Sunday, July 5, 2020

Foibe Massacres: Historical Disinformation Techniques

(Written by Federico Gennaccari, taken from “”, February 9 & 10, 2020)

Part I – Foibe Massacres: Historical Disinformation Techniques

Justificationism and denialism are two sides of the same coin

When Parliament passed the law establishing Remembrance Day in 2004, it immediately caused the agitation of those political and cultural organizations which for 60 years had managed to “conceal” the massacre perpetrated by Tito's Communist partisans.

Ever since then, new interpretations have been born every year, new “historical re-readings” (often in conjunction with Croatian and Slovenian universities) have been brought forth to deny the Italian holocaust. Two theses, above all, are put forth: the first one argues that the Foibe Massacres were not a crime against humanity but rather a “justified revenge” of the Slavs against the Fascists; and the second one denies that any terrible massacre took place, but only a few executions.

They are known as “Justificationists” and “Deniers”.

We talked about the subject with Silvano Olmi, a journalist, historical researcher and member of the national directorate of the February 10th Committee (Comitato 10 Febbraio).

Silvano: The former are people who justify the Foibe Massacres as the revenge of the Slavs for the alleged suffering inflicted upon them by Fascism; the latter even go as far as to deny that the Foibe Massacres were a crime, claiming that it is a hoax invented by anti-Communist propaganda. Then there are also the “reductionists”, i.e. those who do not deny the tragedy but limit its scope.

Who are these disinformation professionals?

Silvano: The national ANPI falls into the first category, that of the “justificationists”, and it never invites radical members such as Alessandra Kersevan, Claudia Cernigoi and Sandi Volk to its official conferences. Instead, they host them only at the local level. In fact, as we speak, the provincial sections of the ANPI are organizing blatant “denialist” events.

This division of roles is also reflected within the Democratic Party (PD), with national representatives reiterating the words spoken in the past by Giorgio Napolitano and also by the current president, Sergio Mattarella. Then, however, at local level, cases occur – such as in Lecce – where the municipal councilors of the Democratic Party reject the request to name a street in honor of Norma Cossetto, the Istrian girl who has become the symbol of the Foibe Massacres. Or in Pavia, where other PD councilors tried to prevent the presentation of the graphic novel “Foiba rossa” which tells the story of Norma Cossetto.

What are the main points of justificationism?

Silvano: There are three cardinal points upon which the justificationists work. The first pertains to the “eastern borders”, the second to the concept of “Italiani brava gente” and the third to “ethnic cleansing”.

Let's start with the “eastern borders”…

Silvano: The question of Italy's “eastern borders” (mentioned even by Dante) is very complex and has a long history that begins with Rome, continues with the Byzantines and culminates with the more than seven centuries of Venetian presence. The “justificationists”, instead, frame the story only from the end of the First World War, when Istria, Fiume and a small part of Dalmatia were assigned to Italy, completely ignoring everything that had happened before that time.

Why do they not talk about it?

Silvano: For two reasons. The first is to keep silent about the centuries-long Italianity of those lands, where the cities were born on the coast as colonies of Rome and then developed under Venice until 1797. Cities where, as a well-known song says, “even the stones speak Italian”. The second is to keep silent about the tumultuous events under the Austrians, who favored the Slavic component to the detriment of the Italian one. This found expression in Emperor Franz Joseph's decision of November 23, 1866, during the middle of the Risorgimento period, in which he called for the “Slavicization” of Italian surnames and toponyms. However, the purpose of all this is to make people believe that the Italianization of those lands was something imposed by Fascism.

Let's move on to the second point: “Italiani brava gente”…

Silvano: It has now become a slogan used in a derogatory manner with reference to what Fascism and, later, the Italian army supposedly did during the Second World War, starting in 1941, when the territory of the Kingdom of the Yugoslavia was occupied. However, many details are ignored. First: the military action was the consequence of a coup d'état which attempted to install a pro-Allied government in Yugoslavia (which posed a serious risk to Italian troops engaged in Albania and Greece). Certainly, mistakes and horrors were committed by the Italian side during the war. There is a lot of emphasis placed on this point because they think this would justify the Foibe Massacres as a reaction of the Slav Communists against the Italians, who are all depicted as Fascists. Yet, they are silent about the actions of Italian soldiers in Dalmatia who saved thousands of Jews. They are silent about the Croats (Ustasha) and Serbs (Chetniks) who were allies of the Italians. Finally, they are especially silent about the fact that the crimes of the Yugoslav Partisans were committed above all at the end of the war.

