Monday, February 10, 2014

National Memorial Day of the Exiles

Today Italy remembers the Foibe massacres, even though few others do. These were the Italians or even those of partial Italian heritage who were killed in the closing days and immediate aftermath of World War II in Dalmatia, Istria and the Julian March. As early as 1943 when Italy agreed to an armistice with the Allies, Italians began to be massacred in these regions and the killing went on in some instances until 1949. Some of the original perpetrators were the Germans who were moving in to Italian-occupied areas as soon as word of the armistice became public (or as soon as they learned that the King had dismissed Mussolini and was determined to take Italy out of the war). About 70 people were thrown into a pit and shot together. Such cases were very much the minority however. The vast majority of the killings were carried out by the communist partisans who were driven by ideological hatred, a thirst for territorial expansion for Yugoslavia and by a drummed-up racial hatred against the local population on the coast of Latin ancestry.

The Latin population in this area was relatively small and not very concentrated but it was extremely old, going back to the maritime empire of the Venetian Republic or even further. Some were motivated by a communist hatred for fascists but, given that fascism had fallen by the time the killings started, this was simply an excuse and should not be taken seriously. Most of all, in all likelihood, it was a desire for territorial expansion by the soon-to-be communist Yugoslavia. They wanted to claim all of these territories for themselves and did not want there to be any Italian population in these areas for fear that the Allied leadership might decide to allow Italy to retain some of these areas. Certainly in the case of the Julian March, HM King Umberto II hoped to persuade the Allies that Italy should retain this territory which had been, historically, Italian. This was really an effort by Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, at ethnic cleansing and although the Yugoslavian government refused to acknowledge the crime and no serious investigations were made until after the breakup of Yugoslavia, it is now known that thousands of Italians in these areas were brutally massacred. The exact number has never been determined but estimates in even limited areas have ranged as high as over 6,000. Unfortunately, finding the truth has been set aside in favor of partisan politics with many trying to downplay the extent of the atrocities.

However many were killed, the crime should not be forgotten and everyone should remember those who lost their lives. Politics and popularity should have nothing to do with the facts and the fact is that many thousands of people of Italian background were massacred simply because of their ethnicity to serve the ambitions of the communists and to tear away from Italy territories that had long been in Italian hands. We must not forget.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this kind article on the exiles. The Italian Communist Party in the republican era has long attempted to make this issue unknown. Even when the Italian government finally recognized the tragedy that occurred in Istria and Dalmazia, the Reds continued on attempting to erase the issue. They were complicit in the initial massacres and ethnic cleansing, as well as in the subsequent cover-up. Without the honorable King Umberto II, no one stood up for Italian claims nor for the people who were forced out of their homes. I will always remember those who suffered in these areas for only being Italian.