Ljubljana during 2nd World War

Ljubljana was first affected by the storm of WW2 in April 1941, when the city became occupied by Italian forces. At the beginning of May, the territory of Slovenia, occupied by the Italians, was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy under the name of Ljubljana Province (Provincia di Lubiana). In 1942, Ljubljana, now a city lying between the frontiers of two countries (Italy and Germany), overnight became surrounded by barbed wire, shelters and minefields. Many people living in Ljubljana did not leave the town as long as the war lasted. Besides limited movement the occupation brought about a strict occupation regime, which included the most radical interventions in terms of disciplining the subjugated people: banishments, deportations to concentration camps and the shooting of hostages. In September 1943, after the capitulation of Italy, Ljubljana was then occupied by the German army. During the period between the two occupations, blockades were lifted for a short time, at which time thousands of people fled the city in order to join the Partisan Brigade of Ljubljana, which marched through the liberated Ljubljana less than a year and a half later.

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The life of Ljubljana’s inhabitants during the occupation was decisively characterised by the fact that the urban area was separated from its rural background. The town lacked food, fuel and other necessities of life. Parks started to be tilled, while wooden fences and trees in gardens were disappearing.
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The life of Ljubljana’s inhabitants during the occupation was decisively characterised by the fact that the urban area was separated from its rural background. The town lacked food, fuel and other necessities of life. Parks started to be tilled, while wooden fences and trees in gardens were disappearing. 

      

One part of Slovenian and Ljubljana reality was the internal conflictseen during these long years of war. The reason for the rise of this conflict was due to the different views held on the situation of the war and the need for a united resistance along with the introduction of revolutionary ideas in the resistance movement. The anti-revolutionary side in this conflict collaborated with the military and civil authorities of the occupation. Under Italian occupation, village watches were organized, which were later renamed the Anti-communist Voluntary Police by the Italian authorities. September 1943 saw the appearance of Slovenian Homeguard, which was granted the status of auxiliary police force within the German forces.

The year 1945 (or the last four months of the war in Ljubljana) represented the final test for the liberation movement in the city and for the citizens of Ljubljana. At the beginning of the year approximately 300 people were arrested in Ljubljana being suspected of cooperating with the resistance movement. During these months several shipmentstook these people from Ljubljana to German concentration camps. Furthermore, some Slovenian Homeguard officers were also arrested being accused of collaborating with the allied secret services. The pressure of the German occupation on the population was fierce and the allied forces and partisan units had had a hard time escaping them.Allied planes frequently flew over Ljubljana and occasionally bombed and fired upon the city.The citizens were, among other things, forced to cooperate in various activities for the fortification of the city, when amongst other things, men as well as women had to dig trenches.

  

The beginning of May 1945 was a time of swift change and decisive moments. By 8May the German army, collaboration units and a mass of civilians had moved out of the city. The latter saw the approaching partisan army as a threat of revolutionary violence. Early the following morning, the first units of the Yugoslav army marched into Ljubljana. Among them was the Ljubljana Brigade. The citizens were well prepared for their arrival. Several days before their liberation they had prepared everything needed to decorate the city. They had printed and sewn Slovenian and Yugoslav flags, prepared flowers, collected cigarettes and baked cakes for the partisans. The Liberation Front activists organized manifestations and mass gatherings.

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At the same time many citizens of Ljubljana were waiting to face their destiny in the German concentration camps. After the liberation, the internees were held in camps by allied forces until their countries of origin organized transport back to their homes. In most cases the prisoners had to wait until the beginning of June to return home. These fugitives, who retreated across the Karavanken Mountains at the end of war, then lived for several years in refugee camps in Koroška. After that they went to live in various other countries, mostly in Latin and North America. The militiamen, who fled to Koroška before the partisan army arrived and were handed to Yugoslav authorities the same month, were then killed without trial in Kočevski rog, in Teharje and other locations.

    

On 9 May the end of war was celebrated in Ljubljana by a nation who was a part of the anti-fascist coalition in Europe. The following day (10May) the Slovenian government went from Ajdovščina to Ljubljana; it was composed of resistance movement representatives and they were awaited by mass manifestations. Celebrations of the liberation lasted for several weeks, with various events taking place, as well as rallies praising victory, paying homage to those who fell in action or were killed in the war, congresses and similar. When blockades were opened, the citizens of Ljubljana went en masse to the areas surrounding the city to take trips; finally, the barbed circle around the city was about to become just a horrible memory.