During the Holocaust, the Nazis and their collaborators killed or deported to their deaths most of the Jewish population of Slovenia. Of the approximately 1,400 Jews who lived in Slovenia in 1940, roughly 1,300 were killed during World War II (WWII). After the war, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (of which the People’s Republic of Slovenia was a constituent republic) nationalized much of the Jewish property seized by the Nazis. Today, there are an estimated 300 people of Jewish descent in Slovenia, including about 20 active community members in Ljubljana and 30 in Prekmurje, a region in northeast Slovenia.
In addition to the 2009 Terezin Declaration, Slovenia endorsed the 2010 Guidelines and Best Practices for Restitution and Compensation. Although Slovenia has a framework for private property restitution, most Holocaust-era property claims in the country are categorized as heirless property for which there is no provision in the law for restitution or compensation. The country also has no legislation covering the return of Holocaust-era Jewish communal property. Private property restitution provisions included in the Denationalization Act of 1991 required claimants to have had Yugoslav citizenship at the time their property was confiscated, and with some exceptions, it generally excluded property confiscated before 1945. As a result, Slovenian Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of those who perished were largely unable to benefit from the law’s property restitution procedures. In 2018, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Ministry of Justice agreed to launch a joint research project to establish the scope and value of heirless properties in the country. The research teams expected to complete the study by the end of 2019.
Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property
Restitution cases involving private property confiscated after 1946 were subject to procedures under the Criminal Procedure Act. Cases involving private property nationalized by the Communists were subject to restitution procedures under the Denationalization Act of 1991. The 1991 act required claimants to have had Yugoslav citizenship at the time their property was confiscated. Given such requirements, Jewish property owners and their heirs were largely unable to file claims under the act.
Some Holocaust survivors and their relatives, along with Slovene deportees, were able to reclaim property confiscated before 1945, but NGOs and advocacy groups report that the government has not made sufficient progress on the resolution of Holocaust-era claims. These reports come from former citizens who were required to renounce Yugoslav citizenship as a condition for emigrating and Holocaust survivors from Yugoslavia and their heirs who did not return and thus never had Yugoslav citizenship. Some cases involving the restitution of property seized during the Communist era (especially from 1946 to 1958) remain unresolved, but nearly all denationalization cases are finalized.
In many instances, courts had already deemed Jewish property heirless after the war, before the heirs of those who perished were able to return. Moreover, Slovenians who emigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1950 were pressured to renounce their Yugoslav citizenship and forfeit their property to the state as a prerequisite to leaving the country.
Many eligible property owners and their heirs living abroad did not file claims under the Denationalization Act because they did not receive adequate notice before the claims deadline. Those who did file claims faced a process that suffered from a lack of trained personnel and inadequate ownership records, which resulted in a lack of transparency and inconsistent decisions.
The government asserts that nearly all of Slovenia’s Holocaust-era restitution claims have been closed. Most Holocaust-era claims are categorized as heirless property, however, for which there is no provision in law for restitution or compensation. The extermination of entire families in Slovenia left substantial property without heirs to claim it.
In 2018, the WJRO and the Ministry of Justice agreed to launch a joint research project to establish the scope of heirless properties in the country. The research teams expected to complete the study by the end of 2019.
The Department is unaware of outstanding restitution claims from U.S. citizen Holocaust survivors or family members of Holocaust victims.
Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art
The Department is not aware of any outstanding issues with movable property. In 2014, the Ministry of Culture made an inquiry across state museums and art galleries but did not find Nazi‑confiscated or looted art. Provenance research has begun through Slovenia’s participation in the EU-sponsored project “TransCultAA – Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century,” but there continue to be difficulties with access to archival sources such as those concerning the distribution by the Communist regime of art looted during WWII.
Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property
Judaica in Slovenia has for the most part been identified, partly in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Art of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Department is not aware of any outstanding issues with Judaica and Jewish cultural property, and there is no law specifically addressing the restitution of cultural property.
Access to Archival Documents
Slovenian archives are generally open and accessible to the public without restrictions. In 2014, amendments to the Act on the Protection of Documentary and Archival Material and Archives introduced some limitations on the use of personal data and information on individuals. In July 2018, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia signed a cooperation contract to grant the museum’s representatives access to and the ability to reproduce material in Slovenia’s archives.
Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and supports IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Government officials attend International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide events on December 9. The government also observes International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
Holocaust education is required in schools. Schools use a booklet published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the Holocaust education curriculum to create awareness of the history of Jews and anti-Semitism in Europe before WWII and the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. The material also emphasizes the responsibility to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
The Mini Teater (Mini Theater) in Ljubljana, established in 1999, houses the Jewish Cultural Center, which the local Jewish community also uses as a synagogue. The Mini Teater seeks to raise Jewish culture and history awareness through Jewish-themed theater performances and its annual Festival of Tolerance. In an April 2019 meeting with the U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues and WJRO representatives, the Center’s director noted preparations for an exhibition on Ljubljana victims of the Holocaust and plans to install “Stolpersteins” (“stumbling stones”) in the cities of Murska Sobota and Lendava. These stumbling stones are concrete cubes bearing brass plates inscribed with the names and birth and death dates of Slovenian victims of the Holocaust. The Center, which receives no government funding, also includes a museum and the country’s only Holocaust memorial.
The national government proclaimed the Maribor Synagogue in the city of Maribor as a museum of national importance, and the city financially supports its operations and maintenance.
The Museum of Tržič administers a museum at the location of the Ljubelj labor camp, the only labor camp in Slovenia during WWII. The Ljubelj camp had approximately 1,300 prisoners at any given time during 1943-1945; inmates worked in appalling conditions with high mortality rates to build the Ljubelj tunnel. At least 14 Jews were documented as prisoners in the Ljubelj camp. Ministry of Justice contacts assessed the current museum is in poor condition. The government is renovating the museum and plans to add a remembrance room with information on the victims. The government also plans to train tour guides and provide translation of the museum’s materials into several foreign languages.
The Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and Other Victims of Nazi Persecution
Ministry of Justice contacts reported that Holocaust survivors, including those living abroad, were eligible to claim social welfare benefits such as health insurance, recognition of pensionable service, entitlement to a pension, compensation for war damages, a monthly annuity, and priority for allocation of social housing through the Act on Victims of War Violence, which has no statute of limitations. Ministry contacts, however, were unaware of any such claims.