The third point is to deny that the Foibe Massacres were an “ethnic cleansing”…

Silvano: The Slavs and the Communists deny the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”, claiming that there was “only” a killing of Fascists and those who opposed the new regime. In reality, the Foibe Massacres occured in two waves. The first took place between September 8 and October 10, 1943 when the Italian army was overwhelmed by the Armistice and Istria was occupied by Tito's partisans. It was in this period that Norma Cossetto was killed, for example.

The second “wave” of executions began after May 1, 1945, therefore after the war, when Slavic troops arrived in Trieste. For the Julian capital the massacres ended after 45 days (with the arrival of the British) but for Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia there was no end. The revisionist thesis is even denied by Mattarella, because the Yugoslavs killed people who were never Fascist; even partisans and exponents of the non-Communist CLN were thrown into the foibe. These are facts which the justificationists do not want to remember, precisely because the presence of Italian anti-Fascist exponents and anti-Fascist fighters among the victims confirms that “ethnic cleansing” was involved. The intent was clearly to eliminate the Italians, killing them or forcing them to flee. And, unfortunately, they succeeded...

Part II – Deny or Justify: The Strategies to Conceal the Truth

Most of the bodies were never found... therefore they “do not exist”; the Exodus, then, almost does not exist and we try to talk about it as little as possible in schools

We saw yesterday the arguments used to counter the emotional impact of the genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by the Yugoslav Communist partisans in Julian Venetia at the end of the Second World War.

On the one hand, there is the aim of “justifying” what happened (as if the elimination, abuse, torture and rape of more than 10,000 people could be justified). Then there are also those who deny these figures.

We therefore asked Silvano Olmi – a journalist, historical researcher and member of the national directorate of the February 10th Committee (Comitato 10 Febbraio) – to clarify these points.

Silvano: In every part of the world, Communism acts like the Mafia: it makes people disappear. Not finding the corpses of the victims, and not being able to consult Yugoslav source documents, the denialist historians can claim anything. Unfortunately, there is no precise number of martyrs, because it was not possible to recover the bodies from all the foibe, as for example the most famous one, Basovizza, a national monument on the Carso of Trieste. The bodies of those killed in 1943 were recovered. But for those of 1945 it was more difficult. Most of the foibe are located in Yugoslavian territory (today Slovenia and Croatia) and therefore have remained unexplored.

So we must rely on estimations. The victims of Trieste are at least 5 thousand in number (4,122 names are found in the list published by Mayor Gianni Bartoli); another 500 in Fiume; in Gorizia the gravestone in Memorial Park shows the names of 695 people killed in the foibe, of which about 200 were white partisans (i.e. anti-communists). To these must be added the victims of Pola, Zara and more than 100 towns and villages of Istria and Dalmatia. For this reason, at least 10-12 thousand victims are calculated.

However, what is important is not the exact numbers, but their intention to annihilate the Italian presence.

Another disinformation technique concerns, the Internet and social media where incorrect photos are sometimes posted...

Silvano: Yes, it sometimes happens that images are posted that have nothing to do with the Foibe Massacres and the killing of Italian citizens. Such images have also deceived television programs such as “Porta a Porta”. The best known fake images are those of the shooting of some Slavic citizens by Italian soldiers and the recovery of the remains of Polish officers massacred by the Soviets in the Katyn Forest. One has to be very careful when posting images, because in this case the misinformation is based on a theorem: if the photo is false, then according to them everything that is written in the article or post must also be false.

Those are the disinformation techniques pertaining to the Foibe Massacres. What about the Exodus...

Silvano: They try not to talk about the Exodus or else they reduce it to just a few lines. There, too, they contest the official figure of 300-350 thousand exiles, but for the most part they tend to ignore it, mainly for two reasons. The first is the shameful hostility manifested towards the Exiles by the Italian Communist Party, especially in Ancona and Bologna, to cite the most egregious cases.

It is worth remembering – for those who do not know – that the Italian Communist Party (PCI) has always been in favor of every concession to the Slavs. Let's recall Togliatti's proposal for the transfer of Trieste or the the 2,000 workers of Monfalcone who were sent to work in Yugoslavia and who, after the split between Tito and Stalin, ended up deported to the concentration camp of Goli Otok.

