The speech of the prof.dr.Andreja Ule at the opening of the Vlasto Kopac's exposition in the Museum of the contemporary history in Ljubljana
It is my privilege to be able to participate in the opening of the Slovene exhibition of Dachau drawings by Vlasto Kopač. I would like to warmly greet all of you and to thank all of those who have so carefully prepared this excellent exhibition, both the one in Dachau and this one in Ljubljana. With great artistic strength and persuasiveness Vlasto Kopač showed in his drawings deep tragedy, brutality of everyday life in the concentration camp and, at the same time, non-pliability of internees so that his Dachau opus represents the artist’s reminder in memory of the victims of Dachau concentration camp. His artistic work thus represents a suitable response of the artist to the occupier’s terror in Slovenia during WW2.
There were surprisingly a lot of intellectuals and artists among Slovene internees in Dachau which proves how disturbing Slovene intellectuals and artists were for the nazi dictators. Many of them artistically depicted their agonizing and often tragic experiences, either in an artistic or literary form. Let us just mention some artists: Zoran Mušič, Bogdan Borčić and Boris Kobe. Yet, there were only a few who could realise their artistic expressiveness already before the liberation of the camp. Among these, Vlasto Kopač himself was extraordinary since he created his drawings illegally during his internment in Dachau concentration camp. Due to his exceptional expressive strength and original graphic minimalism his collection has a great artistic as well as documentary value which will only increase with time. This year we remember the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Dachau concentration camp.
This was not only one of the many Nazi concentration camps – it was the very first concentration camp in Europe dedicated to mass extermination of the opponents of a totalitarian regime. At first, German opponents of Nazism found themselves in Dachau camp and then all those who were destined for extermination and death by the nazi ideology. The latter were numerous: at first the nations condemned to genocide: Jews, Romanies and the Sinti, and later the deportees and the suspected from all the occupied countries, as well as all possible "anti-social" elements condemned according to the criterion of the nazi social doctrine. Precisely in Dachau concentration camp the Nacis developed a whole range of methods for humiliation, torture and extermination of their victims who they later used and further "improved" in their other concentration camps. In this sense the Dachau concentration camp was a drilling centre and a perverted laboratory of kasemate “practise”, such as lethal pseudomedical experiments on internees which started right in Dachau concentration camp and spread later to other concentration camps. Also the first crematorium was lit right in Dachau.
That is why the very same Dachau concentration camp meant the nucleus of terror and a symbol of evil both to the Nazis and their victims, only, of course, with a difference that the Nazis bound themselves to this evil and followed it faithfully. Nevertheless, their victims resisted it and tried to overcome it with infinite bravery and non-pliable revolt, as well as great solidarity among fellow internees. What happened in Dachauu was thus a great battle, which we could compare to the biggest military clashes in WW2. The end of these clashes was also important and majestic. The Kopač’s drawings, fleeting at first sight, represent an exceptional synthesis of almost documentary sketches of internees’ suffering, of ironic Nazi arrogance, speechless condemnation of terror and exaltation of humaneness. The Kopač’s drawings, too, are thus a constituent part of internees’ revolt against the Nazi terror and their hope of liberation.
They are one of the proofs that the Nazis could never prevent illegal revolt and still much less mutual solidarity and help of the internees which was based on numerous completely personal dids of individuals, all very dangerous as a rule. A well organised illegal revolt of internees also prevented the Nazi’s intention to murder all the remaining prisoners and erase all trails of their crimes still before the arrival of the Allies.
It seems that this non-pliable revolt of the Dachau internees against the systematic brutality and also their unbending attempts for liberation became disturbing also for some rulers after WW2. It is well known that many of the survived Slovene internees from Dachau were unlucky for a long time after the liberation of the camp and their return to their homeland. We know of many suspicions, persecutions, illegal trials and severe convictions which many former internees experienced in Slovenia after the end of WW2, especially those who represented the core of revolt against the Nazism in Dachau. Vlasto Kopač, too, was a victim of frightful illegal trials. After being released from the prison he lived almost up to the end of the socialist Yugoslavia as a controlled person and a second class citizen.
The former Dachau internees probably remembered the then rulers too much of what they themselves did with their political opponents. For this very reason the survived Slovene internees from Dachau had to experience so many intrigues and such a brutality when they were taken revenge on.
Settling accounts with fascism and Nazism in WW2 is thus in a way also Europe’s settling accounts with itself and its own barbarian heritage. In Nazi camps internees learned this settling of accounts to their cost and experienced it very intensely in their souls. Because of all this we find it very important to preserve the continuity of the memory of the Dachau concentration camp and to include in these activities also the new generations of those informed people who are deeply affected by this memory and who understand the importance of passing the meaning of concentration camps and everything they represent to younger generations. The exhibitions like the present one on Vlasto Kopač contribute a lot to the preservation of this memory and reflection on it. Unfortunately, the mentality which produced the Dachau concentration camp and similar camps is not yet overcome in struggle against this mentality remains one of the main tasks of those in the present and the future who recollect or will recollect Dachau.
Ljubljana, April 2013
Prof. Dr. Andrej Ule
Prof. Dr. Andrej Ule