Bleiburg: Commemoration for the victims of execution

NEWS 12.05.2018 14:08
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Source: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A ceremony to commemorate tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH), was held in Bleiburg, southern Austria on Saturday.

The ceremony began with a mass led by the Archbishop of Zadar and President of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference, Zelimir Puljic. “Here we pray for the peace and rest of the souls of thousands of people killed at execution sites and buried, without a name or grave marker, in mass graves,” said Puljic at the beginning of the service.

The victims who were commemorated on Saturday had surrendered to allied forces in Bleiburg in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Many had been executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia.

The Saturday commemoration was addressed by the Director of Pastoral Care for Croats Abroad, Tomislav Markic, who said that Bleiburg Field was filled with memories of countless victims “who were hoping for salvation but instead embarked on a difficult path of the cross, which took many of them to death.”

“Let us do this in dignified manner, as the Catholics do, by praying for mercy both for the victims and for the perpetrators of these terrible crimes, but also for those who still today find excuses for them or want to misuse the victims for their own selfish purposes, so that they all may turn around and repent,” Markic said.

The ceremony was organised by the Bleiburg Guard of Honour in cooperation with the Directorate of Pastoral Care for Croats Abroad and the Croatian Catholic Mission in Klagenfurt, and was held under the sponsorship of the Croatian Parliament and the co-sponsorship of the Croat National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ceremony was among others attended by Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic, Chairman of the Croat National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina and member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic, Croatian Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Tomo Medved, and other officials.