The second reason is precisely the enormous extent of the Exodus, with cities like Pola abandoned by 90% of the population, entire towns remained almost deserted. A fact which demonstrates the Italian character of those lands and populations. A drama which Simone Cristicchi, with his recital “Magazzino 18”, has managed to make known, and to divulge effectively. It is no coincidence that Cristicchi was challenged by the far Left and by partisans, precisely because his show was terribly uncomfortable for them.

What do you think of the initiatives of the ANPI?

Silvano: We always hope to be able to arrive at a peaceful and unprejudiced dialogue with the national ANPI. Unfortunately, however, especially at the local level, the “denialist” initiatives which focus on disinformation are pervasive, as are their opposition to initiatives such as the screening of the film “Red Land – Rosso Istria” or the graphic novel “Foiba rossa”, both centered on the tragic story of Norma Cossetto.

And yet, not all partisans are Communists.

Silvano: True. It would suffice to refer to the publications of the Istrian CLN, such as as “Foibe. La tragedia dell’Istria” or the clandestine newspaper “Il Grido dell’Istria”. The collection of the 53 issues published between August 1945 and February 10, 1947 was reprinted in facsimile a few years ago by the National Dalmatian Association and, by leafing through it, interesting discoveries are made which demonstrate that the facts which today they wish to deny or downplay were already very well known at that time.

How often is the Committee invited to speak in schools?

Silvano: Rarely. There are still very few schools which adequately celebrate Remembrance Day in Italy. Every year you have to search for principals and professors who are aware of the importance of making known to students this forgotten tragic page of Italian history (a page which has even been torn out). But, for the most part, they are not interested, or else are obstructed by red rape. Often, however, it is the students themselves who invite us to talk about what is not written in the textbooks and what their teachers do not want to explain.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Myth of Anti-Slavic Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans

(Written by Marco Vigna, taken from the magazine “Indygesto”, March 31, 2020)

Julian-Dalmatian Refugees During the Exodus from Pola (1947)

The idea that the Foibe Massacres were a reaction to Italian abuses is a polemical tool used by Foibe deniers. The historical data shows otherwise: the Italians did not carry out any mass repression, but instead suffered two of them...

One of the arguments used by those who try to deny the genocidal nature of the Foibe Massacres, or who try to justify it as an alleged reaction to supposed Italian abuses, is the accusation that Fascists carried out a de-nationalization of Slavs in Julian Venetia.

However, an examination of the quantitative data recorded in the censuses of the Julian population in the periods from 1880-1910 (under Austrian administration) and from 1921-1936 (under Italian administration) attest that no “ethnic cleansing” took place under the Fascists.

It is well known that the Habsburg government pursued a policy of germanizing and slavicizing Julian Venetia, Dalmatia and South Tyrol, in accordance with the directives of Emperor Franz Joseph at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in 1866. This is confirmed by the demographic data of the period from 1866-1918, which on the one hand documents massive expulsions of Italians, and on the other a Slavic immigration favored in every way by the government, all accompanied by a persecutory policy against Italians, which included endemic violence, the forced alteration of a large number of surnames, the closure of Italian schools, etc. Even a great historian like Ernesto Sestan made mention of this imperial policy:
“About 35 thousand Italian citizens were expelled in the decade from 1903 to 1913.” (1)
The support of the imperial authorities for Slavic immigration from the Balkans, together with their simultaneous hostility towards the Italian population, caused a rapid increase in the Slavic-speaking population in Julian Venetia.

For example, the Slovenian population had a demographic expansion of 3.4% in the period 1880-1890, a 2.7% increase in 1890-1900, and as much as 20.8% in 1900-1910.

In some cities, the increase in the number of Slovenes was even more pronounced. In the period between 1900-1910, the Slovenian presence in Gorizia grew by 36.3%, in Trieste by 116.7%, and in Pola by 178.9%. (2)

Obviously, the increased percentage of Slavs meant also a relative decrease of Italians.

