Germans of Slovenia demand official recognition

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 22 14:16:30 UTC 2006

Germans of Slovenia demand official recognition
Biel - Bienne, Thursday, 18 May 2006 by Peter Josika

On the 10th of May 2006 the umbrella organisation of the German minority
in Slovenia, the Association of German cultural Organisations in Slovenia,
sent a formal letter of request to the government demanding official
recognition. A copy was also sent to the Austrian embassy in Ljubljana.
The minority also appealed for Austrian government support to achieve this
objective. The list of demands covers various areas, including collective
protection against hate speech; more German language education; the use of
German in public- including speech, signs, inscriptions and monuments; the
participation of the German minority in EU projects involving Slovenia;
and to also secure funding for German minority organisations and their
media. Another major area of concern mentioned in the letter is the
preservation of Kocevje/Gottschee German, an archaic Austro-Bavarian
dialect in extreme danger of extinction.

Slovenia is generally considered exemplary for their minority legislation,
particularly compared to other former communist countries. However, the
Slovene state has so far only extended minority rights to Italians and
Hungarians, but not the Germans - historically the largest minority.
Slovenian officials argue that the number of German speakers is
insufficient for official minority status. Critics say that Slovenia is in
fact already recognising bilingualism based on linguistic heritage rather
than the current percentage of minority speakers. The largest officially
bilingual city of Slovenia, Koper/Capodistria, for example, has less than
3% of Italian speakers left.

August Gril, President of the Association of German Organisations in
Slovenia, proposes to extend already existing legislation to the German
minority. Our status may be regulated in various different ways, however,
we believe it easiest to apply current proven and tested mechanisms that
Italians and Hungarians already use, Gril says. At the end of World War II
the German minority of Slovenia became the scapegoat for four years of
Nazi occupation. This led to enormous anti-German sentiment, culminating
in the expropriation and expulsion of tens of thousands of Germans from
modern day Slovenia. Most of those that remained had no other option but
to assimilate.

Although the post-War mistreatment and expulsion of Germans remain largely
taboo issues to this day, there are an increasing number of Slovene
historians that are re-evaluating the post-War period and call for
gestures of reconciliation. They point to the fact that the Germans in
Slovenia were largely innocent locals that have been robbed of their
livelihood and identity as a result of political developments they
themselves had little influence on. The expelled former Germans of
Slovenia in Austria, under the umbrella of the VL, support the demands of
the German Slovenes. They consider the recognition of German heritage in
Slovenia as an important step towards European reconciliation, but also a
formal recognition of their own roots and history.

Most of the remaining Germans in Slovenia live in and around
Maribor/Marburg in Stajerska/Untersteiermark as well as the
Kocevje/Gottschee area where Germans constituted the local majority until
the 1940s. (Eurolang 2006)

Organisation of Gottschee/Kocevje Germans in Slovenia, in Slovene, German
and English

The letter of demand by the German Slovenes, on the website of the VL, in

Article on the website of the Slovene govt covering a meeting between
Slovene and Austrian officials with Slovene and Austrian minority
representatives, including Mr Gril, in March

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