1943: Lojze Grozde, beatified Slovenian

On this date in 1943, Slovenian student Lojze Grozde was executed by communist partisans.

An ardent young Catholic, the 19-year-old Grozde was on his way from boarding school in Ljubljana in Italian-occupied Slovenia* to visit some relatives when he was stopped at a roadblock.

Partisans who found the devotional book The Imitation of Christ on his person were a mite hostile, since the Holy See was not exactly at loggerheads with fascism.

All of Yugoslavia had become one gigantic dirty war, and though individual Catholics might fall anywhere on the political spectrum, the institutional church did not shy from working with fascists, who had the virtue of sharing the See’s hatred of communism.

Catholic Action, to which our day’s victim belonged, was among the many entities supplying volunteer paramilitaries that partnered with the Italian occupation.

We’ve seen this dynamic elsewhere in Eastern Europe; it may be too pat to say that all these paramilitaries were fascists, but it’s much too little to characterize them as unwilling about the partnership.** The headsman does not issue verdicts; he only carries them out.

The Archbishop of Ljubljana, Gregorij Rozman, an “enthusiastic Nazi collaborator,”† had only weeks before enthused over the Italians’ growing openness to their Slovenian partners:

We should be allowed to establish protective armed units under Slovene command in all rural areas … from men worthy of trust, to fully guarantee that the arms will be used exclusively against rebellious elements that endanger the land either with arms or revolutionary propaganda.

The soldiers have already dispersed the camps and groups of the rebels, but many of them are still in the woods and in villages, where they are camouflaged as peace-loving citizens. Such persons are not known to the Italian armed forces. Because of their unfamiliarity with the language and the difficulty of finding those who help those who hide in the woods, it will be very difficult to find the culprits. But for the local young men such difficulties are nonexistent or can easily be overcome…

His Excellence, General Roatta, has said that the people must now choose between order and Bolshevism. We have chosen order, and propose the only way that in our humble opinion will be effective and certain to achieve complete order in active collaboration with the authorities.

(Quoted here)

The partisans who caught our day’s principal apparently jumped to the conclusion that Grozde was an anti-communist paramilitary based on his Catholic Action association and the Italian passes he was carrying for his visit; his body, when recovered, bore the marks of torture.

Even the partisans had to cop to an over-hasty judgment in this instance, and while there’s been some dispute over the years about whether Grozde might not have been up to something more political than “visiting relatives,” Rome has been energetic about rehabilitating its man — perhaps as the thin edge of the wedge for vindicating more controversial Slovene Catholic “collaborators”.

Lojze Grozde was beatified in 2010.

* Slovenia was partitioned between the Italians and the Germans early in the war; the German occupation was the more heavy-handed, but both countries designed ethnic cleansing policies. (pdf)

** Some representative slants on the matter, from different angles both sympathetic to Slovenian Catholics’ predicament:

the communists, who were in complete command of the Partisan movement, were concerned not so much about national liberation as such, as about eliminating their political rivals, carrying out their “social revolution”, and seizing power … [anti-communist Slovenes’] great disadvantage was that they had to carry out their struggle on the side of the Germans, who, on the other hand, did not hesitate to force them into compromising actions, for example, to take an oath to Hitler. As a result, they and their political exponents were branded as collaborators.

Yugoslavia: A History of Its Demise


If the Partisans had not been set on seizing power by revolution, one could speculate that the Catholics, who had dominated Slovenian politics before the war, could have conceivably regained power and run a government little different from that in Italy. The only difference was that, whereas Italian Christian Democrat leader Alcide de Gasperi had kept clear of the Fascists during the war, the Slovene Catholics collaborated … the Communist threat was real and life-threatening, and the Catholics can claim credit for opposing it consistently. However, Catholic writings of the time caricature Communists as devils and anti-Christs. Today such virulence seems overdone … the Communists equated collaboration with treason. However, this seems unfounded. The Catholics who opposed them loved their country as much as anybody else … They just wanted a different regime from the Communists to take power at the end of the war.

Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival after World War II

† “We are thankful to God,” Rozman wrote in a 1941 pastoral letter, “who inspired the leader of Greater Italy with the thoughts of generous rightfulness and considerate wisdom … [to establish] the Ljubljana province.” (From Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival after World War II)

Not everyone is so harsh Archbishop Rozman.

On this day..

3 thoughts on “1943: Lojze Grozde, beatified Slovenian

  1. Here’s another quote from “Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival after World War II”, p. 33:

    Aloysius Ambroži?, now Cardinal and Archbishop of Toronto, told what happened to his village after a Partisan attack on an Italian troop column in 1942: ‘The Italians came back with tanks, burned houses and shot a dozen hostages. My father was arrested by the Italians because the Partisans denounced him after he refused to join their ranks. The Italians were about to shoot him too when a colonel saw us children weeping, and took him away for four months in prison instead.’

  2. just to clarify some bits and pieces that got lost in history… Italian occupation of WHAT? There was no such thing as a Slovenian nation at the time, nor had there ever been one. Although Fascism is known for having had a heavy hand with ethnic minorities and the like, Italy was not occupying any territory in former Yugoslavia: after having been Austro-Hungarian empire for centuries and being inhabited by both Italian and Slav ethnic groups, the territory you are referring to was Italy by all means after the first World War , it was NOT an occupied territory. A piece of Italy (albeit inhabited by both Slavs and Italians) has been indeed occupied by Tito’s army after the fall of Mussolini. Tito’s army arrived as far as Trieste, which was freed by Allied troops 45 days and 18,000 deaths later. The rest of what is today Slovenia and Croatia remained to Tito as a trophy of the second world war and its annexation to former Yugoslavia was not formalised until 1975 with Osimo’s treaty.
    So please, do not refer to the presence of Italy in former Yugoslavia as ‘occupation’ because it is not correct.

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