The impact of these combined series of measures against the Italians was devastating especially in Dalmatia, resulting in a very rapid decline of the Italian ethnic group. Professor Monzali writes:
“In the first unofficial Austrian statistical studies carried out in the 1860's and 1870's, the number of Italian Dalmatians varied between 40,000 and 50,000; in the official census of 1880, their number dropped to 27,305, and then dropped dramatically in the following decades; 16,000 in 1890, 15,279 in 1900, 18,028 in 1910 (out of a total Dalmatian population of 593,784 people in 1900, and 645,646 in 1910).” (3)
An abrupt de-nationalization operation to the detriment of the Italians during the last fifty years of the Austrian Empire is therefore proven by the sharp changes in the demographic percentages of the various ethnic groups. The Italian population was almost wiped out in Dalmatia and was reduced in Julian Venetia by the collaborative grip of Slavic nationalists and the imperial authorities.

On the other hand, there was no ethnic cleansing operation against the Slavs under the Kingdom of Italy. It is true that population movements occurred in the period of 1918-1921 in Julian Venetia, however they were voluntary migrations and were due to economic reasons.

In the preceding decades, the Austrian government had introduced into the region a number of officials, administrators, soldiers, employees of post offices, telegraphs, railways, etc., of Austrian, Hungarian and Slovenian ethnic background, so as to “Germanize or Slavicize [the region] ... unsparingly and without the slightest compunction”. (4) When the Austrian state surrendered the region to Italy, all these people naturally lost their jobs: no state in the world would have kept foreign officials, soldiers and civil servants – who were not even born in Julian Venetia – both for reasons of loyalty and because admission to certain jobs was subject to specific requirements and educational standards which differ from country to country.

As usually happens when a territory passes from one state to another, these people lost their jobs, so they voluntarily decided to return to their homelands. What happened was the voluntary emigration of some groups of Austrians, Hungarians and Slavs who had lost their state positions due to a simple and ordinary administrative measure, common to all states (the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, for example, enacted the same policy on its soil). It certainly was not an “ethnic cleansing”, also because those who wished to stay were free to remain in Julian Venetia. (5)

Trivially: just as Austria had used its own officials, administrators, civil servants and military personnel in Julian Venetia, so too did Italy. The only real emigration for political reasons – and not economic ones – from Julian Venetia to Yugoslavia was instead that of a few thousand (less than 3,000) Slavic nationalists who, also of their own free will, moved immediately after the war to the newly-formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where they became foreign agitators, propagandists and sometimes terrorists in the name of Yugoslav nationalism. Again, here one can not speak of “ethnic cleansing”, because this migratory shift was voluntary and involved only a few thousand people. (6)

Furthermore, it should be noted that even during the Fascist period there was an immigration of Slovenes from Slovenia to Italy: J. L. Gardelles, a French scholar, calculates that at least 20,000 to 25,000 Slovenes immigrated to Julian Venetia and permanently took up residence there during the 1920's and 1930's. (7) Such a phenomenon, accepted by the Fascist regime, is incompatible with the idea of ​​an “ethnic cleansing” project.

Simplifying things as much as possible for the sake of brevity, the Fascists proposed the Italianization of the region, but they never conceived of any expulsion of the Slavs nor of forcing them to assimilate. They limited themselves to adopting measures similar to those adopted by other contemporary states, including liberal or democratic ones, making use of educational institutions and mandating the use of the official language.

The non-existence of any forced upheaval of the ethnic and demographic composition of Julian Venetia on the part of the Fascist authorities emerges from a comparison between the 1921 census (which took place a year before the March on Rome and the beginning of the Fascist regime) and the 1936 census.

The census data of 1921 showed that Slovenes and Croats were equal to 37.3% of the population (8), while their percentage in 1936 grew to 37.9%. To be precise, in 1936 the region had a total population of 1,022,593 inhabitants, of which 402,091 inhabitants were of non-Italian origin (Slavs, Germans and other very small communities, equal to 39.5%). More specifically, there were 252,916 Slovenes (24.7%) and 134,945 Croats (13.2%). (9)

Therefore, the Slavs had increased in number from 1921 to 1936, in both absolute terms (not surprising, given the general population growth) and relative terms, since the total percentage of Slovenian and Croatian inhabitants had grown, albeit to a modest extent.

By contrast, one should note the extent of the brutal ethnic cleansing carried out by the Yugoslavs against the Italian population in Julian Venetia between 1943-1948, which led to the expulsion of about 300,000 Italians, to which one must add many thousands more who were murdered.

In conclusion, the “Fascist ethnic cleansing” against Slavs in Julian Venetia is a myth. Meanwhile, two other ethnic cleansings did take place: one against the Italians in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia under the Habsburg Empire, followed by a second one against Italians perpetrated by Tito's partisans.


