Open letter to Mitja Ferenc

Open letter to Mitja Ferenc

Beitragvon John Tschinkel » Do 30. Apr 2015, 01:25

29 April, 2015

Dear Mitja Ferenc,

I regret that we were unable to meet when I was in Ljubljana in October 2013.

I have read that you will be a guest speaker at the GHGA meeting in Toronto in June 2015. I am surprised that you agreed to do this. Please let me explain why I am surprised.

In my letter of resignation dated November 21, 2000 to Elizabeth Nick, I stated that I no longer wished to be a Life Member of the GHGA now that it had joined the Gottscheer Arbeitsgemeinschaft (AG) in Klagenfurt. The GHGA joined in August 2000 in spite of having been made aware that the AG is an organization that has among its leadership former Gottscheer Nazis as “Honored Members” and “Cultural Advisors”.

This AG leadership has, for decades, practiced an adversarial position vis-a-vis Slovenia by placing the blame on the loss our homeland primarily on the Slovene. It did this mainly to deflect responsibility from the Gottscheer Nazi leadership of 1939 -1941, many of whom, again, became influential Gottscheer leaders, some as early as 1962.

This “blame others” tactic has been actively promoted by the new Gottscheer Zeitung (GZ) which became the official organ of the AG in 1955. It is being published in German by the Gottscheer Landsmannschaft in Klagenfurt under Chairman Viktor Michitsch. Its editor (1962-1971) was the same Herbert Erker who edited the “persuasive” GZ from 1939 to 1941 as a member of Wilhelm Lampeter’s inner leadership circle. From 1971 to 1996, the editor of the GZ was Ludwig Kren, also an intimate friend of Lampeter.

The “blame others” tactic turned to direct confrontation toward Slovenia when the former SS-Sturmbannführer resurfaced in Gottscheer circles on October 22, 1989. This is not a surprise, given that Lampeter in a private meeting in Leipzig on November 10, 1994, told me how he still hates the Slovene. (The joyous welcoming ceremony in Munich is documented in the January 1990 issue of the GZ). Shortly after his re-appearance, he was elected “Honorary Member” and “Cultural Adviser” in the AG. (Erker, Kren and Richard Lackner had been such dignitaries for years).

[Some background. Especially for those who don’t know -- Wilhelm Lampeter was the leader of the Gottscheer Volksgruppenleitung (VGL) that lied to the Gottschee population and coerced them to leave their homes in 1941/42, for the Reich-annexed Slovenia from which 37,000 local Slovene were expelled. When the clergy resisted, Lampeter wrote: “Catholicism is a universalistic world view that must be eradicated”. (See his Lagerbrief of July 1941). Richard Lackner was Lampeter’s Chief of Staff and leader of all Gottscheer youth under 21. (Ludwig Kren was assistant editor of the GZ under Erker during 1939-1941 and an intimate friend of Lampeter, Lackner and Erker).

Already in early 1941, the 25 year old Lampeter was promoted to Sturmbannführer (major) in the Gestapo branch of the SS by Himmler himself. However, after the resettlement, Lampeter was dismissed as leader
of the Gottscheer and assigned to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. After the war he became a professor and member of a Communist university in East Germany. Richard Lackner was also dismissed and joined, voluntarily, the SS Division “Totenkopf”, the most infamous of all SS divisions. Erker and Kren became soldiers in the Army of the Third Reich].

After the welcoming ceremony in Munich in October 1989, Lampeter, Lackner and Kren took part in all policy meetings in both Germany and Austria where political strategy, including strategy toward Slovenia, was developed. Summaries were printed in the GZ. (All issues since 1985 are in my personal archives). In my letter of resignation I informed the GHGA of this, but to no avail.

Items on the AG agenda were, among others:

1. Restitution of property by Slovenia to the former Gottscheer owners,
2. Declare as invalid the AVNOJ decrees and
3. Recognition of the “Altsiedler” (those who remained in Gottschee in 1941/42) as a Minority.
(Minority Status in Slovenia means: -- State paid language schooling in German, -- street signs in German and -- representation in the Slovene Parliament. All this for less than 100 people).

