Way of the cross - Bleiburg massacre

At the end of the Second World War, the National Anti-Fascist Council of the People's Liberation of Croatia (ZAVNOH) established the National Commission for the Investigation and Establishment of War Crimes. Despite this, the partisans repeatedly decided to punish their opponents without trial, and the Bleiburg massacre stands out as the best example of such a punishment.

In May 1945, a group of Ustashas and home guards, as well as civilians, headed for Austria to surrender to British military forces. On May 15, they arrived in Bleiburg, Austria, where they were greeted by the British. However, British troops handed them over to the partisans, after which the "Way of the Cross" (another name for the massacre) began.

As soon as they crossed the border and entered Yugoslavia, the partisans began to kill the prisoners. Many of them lost their lives near Maribor and Celje in Slovenia, but also near Krapina, Samobor, Zagreb and other Croatian cities. The prisoners marched in columns through Slovenia and Croatia until they reached the camp, and some even went to Serbia and Macedonia. On the way to the camp, the partisans physically abused and tortured the prisoners and many of them failed to reach their destination because they were dying of hunger, thirst, exhaustion and various diseases. Those who could no longer walk due to exhaustion were tortured and brutally killed by the partisans. Among the prisoners were not only civilians but also sixteen-year-olds mobilized just before the end of the war.

All these events took place without any trial, and in this way the partisans greatly damaged their reputation at the very beginning of their rule. The Way of the Cross came to an end in August 1945, when a general amnesty was declared. Estimates of casualties vary; tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers were killed, but some believe the death toll is as high as 200,000.

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