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Speech at the opening of the Memorial Park in Maribor

Maribor, 20.6.2012  |  speech

Speech by Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the opening of the Memorial Park at Dobrava cemetery in Maribor
Maribor, 20 June 2012

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attends the opening of the Memorial Park at Dobrava cemetery in Maribor (photo: Stanko Gruden/STA)Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s opening ceremony of the Memorial Park here at Dobrava cemetery is an important devotional and cultural deed. At this silent place, we pledge solemn reverence for all the victims of war of the 20th century, a century permeated with the violence of war.

This is not my first time here. On the Day of Remembrance of the Dead, November 1st, for several years I have placed a wreath in the name of the Slovenian state in memory of the people buried here and thus paid our respect to all victims of war and post-war mass killings. As we are gathered here today at this site of painful memory, we should stand united in expressing our respect for all those who died as victims of war and totalitarianism.

The recently ended 20th century was a century of great wars. Among these wars, the two World Wars caused the greatest destruction and most atrocities. The First World War was a catastrophe, which destroyed the old world. Millions of casualties left their mark on millions of European families in the decades, which followed. The consequences of this war poisoned the societies and consciousness of European nations, and were followed by inconceivable militarisation, the exaltation of violence and expansion of the cult of death. All forms of totalitarianism in the 20th century had their origins in the social disintegration caused by the First World War. Its consequences defined the post-war spiritual and political world and laid the ground for further destruction and the Second World War.

In the level of destruction and number of casualties, the Second World War was even more fatal than the First. The Second World War threw the world off its moral hinges. The extent of the crimes against humanity, war crimes and violence against civilian populations was incomprehensible. The genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and the acts of cruelty motivated by genocide against many European peoples, including ours, will remain imprinted in human consciousness forever.

The defeat of Nazism and Fascism, the two sources of evil which triggered the Second World War, was a necessary requirement for the survival of civilisation and preservation of the hope that the world would progress in its development. The world learned important lessons from the victory and from the entire tragic experience of the Second World War. The mankind realized that respect for human rights is a universal value, which has to be embraced by the whole world and protected by each and every country. Human rights have to be respected and carefully nurtured as fundamental social and legal assets for us and for future generations - and as a bastion against new wars.

However, human rights are not the only bastion against new wars. There are many, and the Memorial Park in Tezno is one of one them. It will remind us forever of the devastation and mass killings, which were the result of the great wars of the 20th century. We will be permanently reminded of the deep wounds left by these wars and of the great number of deaths they caused. The end of the Second World War also witnessed extra-judicial killings. And it was at Dobrava at Tezno that one of the major massacres took place. It is appropriate that these crimes are again decisively and clearly condemned today. On every suitable occasion, as the President of the Republic of Slovenia, I condemn all extra-judicial killings, and all forms of war and revolutionary violence. All those acts must be investigated and the whole truth must be told.

I have made these appeals many times in the past and today I wish to make, once again, my appeal to all citizens of the Republic of Slovenia to cooperate with investigating authorities and those conducting historical research. Truth and justice should be our guides. These are the requirements of our time. It is necessary to repeat that acknowledging the truth demands both: elementary human integrity, as well as application of serious historical methodology. Without scrupulous and methodologically mature study, we cannot reach the truth. Justice, for its part, requires respect for and application of legal proceedings as the only method of establishing legal responsibility and guilt. The less burdened by ideology, political interests or party calculations, all the more direct will be the path to truth and justice.

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attends the opening of the Memorial Park at Dobrava cemetery in Maribor (photo: Stanko Gruden/STA)Ladies and Gentlemen,

The wars of the 20th century have left many painful memories. Each person has the right to his or her own memory, and each memory must be respected. And thus, we must do everything possible to establish a clear demarcation between piety and politics.

On what should we contemplate in particular on the occasion of the today’s act of respect?

Let today’s act be a contribution to the creation of a better homeland, a better Europe and a better world. Let this act be yet another bastion against the dominance of racism, xenophobia, ideological hatred or any other prejudice. Let this act be yet another bastion against any new form or ideology of totalitarianism. Let us appeal to the conscience of humanity that such ideologies do not pave the way to new wars and new victims. And above all, let us do everything in our power to respect the truth. Today, we live in freedom and peace, and the atrocities of the wars in which the people who are buried here died are gradually becoming a distant memory. The truth is a necessity for the present and the assurance of a stable future. Let us respect it.

But at the same time, let us also show respect for the dead. The dead have the right to a burial place and to a monument where, in silent sadness, the living can revive the memory of the dead and the time in which they lived. This is the right of the present and future generations.

The Memorial Park in Dobrava should also be a monument to our understanding and the cultural level we have attained in Slovenia. The correlation between all the messages of this park and Maribor as the European Capital of Culture is natural and noble.

I thank all of you who have contributed to creating this park.

May all those who have found their final resting place here rest in eternal peace.
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