“The provocative cycling of the anarchists who are trying to obstruct the work of the government institutions with their loud whistling in public areas and in front of the building of the parliament is not an awakening of the spring, but a forecast of a frost that will freeze us to the bone. A bicycle should remain a sports tool for healthy recreation, not a weapon for the overthrowing of parliamentary institutions, and for the usurpation of power by the irresponsible anarchists,” an academic, professor Kajetan Gantar, Ph. D., wrote in his text. He is a retired full-time professor of the Latin language and literature at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana and its professor emeritus. His name is important and well-known in the translation and editorial circles. He responded to Friday’s cyclist protests with an article he wrote for the newspaper Družina. The article was published in the new issue of Družina (22/2020). We are publishing the article in its entirety below.
The newspaper Delo has paid a great deal of attention to the protest “cycling”: first with the article Spring Awakening (April 30th), where it justifiably added a question mark to the title, and a week later, with the cover page, where the title said more than the content of the entire article with a photo: “Democracy is being tested again” (May 8th).
This is a dilemma of whether the street or the parliament should rule. This is the provocative cycling of the anarchists who are trying to obstruct the work of the government institutions with their loud whistling in public areas and in front of the building of the parliament, which should lead to chaos. This intention is even more evident in the case of public television, which a priori demonizes the actions of government institutions and favours the cyclists who are boycotting the hygiene regulations. Even if there are indeed ten thousand cyclists, as the media are writing in their favour (with the same faces sometimes appearing twice in the same show), this is still less than one percent of the entire population of Slovenia. In short, this is a biological war announcement of the anarchistic minority to the more aware majority of the Slovenian population.
Unfortunately, things are not as innocent as they may seem at first sight. The whistling and cycling are not the awakening of spring, but rather, a forecast of a frost that will freeze us to the bone.
The provocative cycling is also not an original idea, but an imitation of what the Nazis rose to power with. It is reminiscent of the provocative performances of the cycling clubs, which grew like mushrooms after rain in Germany during the Weimar Republic and, with their disintegration, eventually degenerated into the hotbeds of Nazism. In their emblems, it was barely noticeable at first, but then the swastika became more and more pronounced.
My German colleagues openly admitted to me that for a long time, their fathers had not been aware of how the Nazi ideology had slipped under their skin imperceptibly, in what appeared to be sports clubs and marches. The first to sense this evil was Franz Josef Strauss, who was later the president of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the father of the Bavarian economic miracle. As a student of classical philology, he demonstratively left the Nazi cycling club in 1939 after two years and was then threatened with not being allowed to continue his studies at the University of Münich, but nevertheless, he also urged his colleagues to leave. They insisted in their naive good faith, believing that the cycling clubs could be Christianized from within, but in reality, they un-Christianized themselves while being part of them.
The provocative chanting of German slogans
Before the occupation, Nazism used such tactics in our country as well. From my childhood, which I spent in Celje, I remember that a noisy group of cyclists passed along Ipavčeva Street, where we lived, several times, whistling and screaming something in German. They raced past our house to the Naprudnik restaurant on Lava. They had a loud radio transmitter in that house, which was a rarity for those times. They sat down and demanded that the owner turns on the radio because they wanted to listen to Adolf Hitler’s speech. When this happened again a few times, the falcons waited for them one time and gave them quite the beating. They also emptied their tires, for which everyone congratulated them.
But I wanted to know where so many German cyclists came from. I found that they gathered at Jellenz, a German sports goods merchant, which was located close to Mohorjeva družba. Then they rode their bikes to the nearby town hall and provocatively shouted German slogans, then drove past the Orthodox Church, which is no longer there (the Germans demolished it as the first building and with it, made fools of themselves for the first time in Celje, as their first attempt to blow it up failed). Then they set off along Ipavčeva street to Lava, to the Naprudnik restaurant, where several cyclists from the surrounding villages were waiting for them, mostly they were all fans of Germany, who later became subscribers of the Štajerski gospodar newspaper.
