Anti-Semitism in Slovenia
Anti-Semitism in Slovenia serves as an academic model, giving an example and warning against similar repressive occurrences. Nevertheless, although we cannot speak about open large-scale anti-Semitism, we have to accompany every single occurrence with elements of this negative prejudice. The pathway of hatred against Jews, passing from hatred on an imaginary level to hatred concretely expressed in riots and pogroms, is very educational. Therefore it is very important to increase public knowledge about the Jews and especially the Holocaust, as history regarding the Holocaust has never been fully told and explained in Slovenia, as yet.
Within the Slovenian territory similar stereotype perceptions about Jews were also used, as they had spread throughout Medieval Europe. We should, however, always consider the social conditions and mentalities of medieval populations, which were very susceptible to ‘distorted’ events, especially where Jews were concerned. When speaking about anti-Semitism and stereotypes about Jews within the Slovenian territory, we should bear in mind that Jews were never numerous here and did not settle down permanently to such an extent that the rest of the population would be aware of them. Over different periods, the Jewish population varied, and it is true to say that they coexisted in harmony with the majority of the local populations after they had arrived in Styria and Carinthia during the 12th and 13th centuries. Clear proof of this could be seen in medieval Maribor.
Whilst strengthening the anti-Jewish mood within a wider area, anti-Semitism also started spreading within today’s Slovenian territory, resulting in a general anti-Jewish climate and persecution of those Jews from various local communities. As for the formation of stereotypes about Jews, the uneducated population was mostly influenced by word of mouth, and the educated ones by reading different kinds of books, the more influential being travel literature. Within the 19th century when anti-Semitism, as we know it today, was fashioned, the Jews were also negatively presented. Within the Slovenian press, for instance, some positive attitudes towards them can be traced from amongst a great number of articles and discussions that resulted particularly from their usefulness to the then Slovenian economy.
The framework of Slovenian 19th century anti-Semitism should be viewed within the wider European anti-Semitism. We absorbed some general models and certain influences. After several newly introduced technical and political changes, people were mostly afraid of social changes that might threaten their long established traditional lifestyles, and destroy established social relationships.
Anti-Semitism within today’s Slovenian territory never endured a violent phase regarding their Jewish population. Nevertheless, some domestic roots sprouted: mainly anti-Jewish sentiment within merchants and associated middle-class circles that saw the Jews as competitors within the economic arena. They strengthened their anti-Semitic attitudes whenever Jewish competition appeared. The Slovenian anti-Semitism of that time was typically limited to urban areas. It never spread into the countryside – not even to Prekmurje where the majority of Jews lived in the countryside (they were innkeepers, butchers, merchants, and the owners of small craft businesses). This is often justified today by the already-mentioned assumption that Slovenians did not have too many contacts with Jews. As the Jews represented a rather strong group of inhabitants within the Austrian and Hungarian lands, the educated Slovenians met them during their studies in Vienna or during their shorter or longer trips within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and abroad.
The main reasons for the strengthening hatred towards Jews and the creation of Slovenian anti-Semitism after World War I were primarily of an economic nature and became particularly strong during the economic crisis of 1929. Many Jews were accused of earning money from exorbitant interest rates. This applied particularly to Styria and Prekmurje, which were annexed to the home country after World War I. As well as seeing them as supporters of Hungarianization, local people in Prekmurje mostly resented them for their economic monopoly. Some well-known clerical Slovenians and liberal polititians sometimes used anti-Semitic statements as verbal abuse of their political opponents.
The actions of the Fascist and Nazi authorities, including the Holocaust, thoroughly decimated the Jewish population within Slovenia during World War II. In addition, after 1945 the remains of the Slovenian Jews were also further affected by official actions and interventions, which need to be dealt with in the light of anti-Semitism within Slovenia (demolition of the synagogue in Murska Sobota, marginalisation of Jewish victims during World War II).
Radical anti-Semitism was untypical of the Slovenian territory, but it is interesting as to how it was adapted to Slovenian circumstances. It became anti-Semitism that outgrew the Jewish factor and developed into a belief that there was no anti-Semitism in Slovenia and that Slovenians were not anti-Semite.
On the basis of socio-anthropological studies of anti-Semitism in postwar Slovenia, this stereotype has varied over recent years. The fact, that even today many public figures of Jewish origin prefer not to declare themselves as Jews, bears witness to how strong the anti-Semitic tradition is still rooted within our society.