Over 300 buses, mainly from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany and Austria, made their way to the site of where tens of thousands of soldiers of the 1941-45 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and civilians were killed after the end of World War II in Bleiburg.
Organised by the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon, under the auspices of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the commemoration began on Saturday with a mass led by Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanić.
It is understood that in May 1945 tens of thousands of NDH soldiers and civilians wanting to surrender to the allies were killed after the British army refused to accept the surrender and turned them over to the Yugoslav army. A large number were killed in the field and many died in the following months on marches back to the then Yugoslavia known as the Way of the Cross marches.
None of Croatia’s top-ranking political figures were present in Bleiburg on Saturday. President Grabar-Kitarović travelled alone to the site during the week to pay her respects away from the media attention, whilst Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Josip Leko and Defence Minister Ante Kotromanović visited the Slovenian town of Tezno, where a mass grave for the victims was located, on Friday.
“I came here for the people who were killed at the end of a war. This is a tragic, horrible event which puts a stain on a just fight and one should not run from it, nor do I run from it. I am here as Croatia’s prime minister and statesman,” Croatia’s Prime Minister said before laying a wreath at the site.
(photo / BokicaK wikimedia)