1. E. Sestan, Venezia Giulia. Lineamenti di una storia etnica e culturale, Udine 1997, p. 93.

2. Data based on the figures reported in O. Mileta Mattiuz, Popolazioni dell’Istria, Fiume, Zara e Dalmazia (1850-2002). Ipotesi di quantificazione demografica, Trieste 2005; G. Perselli, I censimenti della popolazione dell’Istria, con Fiume e Trieste e di alcune città della Dalmazia tra il 1850 e il 1936, Rovigno 1993.

3. L. Monzali, Italiani di Dalmazia. Dal Risorgimento alla Grande Guerra, Firenze 2011, pp. 170-171.

4. The decision of Franz Joseph to carry out an ethnic cleansing against the Italians in Trentino-Alto Adige, Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, can be found in Die Protokolle des Österreichischen Ministerrates 1848-1867. VI Abteilung: Das Ministerium Belcredi. Band 2: 8. April 1866-6. Februar 1867, Österreichischer Bundesverlag für Unterricht, Wissenschaft und Kunst (Wien 1973); the quote appears in Section VI, vol. 2, meeting of November 12, 1866, p. 297. The quotation appears in a section titled “Maßregeln gegen das italienische Element in einigen Kronländern” (“Measures against the Italian element in some territories of the Crown”).

5. The considerations of H. Angermeier in Königtum und Staat im deutschen Reich, München 1954, are very useful in this regard.

6. J. A. Brundage, The Genesis of the Wars: Mussolini and Pavelic, London 1987.

7. J. L. Gardelles, Histria et Dalmatia. Peuplements: essai de synthèse, in «Journal of Modern History», VI (1980), pp. 143-214

8. J. B. Duroselle, Le conflit de Trieste 1943-1954, Bruxelles, 1966.

9. T. Sala, 1939. Un censimento riservato del governo fascista sugli «alloglotti». Proposte per l’assimilazione degli “allogeni” nella Provincia dell’Istria in «Bollettino dell’Istituto Regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione nel Friuli-Venezia Giulia», a. I, n. 1, 1973, pp. 17-19.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

So now Marco Polo was “Croatian”: Someone failed their history test!

(Written by Fabio Rocchi, taken from the journal “Difesa adriatica”, anno XIII, n. 11, November 2007.)

Marco Polo Sailing from Venice in 1271
After the ludicrous appropriation of the the statue known as the “Lussin Bronze” (thus named due to its having been found off the coast of the island of Lussino), exhibited for months in Florence as the “Croatian Athlete” and now collecting dust in Zagreb, Croatia is once again up to its usual game of attempting to make Croatian what has never been even remotely Croatian. This time it is Marco Polo’s turn: it seems he has been given full Croatian citizenship, and a Croatian passport for good measure.

The Croatian National Tourist Board recently published 150,000 copies of a brochure and a 15-minute film in which “scientific proof” is given to show that Marco Polo was born on the Dalmatian island of Curzola and thus, his native land must inevitably be Croatia. (The source is an article from the September 5th edition of “La Voce del Popolo”, the Italian-language newspaper based in Fiume.)

This latest, ridiculous, attempt at appropriation of identity is steeped in complete ignorance of historical fact: Marco Polo is universally recognized by hosts of expert scholars as having been born in Venice and besides, even if his family had its origins on Curzola, the island in that period was a territory of Venice, and the local population was of Latin-Venetian culture: there did not exist the remotest sign or mention of Croatia.

This cheap attempt at “Croatianization” demonstrates the will – this time, truly scientific – to rewrite history, tailoring it to fit a nation’s needs and preferences, conferring citizenship on famous people so as to gain favor on tourist brochures. There might be a few tourists who, ignorant of the truth, will fall into the trap, but culture and history are something else entirely: they are written in books, not on tourist brochures.

Monday, February 10, 2020

February 10th — The Day of Remembrance: Foibe Massacres and the Exodus

(Written by Elisabetta de Dominis, descendant of the De Dominis family of Arbe, taken from the newspaper “La Voce di New York”, February 9, 2020.)

We were in Trieste for the presentation of the book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”, containing 50 testimonies collected by Roberto Menia.

