, your bed, but oh so cold and hard. The branches above us will croon you a lullaby. Sleep now, sleep tight my child! You are close to my loving, ever loving heart. I love you dearly but I’m helpless, I cannot save you from death, my child, I cannot save you. You just sleep tight now my angel! You cannot know the horror of what awaits us. We’ll die together, Ill be in your thoughts when the moment comes, to soothe you. And then our pain and suffering will cease, our struggle will end. We’ll journey to God together. When I felt you for the first time I sensed your unease. I dreamed of bringing you into God’s presence for the first time, I dreamed of your tiny head wet with baptismal water. But, now, sweet child, it will be my blood pouring down your forehead. With your mother’s blood, pulsing with love, you’ll be baptized. I watched you bow before Christ in the Eucharist.My body will be a ciborium soon. You, my child, will be a host in it. From the ciborium a loving hand will pluck you and embed you in its sacred heart…

Then, my child, I will see you for the first time.My gentle angel! There I will see your face. There, you’ll see your mother for the first time and learn your first word: ‘Mama!’

Ivanka Skrabec was born in 1915 in the village of Hrovaci, near the town of Ribnica. Her father was Stanislav Skrabec (January 7, 1844 – October 6, 1918), a renowned Franciscan monk and a linguist specialized in the Slovenian language. In the fall of 1939 Ivanka started working as a teacher in the village of Sodraiica. The children took to her right away. She was selfless, devoted to her profession and always placed the interest of the children before everything. If some of the children could not attend school or were sick, she would go to their houses and teach them there. The children’s parents adored her and respected her for her unflinching devotion to the children.

Some remains of female victims
of communist crimes at Huda Pit

On the evening of May 28, 1942, the Partisans arrested Ivanka. They beat her up badly and then ceremoniously marched her to the village square where she was publically interrogated by a number of Commissars. The Commissars berated her for teaching her pupils that war was evil and accused her of not expressing support for the Communist movement. They told her that one of her crimes was the fact that she was married to France Novak, who had been conscripted into the Slovene Home Guard. As such he was an enemy of the revolution. The Commissars informed her that her husband had been sentenced to death in absentia by a Communist court and wanted to know his whereabouts. The aim of the Partisans was to publically mock and humiliate Ivanka.
After the interrogation and public humiliation the Commissars led Ivanka to her home. They placed her under house arrest and posted guards around the house. A bounty of 5,000 Italian Lire was put on her husband’s head.

On June 3, 1942, a number of Partisans came to Ivanka’s house. They beat her with such force that her blood splattered the walls of the room. Then the Partisans dragged her, all bloody and bruised, to their camp. Ivanka would never set foot into her house again.
The executioners led Ivanka to a clearing in the forest. They gave her a shovel and ordered her to dig her own grave. She begged them to let her live until her baby was born. The unborn baby was her joy: she loved her husband very much and the couple had planned to lavish the baby with a lot of love and affection. Her tormentors ignored her desperate pleas for the life of her child. They told her to shut up, stop crying and keep digging.
When she had dug the grave the Partisans strangled her. It was an act of pure bloodthirsty sadism. The degenerate commander of the execution party exclaimed, ‘This cunt is not worth a bullet!’ The killers threw Ivanka into the hole, placed her coat over her dead body and filled the hole again with the upturned soil.
Ivanka was dead. She died at the hands of ‘national liberators’.

Her body was found on August 4, 1942. The owner of that plot of land saw a piece of clothing protruding from the turf. After a few minutes of digging he saw Ivanka’s mutilated body. In the breast pocket of her blouse he found a pen and a half destroyed letter. Ivanka, knowing that the Partisans were going to kill her, had written that letter in her room. She had written it to her unborn baby. The letter reveals her anguish of knowing that her unborn child was going to be murdered. The letter is a shocking testimony to man’s cruelty to man and all people of good will ought to read it. All people with murder in their hearts should also read it because the letter possesses the power to cure those hearts, or at least prevent them from following Cain’s example.

When I read Ivanka’s letter I knew I would never be afraid to think for myself and challenge the official, Communist version of history. I started my research. At that time archival material was out of bounds. It was too dangerous for the Yugoslav authorities to allow the general public access to the documents stored in the archives because all the documents pertaining to WWII and Communist rule in general clearly reveal the criminality of the Communist regime. I had to rely on witness accounts. I simply went from door to door, asking questions. Most people, after hearing my questions and the purpose behind them, went pale and shut the door in my face. Others entreated me not to ask them such questions. Some threatened to report me to the police. I was actually arrested, in LaSko, in front of the entrance to the Huda Jama mine. I spent that night in a cell in the police station in LaSko. I was not intimidated. The very next morning I continued exploring the area and asking questions.

