© Ivan Krašnja private archive
The Women's sector of the Rab Concentration Camp captured in a postcard from 1943. Od the left side a small part of the Jewish sector (built barracks) is visible.
A white-haired, svelte-figured man, who introduced himself as Ivan Krašnja (1947), approached me at the opening of the Last Witnesses, memories from fascist camps exhibition in Maribor. In his hand a black and white photo. It turned out to be a postcard from Rab, dated September 13th 1953. He was holding a postcard capturing a fascist concentration camp for civilians on a Croatian island of Rab, operating from July 1942 to September 1943. The concentration camp is represented in it's late phase of operation when the tents were removed and inhuman living conditions improved.
His father Janez Krašnja (1911-1967) wrote a postcard as a former fascist camp internee sending regards to the family while participating at the 10th anniversary of the camp liberation.Janez was working as a teacher in Maribor and just got his firstborn child, daughter Jelka (1941), when the war in Yugoslavia broke out. In April 1941, Maribor was occupied by the Nazis. Janez decided to move his family to fascist-controlled Ljubljana, which was believed to be a safer place.
In July 1942 he was denounced to the Italian authorities as a member of intelligence and a reserve officer of Yugoslav royal army. He was sent to Rab concentration camp. Early in the year 1943 the Italian army started to mobilize internees for Milizia Volontaria Anti-Communista (MVAC), a fascist controlled anticomunist volunteer militia, which would help them fight the partisans.
Janez, weighing only 40 kilos at the time, was at the very end of his life strength and volunteered to join the militia he personally disagreed with. He considered this step as the only way to save himself and to see his family again.Though totally exhausted, he managed to jump off a moving train on the way from the camp to Ljubljana. He was hiding in a village close to Ljubljana and got in contact with his wife Marica (1913-1963). He slowly recovered and looked forward to join the partisan resistance movement.
Only in January 1944 did he manage to get in touch with the partisan movement. Years later he discovered why it took him so long.
In the paranoid war years he was considered untrustworthy for he was released from the fascist camp before the eventual capitulation of the fascist regime in September 1943. The stigma of suspicion had chased him deep into the postwar years.Apart from its documentary value, the postcard is a medium of a touching war memory, which addresses a fundamental dilemma, familiar to the majority of the people during the war. Any war. Which principle to follow? The one that is in accordance with the idea of national liberation or the one that keeps you and your family safe? Often the two choices exclude one another.