Monday February 10th is “The Day of Remembrance” and many Italians still do not know what is supposed to be remembered, because they do not know what the Italians who lived in the regions of Istria and Dalmatia (located along the eastern coast of Italy, which today belong to Slovenia and Croatia) suffered from in the ten years after the war. They still do not know what the words ‘Exodus’ and ‘Foiba’ mean.

I must confess that my guts are turned inside out every time I return to my family's island of origin – Arbe in the Quarnero – and I hear Italian tourists, ignorant of history, calling it by its new name Rab. Yes, I think angrily: Rab. But what the hell is Rab? For centuries it was called Arba, ever since the times of the ancient Romans, who founded it. Lussinpiccolo has become Mali Lošinj, which sounds horrible... Ragusa, the sixth Italian maritime republic, is now called Dubrovnik, which sounds eerily similar to Diabolik... And there are many other cacophonous names: it is sufficient to look at the map.

For example Goli Otok, i.e. Isola Calva, the Adriatic gulag where malnourished deportees were forced by the guards to move stones all day while they were beaten by other deportees under the scorching sun until they killed each other. When this land of stones along the coast appears to me, I always think that the stones are the petrified bones of those unfortunate people. Most of the prisoners in that gulag were Italians Communists who had moved from different regions of the Italy in order to live in a communist paradise in accordance with Yugoslavian Stalinist ideology, which Tito later decided had to be eliminated, but not before making them suffer in unspeakable ways (I just referenced above a small part of the brutalities perpetrated against them).

The huge tragedy of the exodus of 350,000 Italians was the result of fear, fueled by the continuous “disappearances” of Italians at the hands of the Yugoslav Communists. The most “successful” method of making them disappear was to throw them alive into foibe in Istria (i.e. natural sinkholes found in the Carso area) or else mutilate them and drown them in the Dalmatian sea with a stone tied around their neck.

Nowadays “cultural” meetings are held in various Italian regions organized by self-styled “historians” of Slovenian origin, usually born in Trieste or Istria, who claim that the Foibe Massacres are a hoax. And this makes me feel like vomiting. I wonder how our country can allow such a humiliation towards its own citizens to take place. There is still a lot of bad faith on the part of certain municipal administrators, who say: “Well, they were Fascists...” More than 11,000 defenseless citizens, women and children were killed, and you're telling me they were all Fascists!?

Our parents, even here in Italy, continued to hold their tongue: it was advisable not to speak up or else you would be accused of being a Fascist. If today we have the opportunity to speak with our heads held high, without fear of making ourselves heard, we owe it to the honorable Roberto Menia who established the Day of Remembrance in 2004”, said Massimiliano Lacota, President of the Union of Istrians last Thursday, in Trieste, at the presentation of the 50 testimonies collected by Menia in his book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”. Sitting next to me, Mrs. Gigliola from Cherso (as it was called by the ancient Greeks, which the Croats decided to change to Cres) commented: “When one has great pain, one does not speak”.

Piero Del Bello, director of the Museum of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians explained that “you are an exile by obligation, a migrant by choice, albeit under terrible circumstances”, adding that “in my house we did not talk about it at all, for that sense of modesty had turned into shame because everything had been lost: family, home, land. How can you remember and construct a memory if you no longer have the fertile ground which makes your story last for generations? Shame turned into fear, which our people have suffered from ever since. You have to write your own story, otherwise it will be forgotten. Roberto, on the other hand, was lucky that his mom shared it with him.”

The Sicilian writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco commented that he found it vulgar that in the Senate the word ‘drama’ was attached to the Foibe Massacres, when in reality it was “the pinnacle of tragedy.” And he stressed that bad faith is always accompanied by ignorance, since here “the victim has been turned into the accused”. A poetic and touching speech, but I shed tears when Roberto Menia finally spoke, because he expressed my exact feeling:
Over the years, I feel this inner bond growing ever deeper. It pains me to look at the sea from the shore of Trieste and see in the distance those lands which I have never lived in. For us these places no longer exist, except in our souls. Our journey has no meaning unless it leaves something. Why must this Italy, which is a wonderful mosaic, lose these pieces of its history? The grand history of a Country is made up of many smaller histories. And when they touch your heart, they transmit something to you. We have the right and duty to collect all the testimonies and pass them on to our children. Simone Cristicchi, who wrote “Magazzino 18”, came to Trieste to write about the asylum and discovered that it was full of insane Julian-Dalmatian exiles: they gazed upon the horizon without speaking...