I decided to modify my strategy a bit. I remembered many of my childhood friends from the near-by village of Store. I had gone to primary school there and everybody in the village knew me. I asked my childhood friends to talk to their parents and grandparents about what had happened in the area after the end of WWII. The next day they kindly asked me not to speak to them ever again. I was not discouraged though. I persevered in my quest. In the fall of that year my father and I discovered human bones, buried no more than 20 centimeters underground, in Kosnica. We took a picture of the bones. That picture is the first picture ever taken of the remains of victims of Communist crimes in the area…

Thank you, St. Anne, for the courage you have given me. Thank you, Ivanka Skrabec.Thank you, unborn child.

The Way of the Cross at St. Anne’s Church would today only be known to Celje’s pilgrims had it not been for the gruesome events that happened there after the end of WWII – when brother attacked brother – and when Cain’s sin marked our people with bitterness and etched itself forever into our history): A few hundred meters below the Way of the Cross the Partisans built a concentration camp for “enemies of the revolution” in May 1945. Most captives did not make out of the camp alive and in that sense the Way of the Cross became their Calvary. Communism, just like Nazism, was predicated on killing its enemies. The enemies were occasionally real, frequently imagined. The Partisans brutally tortured and killed a large number of people in the camp. The survivors recounted how they, while being tortured, heard the tolling of the church’s bell and found solace in the chimes. Older villagers remember hearing loud prayers emanating from the camp at night.
It took 20 years for the truth about Huda Jama to become known. The second part of the book describes how we, over the course of several months, day in and day out, dug through the pits. In 2009 Huda Jama finally revealed the whole truth in all its gory details. Marko Strovs played a pivotal role in the process. I used his text for that portion of the book.

In the last part of the book I give the names of those responsible for the massacre in Huda Jama. The fact that the perpetrators of the atrocity have not been called to account for their crimes clearly shows that we are not a nation yet, that we do not deserve a state of our own. We have not even given a proper and dignified burial to the victims in Huda Jama.
No one has yet been formally accused of the crimes I describe in my book. Most of the perpetrators are old men today, living comfortably on their Veteran’s pensions. Not only did the Communists bestially tortured and murdered the victims, they also confiscated their property and moved into the victims’ homes. It is important to note that Veteran’s pensions are among the highest in the pension scheme.
Dear Croatians, wherever in the world this book may find you! Dear people of good will everywhere! After 70 years we are still fighting for the truth. Please, let us persevere in this fight. God is on our side. We owe it to our children…”

Among the people I have so far met in my life who touched me with the fresh and delightful air of truth, however gruesome and disturbing the content of that truth may be, and groundbreaking persistence for good, is Roman Leljak. Having attended a number of his talks and book promotions on facts of communist crimes, I am left both gratefully delighted and painfully shattered – delighted that the truth is being exposed, shattered that it has not yet brought full justice for the victims of communist crimes. The battle for truth and justice continues…and in the meantime, I trust many will obtain and read Roman Leljak’s book “Buried Alive” and join the battle … Ina Vukic


Roman Leljak and Ina Vukic, 2017

The Haunting Reminders of Depravity of Communist Crimes

Huda Pit Communist Crimes mass grave Transfer of victims' remains ceremony Photo source:

Huda Pit
Communist Crimes mass grave
Transfer of victims’ remains ceremony
Photo source:


It was May, 1945. The Second World War was over, and the real agony of civilian refugees and defeated soldiers (independence and freedom from Kingdom of Yugoslavia fighters in particular) from the territories of former Yugoslavia had just begun. The agony of the defeated Croatian soldiers and civilians is known as the Way of the Cross. Instead of the humanitarian protection they should have received, Yugoslav partisans, communists, gave them death sentences. Endless columns of refugees from Yugoslavia walked towards the West, seeking refuge and instead were sent back and sent on the road of no return – Huda Pit was one of the places where that road finished for thousands innocent victims.
Post WWII Communist Yugoslavia was literally littered with mass graves, particularly Croatia and Slovenia – the remains cluttered the underground in deafening silence for decades as Yugoslavia’s communists kept a tight lid over the mass graves and their depraved crime sprees, filled with hatred for and revenge against anyone disagreeing with communism or actively seeking freedom and independence. Up till now some 624 mass graves of communist crimes have been discovered in Slovenia with multitudes of thousands of tortured and slaughtered Croats, not only POW soldiers, but also old men and women, women with children.

