LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenian authorities on Monday started transferring the remains of some 800 people killed and dumped in a mine by communist dictator Tito’s forces in the aftermath of World War II.
Authorities first opened the Huda Jama mine, some 50 miles northeast of Ljubljana, in 2009, one of hundreds of mass graves believed to be dotted around the former Yugoslav republic.
Investigators first found a horizontal chamber with the mummified remains of over 400 people but later discovered another 150-foot vertical cavity containing yet more.
“We calculate between 2,200 and 2,500 bodies might be in that chamber,” historian Mitja Ferenc, member of special commission investigating mass graves, told the Delo daily.
He said that most of the victims were Croat and Slovene soldiers and civilians who had collaborated — or were thought to have collaborated — with the Nazis and then executed, often without trial.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor, attending a ceremony on Monday at the site, said the first 800 bodies will be transferred to a memorial center at Dobrova, west of Ljubljana, by the end of October and the rest next year.
DNA samples will also be taken in order to help identify the dead.
“Reconciliation is possible only once we are ready to forgive and to admit the truth even if it is painful, hard and incriminating,” Pahor said during the ceremony, attended by victims’ relatives.
Ferenc said the wartime mass graves commission has registered some 700 possible mass grave sites in which some 15,000 people are believed to be buried.