Recently I commented on Glaziola-Nacht's submission, "My Holocaust Museum Experience In Washington, DC" (yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=26646), about an emotional experience I had while visiting Yad Vashem; I explained I had been uncertain as to whether or not the supernatural had any affect on my reaction to a specific display. However, back in the mid-to-late 1980s, there was an occasion wherein my reactions to a memorial were caused exclusively by a supernatural presence. As is often the case in my narratives, there's a bit of contextual backstory.
Before my family moved to the United States, we took a month to tour around some of our favorite parts of contiental Europe. The month-long excursion in our camper van meant that we could extend the distance we travelled to reach a site that had eluded us in the past: the Parthenon in Athens. A mechanical failure slowed our progress; the dynamo (or somesuch) in the engine broke. It was one of the few parts for which my father did not have a spare secreted in the assorted cubbies and hatches of our van. We spent 36 hours sitting in the camper, looking at the only flat, desolate, unimpressive part of the Italian landscape I've ever seen, while the local odd-job man and mechanic cycled from his village out to our vehicle, took the part away, rebuilt it, and cycled back with it in working order. The delay meant that we arrived at the ferry port in southern Italy the day after the semi-weekly ferry to Greece had left.
Being of a determined nature, Dad reassured us that if we nipped up the Adriatic coast, then took the mountainous route back down the Adriatic's eastern shore, we'd still have time to see the Parthenon before we were due back in England. "Plan B" had all the hallmarks of a decision made in haste rather than having been considered in advance. We never got to Greece, sadly, because the inhospitable Romanian border guards brandished Kalashnikovs at my father in a severe over-reaction to his waving passports at them. Thwarted by the uncoöperative Soviet military personnel, we turned northward to re-cross the rapidly-deteriorating Yugoslavia. Aside from driving through the impoverished ramshackle villages and the unpredictable landslides caused by Turkish earthquakes, we tried to make the best of our trip; the most picturesque route would take us up to Austria.
Before we reached the alpine tunnel at the border, we pulled into a small parking lot to have a picnic lunch. If you open a new tab on your browser, the following web address should lead you to the exact spot on Google Earth (firstname.lastname@example.org,14.268929,3a,75y,350.19h,95.01t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAwD1S7eDy3GAxalIn-B7Bw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656); you can see the parking spaces off to the right. In my memory of the place, the trees were further back from the road and there were a couple of picnic benches, but it has been over 30 years and the site is now in Slovenia.
At the north end of the parking lot, there are some stone pylons. After we had eaten our sandwiches, we took a leisurely stroll to see what the pylons commemorated. There are five of them placed radially around a central bronze statue as a memorial to the Allied Prisoners of War who had dug the Ljubelj Tunnel through the mountain, thus creating a safer route than the treacherous high altitude mountain pass. Across the road from the memorial was the Ljubelj Labor Camp, that officially had been the southern sub-camp of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. Even though my brother and I were familiar with the Holocaust and with the basics of World War Two (we'd seen "The Great Escape" at least 100 times), my parents did not want to take us directly across the street to the remains of the Ljubelj camp.
As we approached the memorial, my brother and I became more subdued; the eye-catching center statue was an oversized bronze skeleton, ribs spread wide to show a human heart suspended in the chest, the skull and arms reach sky skyward, and the French word *J'accuse* is bolted to the stone plinth upon which it stood. It was a somewhat sheltered spot, a place for serious contemplation of the message written in five languages, one on each of the radial pylons: "Here, from 1943 to 1945, stood the section of the Nazi extermination camp Mauthausen-Ljubelj in which political internees from France, Poland, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Norway and Yugoslavia suffered and died during the excavation of the Ljubelj Tunnel" (Source: www.spomenikdatabase.org/begunje). If I recall correctly, my dad said something about the bodies being piled up on the location where the monument now stands, as the Alpine temperatures wouldn't allow for the digging of graves in winter. I do not know if this was an accurate statement on his part or pure conjecture. What I do remember is the somber, still silence of the location.
It wasn't until we walked away from the memorial that my dad called attention to something I'd noticed without fully registering the fact-- "Listen to that: bird song. They weren't singing a moment ago." He was right; the farther we moved from the bronze skeleton, the more we could hear the ordinary sounds of everyday life. For the entire 5-to-10 minutes we'd been within the area between the skeleton and the pylons of the memorial, there had been NO external sound: no traffic, no birdsong, no blustery breeze. There had only been the chilly pressure of the cold, stationary air.
If you look at the monument on the Google map, you can see that the pylons should allow the breeze to move freely through the area, symbolically carrying the message of the tragedy to the world; instead, there had been no movement of wind. Let me rephrase that so the phenomenon can sink in: no wind movement near the top of an Alp. Returning toward the parking area brought us into pleasant summer breezes that were considerably warmer than the memorial's immediate environment, replete with the sounds and scents of pristine nature. My mother wanted us to leave as soon as we could, so we got into our camper van and left.
While this event did not have the spectacular terror of some of my other experiences, it was memorable because my parents usually avoided discussion of the paranormal: especially my father. Yet, on a pleasant sunny day with high cloud cover and a steady breeze, all four of us had noticed the change in atmosphere at the site, and the return to normality as we left. We had not felt unwelcome or frightened, merely that we were surrounded by the tension of unresolved anger on the part of the dead.
If any European YGSers have had experiences at Ljubelj, or at similar war memorials, I'd be glad to know that my family was not alone in this. As always, I'm willing to clarify points to the best of my recollection.
Haha! Sorry, but I just had to laugh about the local mechanic cycling out to your van to pick up that part to be fixed. 😜 Then he cycled all the way back, at least he could fix it. Wonderful story, thanks for the links.