See also:
40 Days of Terror: The Yugoslav Occupation of Trieste
April 25: The Feast of San Marco – Not Liberation
National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe
The Day of Remembrance: The Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus
The Meaning of the Foibe Massacres
Pits of Death Give up Their Grisly Secret
Triestine Girls: Reflections on the Istrian Exodus
The Foibe are Still Open in Our Hearts
A Painful Piece of Italian History, Overlooked
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
The Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
The Disappearance and Death of Don Francesco Bonifacio
The Rape and Murder of Norma Cossetto
Overview of Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography
Excerpt From Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Forbidden Truths: Istria and Dalmatia Were Italian

(Written by Elisabetta de Dominis, descendant of the De Dominis family of Arbe, taken from the newspaper “La Voce di New York”, March 3, 2019.)

Conference in Trieste, February 26, 2019
From left to right: Massimiliano Fedriga, Elisabetta de Dominis, Fausto
Biloslavo, Massimiliano Lacota, Vittorio Feltri & Marcello Veneziani

What you are about to read is the speech I delivered at the conference on “The Role of Journalism in Preserving the Memory of the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus”. The conference was organized by Massimiliano Lacota, President of the Union of Istrians, at the Palazzo della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Trieste. In attendance were Massimiliano Fedriga, President of Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Vittorio Feltri, editor of “Libero”; Marcello Veneziani, journalist and political scientist; and Fausto Biloslavo, correspondent for “Il Giornale”.

In the beginning we had hope: we hoped to return to our lands. Then we dreamed about it: because returning was no longer possible. But the dream of living helps one to survive. Now we no longer dream. We have come to terms with reality – a reality which is not the historical reality, however. Too many people still do not know what happened to the Italians of the Adriatic Coast.

Then there are those who did know – those who participated in the killing, in the stealing, in inflicting suffering upon us. These are the friends, relatives or comrades of the modern-day Foibe-deniers of the Communist Party. These deniers deny the crimes proven by witnesses and deny the discovery of human remains, although many of the prisoners were made to disappear. By denying it, they defend and confirm the heinous actions of Tito's partisans. If today we deny a crime, then we admit that tomorrow it can be perpetrated again.

Not wanting to acknowledge what happened over 70 years ago, they do not allow history to teach us how to deal with the present, in the first place the symptoms of totalitarianism. It is always born from jealousies and social hatred, from disparity in wealth.

Nobody wants to accept that culture can make a difference, because culture is wealth. It can teach you to understand, to reason, to warn and even to honestly obtain a social position – without having skeletons in the closet or stolen paintings in the living room.

History must be told and repeated, because, as the Latins said: repetita iuvant.

Those who officially represent Italy internationally still do not have the courage to express themselves on the gravity of the historical events that occurred after the war on the Eastern Coast of Italy; they do not have the courage to respond to Pahor and Plenkovic, presidents of the nearby republics of Slovenia and of Croatia.

They almost seem to fear them: hic sunt leones, as the Romans said.

No, beyond the border there are no longer any lions; the only lion that was there was the lion of San Marco. Then came the jackals, eventually.

First, the presidents of Slovenia and Croatia should not have the audacity to complain about what is said in our country regarding the Foibe Massacres, because Italy is a sovereign state.

Second, Italy is a state of significantly greater European and international weight.

Third, it is time to reveal and dispel the taboos that haunt Slovenia and Croatia. And I wish to speak about this.

Taboo No. 1: Istria and Dalmatia were Italian lands and belonged to Italy.

We Triestines, many of whom are of Istrian or Dalmatian origin, know this. But how many Italians really know that these were regions of Italy and that our parents and grandparents fled their own homeland – not from Yugoslavia, which did not even exist yet as a federal socialist republic?

Still to this day they do not teach this in schools.

On Sunday February 10th, on the Day of Remembrance at the Foiba of Basovizza, Antonio Tajani saluted us by saying “Long live Italian Istria and Italian Dalmatia!”, in order to remind us what our nationality was and what the nationality of our lands were at that time.

Still today too few people are aware that those who remained behind [in Yugoslavia] had to deny their Italian heritage and declare themselves Slavic, and were forbidden to speak Italian.

I will not defend Tajani, because in the following days he proved incapable of even defending himself. Perhaps he does not know history. He could have confidently responded to the complaints of the Slovenian president Borut Pahor by simply saying: “I paid homage to what used to be the Eastern Coast of Italy and its heroic inhabitants.”