It was in 2009 when the authorities first opened the Huda Jama (Pit) mine, some 80 Km northeast of Ljubljana, one of several hundreds of mass graves dotted around the former Yugoslavia filled with remains of victims of communist crimes, mass slaughter. ‘It is one of the most shocking things you could see in your life,’ said at the time Barbara Brezigar, Slovenian State Prosecutor, reacting to the terrible sight she had seen of the victims’ remains.

Inside Huda Pit mass grave (photo taken 2009)

Inside Huda Pit mass grave (photo taken 2009)

Huda Pit is believed to be one of the largest multiple mass graves of members of defeated armies and civilians killed towards the end of WWII by Communist authorities and intelligence services. There are sealed-off disused mine shafts within the old mine forming mass graves experts believe could contain over several thousands of victims, Slovenians and mainly Croats, women and children among them.

Many gathered at Huda Pit on 3 October 2016 to witness the transferal from mass grave of remains of victims of communist crimes of former Yugoslavia Photo:

Many gathered at Huda Pit
on 3 October 2016 to witness
the transferal from mass grave of remains
of victims of communist crimes of former Yugoslavia


Transferal of the remains of the first 800 victims unearthed to a memorial centre at Dobrava, west of Ljubljana, had begun on Monday 3 October 2016. Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek of Celje, Slovenia, led the funeral and carrying-of-remains ceremony in the presence of the Slovenian president Barut Pahor and hundreds of people many of whom are still wondering whether the remains of their parent, grandparent, brother, sister … were among those carried out from this pit on Monday – all they know is that communists slaughtered and buried them, somewhere in the area. The transfer of the victims’ remains is likely to be completed by 27 October when Slovenian President Borut Pahor is due to attend a commemoration at the Maribor cemetery. The burial of remains at Dobrava (Tezno) will enable later burials into individual family graves once identification of the victims is completed; there will also be a common graveyard prepared for some of these victims whose identity may not be confirmed.
Communist crimes’ apologists will go on telling the world that all these people deserved to die because they were Nazi-collaborators. They will not tell the world that these people were executed without a trial, without a shred of evidence against them when it comes to Nazi-collaboration. The slaughter was a part of a political agenda where communism had to clear the way – without significant opposition to it – for its rule and regime in Yugoslavia. Communists acted as judge, jury and executioner to those with differing political views.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor with Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek at Huda Pit Monday 3 October 2016 Photo: STA

Slovenian President Borut Pahor
with Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek
at Huda Pit Monday 3 October 2016
Photo: STA

President Borut Pahor has stated on Monday that the reconciliation of the formerly opposed sides and coming to terms with the past is a continuous process, and that the act of reburial could be a historic turning point. “Reconciliation is possible only once we are ready to forgive and to admit the truth even if it is painful, hard and incriminating,” Pahor said during the ceremony, attended by victims’ relatives.

President Pahor gave an exclusive statement to the “Bujica” TV program team at the Huda Pit site on Monday:
This was necessary to do in order to deal with the past and for a better understanding of the future. I know that there are those who will say that it is more important to solve the current problems and that the history cannot assist with this, but I do not think like that! The fact that we have today begun solving one of the most dramatic events in our history from the middle of the last century, can also help the future of our nations. The job is not done yet. I wish that in the near future we will able to say that all our dead are buried in peace, and that our children and grandchildren will only then be able to devote themselves to other problems. At the last informal meeting I had with your President, Mrs. Grabar – Kitarovic, we talked about Huda Pit and all the other places where the victims require a dignified burial and reverence paid, piety shown for the deceased who were killed without trial, after the Second World War in Slovenia. We agreed that we need as two of the Presidents, act in such a way that will send a message of reconciliation regardless of the past the future peace. This will be done during coming months.”

Bishop Lipovsek blessing the caskets with victims' remains Monday 3 October 2016 Huda Pit Slovenia Photo: STA

Bishop Lipovsek blessing the caskets with victims’ remains
Monday 3 October 2016 Huda Pit Slovenia
Photo: STA

There is reported evidence that some of the victims were buried alive to die in agony. Nothing, nothing justifies or lessens these crimes and it is an appalling state of affairs to have seen that no Croatian government or presidential representatives took the effort of being at Huda Pit on Monday. No excuses possible there as far as I am concerned, not even the fact that the new government has not been formed yet. Surely, the fact that to date there are over 900 locations of either mass or individual graves of victims of communist crimes in Croatia (let alone Slovenia and the other states of former Yugoslavia) where Croatian victims are buried is motive and justification enough to dedicate a whole government department to deal with this terrible injustice towards innocent people in Croatia – not just an office. This is the part of Croatian history that has not yet been dealt with properly and it must. Slovenian president Pahor just stated at Huda Pit on Monday that which has often been said in my articles and that is a good sign for justice to come.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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