The confrontational posture of the AG toward the new Slovenia consisted of appeals to leaders of Austria and Germany and members of the Church. (Direct appeals to Slovene government, at least to my knowledge, never took place). This confrontation reached its peak with the attempt to block Slovenia from becoming a member of the EU unless it agreed to the AG demands. These demands were brought to the Austrian Parliament by Jörg Haider (a special friend of the AG) and leader of the far right Austrian party, the FPÖ. (See “Stenographisches Protokol der Republik Österreich, Freitag 14 Juli, 1995). That this coercive demand came to nothing is obvious; Slovenia became a full member of the EU in May, 2004. (Austria had joined the EU in January 1995).

The confrontation vis-à-vis Slovenia continued after Lampeter died on January 1, 2003, with Lackner, Kren and others in the AG following Lampeter’s policy. (The GHGA had joined in August 2000). In this they continued to get support from extreme right wing groups in Austria. Strategic approaches were discussed at the policy meetings in which all member organizations participated and approved the decisions.

However, the unanimity in the AG fractured when two Gottscheer member organizations in Slovenia, disagreed with the ongoing Lampeter strategy and resigned.

The Peter Kosler Verein resigned on 16 April, 2005 and the Altsiedler Verein on 8 February, 2006. Both gave as reason the disruptive and damaging demands of the AG, not only on their membership, but also on their Slovene neighbors and their nation as a whole. (The GHGA did not follow suit and remains a member of the AG until today).

Now back to the GHGA. Shortly after it became a member of the AG in 2000, the GHGA started sending one of its Directors to the annual policy meetings of the AG. For years it was Edward Skender, Vice-President of the GHGA. This is described in many issues of the GZ and in photographs that show Skender taking part in the policy meetings and in processions together with the “Honored Members” and “Cultural Advisers” and other likeminded AG “dignitaries”. (Irony is, Skender retired as Colonel in the US Army which shed so much blood fighting the Nazis of the Third Reich).

After several years, Skender was succeeded at the AG meetings by John B. Gladitsch, another Director of the GHGA. The GZ also shows this Director in policy meetings and processions, the most recent in 2014. This association and mingling with the former Nazis who facilitated our destruction and have been re-writing our history is a disgrace.

Questions to you regarding the meeting in Toronto. -- On which part of Gottscheer/Slovene and their respective history/heritage will you enlighten your audience? I doubt that you will challenge the Mantra which the AG has embedded in the minds of the Diaspora Gottscheer, especially among those in the English speaking world.

Will you, in Toronto, elaborate on your „Fazit“ comment on Page 90 of your book: “Spurensuche in der Gottschee”, where you say: “Die nationalsozialistische Politik, die die slowenische Nation vernichten wollte, liquidierte tatsächlich die Gottscheer Volksgruppe”?? (“The national-socialist policy that planned to liquidate the Slovene Nation, actually liquidated the Gottscheer Group”).

Will you add that the Gottscheer Nazis (Lampeter, Lackner Kren, Erker, et al,) were all complicit in the “liquidation”, not only of Slovenia, your country, but also of the Gottscheer as a Group?? And never having apologized to those whom they deceived?? Your GHGA sponsors, members of the AG, who are soliciting your speaker fee on the Internet, would surely not be happy hearing this.

Or will you only talk about only how many churches were destroyed by the Communist regime after the war?? If so, please be consistent. Your accounting and itemization in “Kočevska – pusta in Prazna” does not agree with the data you published on the Czmk Kočevje Facebook page.

And will you again talk about how many Domobranci were murdered by the Communist regime in the Hornwald?? I doubt that you will say that these were Nazi collaborators who swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Twice. First on April 20, 1944 while parading past Leon Rupnik and SS-General Rösener. The second time, the two were joined by Bishop Gregorij Rožman who stood on the reviewing stand between them.

Will you remind your listeners that in the four years of bitter struggle against the Nazi occupier and his collaborators, over one million Yugoslavs died? More than 95,000 of them Slovene. It would be appropriate.

But some in Toronto would say: Why bring up that part of the past. Let by-gones be by-gones. But does this not apply also to all members of the AG who continue to press their demands on Slovenia??? To me this is selective memory, especially for a Historian, given the atrocities of the Nazi invader and his collaborators during WWII in Slovenia.

Unfortunately, there are still some Diaspora Gottscheer who, unlike the post-war German people, are unwilling to confront the ugly aspects of their history and continue to conceal the past out of a recurrent sense of shame for having been hoodwinked. It is much easier to just blame the Slovene!! But the new generation is different. It wants to know the real reasons why their ancestors left their homeland. I wonder if they will hear any of this from you in Toronto.

With best wishes, John Tschinkel
John Tschinkel
 
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