Slovenian and Croatian Presidents together for the first time at a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of the liberation of the former Italian fascist concentration camp Kampor on Rab island
Rab, Croatia, 5. 9. 2020 | press release, speech
The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor and the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović today attended a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of the liberation of the former Italian fascist concentration camp Kampor on the island of Rab. The presidents placed a wreath on the monument to the victims of the Italian fascist terror in Kampor. This is the first time that the Slovenian and Croatian presidents together paid tribute to the victims of the concentration camp Kampor.
After the memorial ceremony, President Pahor and President Milanović visited an exhibition of photographs and other documents entitled Last Witnesses - Recollections of Internees of Italian Fascist Camps. The tour was led by Saša Petejan, one of the authors of the exhibition, and Vesna Teršelić, Director of the DOCUMENTA – Centre for Dealing with the Past.
On the margins of the memorial ceremony, President Pahor and President Milanović held a bilateral meeting. The two presidents thus continue and strengthen good and friendly cooperation between the two countries.
An important role in the annual preparation of the memorial ceremony is played by the Gonars-Rab Concentration Camp Committee operating within the War Victims Coordination Committee under the Union of the Associations for the Values of the National Liberation Movement of Slovenia.
In addition to representatives of the Gonars-Rab Concentration Camp Committee within the Union of the Associations for the Values of the National Liberation Movement of Slovenia and the delegation of the Municipality of Kočevje, which is twinned with the town of Rab, many other delegations honoured the memory of the victims by laying of wreaths.
The Rab concentration camp was a fascist camp set up by the Italian authorities on the island of Rab in July 1942 and was dissolved after Italy’s capitulation in September 1943. Approximately 15,000 people were interned in the camp, most of them from Slovenia and Gorski Kotar. In 1953, a memorial park was built on the camp’s site according to the plans of the Slovenian architect Edvard Ravnikar.
Address by the President of the Republic. Check against delivery!
"The decision to come to Rab and, together with Croatian President and my friend Zoran Milanović, pay homage to the victims of the Italian concentration camp Kampor, was necessary and simple – on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, I wished to pay tribute, both personally and on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia, to the memory of the victims of the concentration camp Kampor, in which so many people suffered and died.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic has established new rules and made it impossible for us to socialise with the survivors and their relatives who come here every year.
I thank the town of Rab, all the authorities in the Republic of Croatia, and the Union of the Associations for the Values of the National Liberation Movement of Slovenia for organising memorial ceremonies every year.
In this beautiful park, created by Ravnikar, we are aware of the suffering caused by intolerance and hatred.
Every act of intolerance and hatred begins with words and small deeds, with vile little gestures of evil that grow into great evil before most people realise it. That’s how fascism, which showed his face here on Rab, happened.
In this concentration camp, tens of thousands of prisoners suffered in unbearable conditions, mostly from Slovenian towns, Gorski Kotar and elsewhere. Slovenes and Croats, somewhat later also Jews, were the main victims of this suffering. Many of the victims were children.
The generation of those who experienced the tragedy of World War II is slowly leaving. With them vanishes the direct memory of the moral rock bottom of civilisation that was reached in the middle of the past century. It is our moral duty and responsibility to preserve and nurture their memories. We must make sure that we pass them on to the coming generations as one of the pillars of peace; remembrance alone is not enough; oblivion would be a prelude to new horror and shame.
The fact that we are here together for the first time together symbolises the importance of friendship and mutual awareness of the need to preserve memory, which should also be a reminder.
Never again should there be war – we say this very often. This is why the world leaders formed the United Nations 75 years ago.
Our European peace is based on reconciliation between the two greatest opponents, the German and French peoples. Today’s European Union is built on their reconciliation. The European Union is an integration in which we want to achieve a better life together, but it still is, and will still be, above all, a peace project.
It is very important that, as individuals, we are not indifferent to the community; we should look out for each other, and live in harmony and reconciliation with one another."