The ringleader of this cycling gang was Sepp Jellenz (his younger brother was my classmate), during the war, he became the leader of the Celje Hitlerjugend. As the late historian Tone Ferenc told me, Jellenz had been a collaborator of the German Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) as a sixteen-year-old student and was sending valuable information to Graz. Among other things, he is probably the author of the description of the professors of the Celje grammar school, where he marked the German sympathizers with the letter A, those who were indifferent with the letter B, the opponents with the letter C (Gegner), and assigned the letter D to four of them, which meant Deutschenhasser und Hetzer assets (active enemies of the Germans and instigators); he put the names of four professors in this category, among them, as I saw in the material of the Archives of Slovenia, was also my father.
A bicycle as a weapon for the usurpation of power
When German soldiers marched into Celje on April 11th, they first stopped at Jellenz, where, although it was Good Friday, they were treated to fried food and ham. Less than a week later, late in the evening of April 16th, Jellenz appeared at the door of our apartment with two colleagues from his cycling gang in a Gestapo uniform and arrested my father; he also wanted to arrest his classmate, my cousin Ivan from Idrija, who lived with us for all eight years and slept with us in the children’s room. Ivan instinctively sensed the danger and left our apartment a few hours before Jellenz arrived and disappeared to safety.
That night, the first wave of German arrests happened in Celje, as the teacher Fran Roš, who lived near us and was taken away that same night, wrote in his memoirs; for those arrested, Jellenz and the “cyclists” made sure they were deported to Serbia. When I left home in the morning after my dad’s arrest, bilingual German-Slovenian posters were hung around the city, on which we could read how Hitler “freed the people of Štajerska,” as some sort of mockery.
The reason for my writing this is not that I have anything against cycling, as I also enjoyed cycling at a young age. With my first salary as a professor at the Ptuj grammar school at the age of twenty-five, I bought a bicycle which I paid for in installments, and then often cycled with it, alone or in the company of my colleagues, all throughout the near and far surroundings of Ptuj – from Ljutomer and Kog to Haloze and Majšperk.
I wanted to publish this article in Reader’s Letters section in Delo, but they refused to publish it, explaining that “the comparison of the protesting cyclers with Nazism is not acceptable.” Allow me to point out that this is not the first time that the daily Delo has refused to publish a reply, which contains an indisputably proven fact, and thus, it is asserting its media monopoly and ideological exclusion.
And regarding the content of the rejected article, let me just add the following:
Perhaps the only person who helped me track down and discover the route of the then-Nazi cyclists when I was an elementary school student in Celje, was an older student (I think he attended fifth grade at the time), a Serb, his father was an officer in the Royal Yugoslav Army. He told me that he didn’t mind if the German cyclists sang German songs, but that his heart ached when the cyclists once drove past the Orthodox Church and shouted, “Serbs on willows!” In Slovenian (a well-known motto, which emerged after the Sarajevo assassination of Duke Ferdinand).
I have never seen the procession of the current Ljubljana protest cyclists in person, but some have told me that thunderous shouts of “Death to the Janševiks!” Or something similar can often be heard. I don’t see what the difference is between the cries “Serbs on willows!” and “Death to the Janševiks!” except perhaps in the fact that at the time, the Serbs in Celje represented a permille of the population, and the “Janševiks” in Slovenia today (according to Ninamedia and other similar polls) represent at least 14 percent of the eligible voters, who are being threatened with death by the cycling protesters.
In short, in both cases, the former Nazis, as well as the current Slovenian “cyclists,” this is not only the same method of planned blackmail (to try and overthrow a legitimate government by organizing street riots), but also a horribly related ideology of intimidation and hatred: instead of interconnecting, as called for by the parliamentary majority, the gospel of hatred is spreading in public spaces in our country, and with the help of the media. Sophia Scholl and her associates, members of the resistance organization “White Rose,” bravely raised their voices at the University of Münich, against hatred in the Nazi regime, with slogans from Sophocles’ Antigone – “I was born to join in love, not hate,” even though they had to pay for the protest with their young lives.
Dr. Kajetan Gantar