The day after the Day of Remembrance, I woke up in the middle of the night with this phrase: “Everyone is a hero unto himself and the Fatherland is where it begins.”

Taboo No. 2: The Slavs did not have their own written culture.

The only cultural identity along the Eastern Adriatic Coast was Italian cultural identity. The Slavs, who for centuries lived 100 km from the coast, were transferred en masse to the coastal towns by the Austro-Hungarian imperial government in order to turn the Italians into a minority. But the imperial government had to keep schools and all legal documents – everything from contracts to land registrations – in Italian, because the Slavs did not have their own written culture or national identity, as they had not had any kingdom for 800 years, having always been divided into different ethnicities and tribes. Indeed, the so-called Karadjordjevic “princes” were Serbian chieftains who were placed at the head of a kingdom created by the British at the end of the First World War, a kingdom which the Slovenes and Croats had joined only with reluctance, as later events show.

Taboo No. 3: False honor.

How can honor be built upon a crime, a robbery, a massacre? Tajani, with his “Long live...” speech, has put a dent in the public credibility of the neighboring republics, which they care about so viscerally.

By taking offense – as if these historical facts were made-up by Italy – presidents Pahor and Plenkovic demonstrated that at the bottom of their bowels lies their guilty conscience, which they are ashamed of and which they wish to conceal from the younger generations in their countries, who feel the need to know history and discover their non-existent roots.

Their children are kept in the dark about the 400 years of Venetian and then Italian history: in schools they begin with the Early Middle Ages and then pass to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And many kids do not know that they live in houses stained with the blood of its former Italian owners.

Taboo No. 4: Croatia and Slovenia do not have a history of their own.

After stealing our lives, our country, our affections, our land, our houses, our belongings, our tombs, Croatia and Slovenia are now also stealing our history from us, while our leaders remain silent.

Having never had national sovereignty, they need famous men in order to forge a history for themselves. And since they do not have any, they resort to translating the names of our ancestors into Slavic.

According to them, Marco Polo was “Croatian” and was born in Curzola. Too bad that at that time Curzola was an island of La Serenissima.

My ancestor, Giovanni de Dominis, commander of the Dalmatian fleet in the battle of Lepanto, aboard the galley San Giovanni, has now become “Ivan”. Fortunately, they did not translate the surname since it is Latin.

My ancestor Marcantonio de Dominis, an optical scientist, archbishop of Spalato and later dean of Windsor, has become “Marcantun”.

Taboo No. 5: Croatia and Slovenia have no roots.

Read the book “Les Slaves” by Francis Conte and you will understand: the Slavs inhabited the swampy and infertile areas of southern Russia, then pushed into the Balkans in the fifth century. They have always raided and killed in order to take possession of fertile land. And so it was, all the way up to the latest war in the 1990's. In order to effortlessly enrich themselves they have always liquidated and exterminated those who owned the land, whether by throwing them into a foiba or tossing them into the sea. The ancient Greeks called them sklavos, to emphasize that they had no dignity as a people: they served the highest bidder.

When you have no roots, you have no dignity. You are undignified.

Unlike them, we Istrians and Dalmatians have roots. These roots are in our hearts, which gave us the ability to make a dignified choice and to live in peace, because we know who we are and where we come from.

For centuries, we felt that we were citizens of the world, as Venice had taught us. Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire we discovered Europeans before Europe itself did. But we always felt Italian, even when we found ourselves annexed to Central Europe, which was not exactly a place that we felt a part of. Because it is the Adriatic that was and has been our destiny.

I woke up very early one morning from a dream that I do not well recall, but I do remember this phrase: “Crushed between two eras, two wars, two civilizations, two cultures”.

Our Middle Adriatic Destiny?

Not lands in the middle of ours, like those of Central Europe, but lands in the middle of the sea, the Middle Adriatic land. The sea between the land, between the islands.

Are we more sea or more land?

We are like the sea: we have no land. We are the sea. And the land was only a landing place for us. Coveted yes, but not definitive. Only the sea is forever.

We on the east coast of Italy are neither meat nor fish. We eat meat and fish, but we prefer ham and scampi, salty and sweet at the same time. So we are: salty, pungent, biting and lovable, moderate, sentimental. This is why we are different: torn, uprooted, half and half. In the middle?

We are no longer there, but nor do we feel like we are from here, in this part of Italy, even if we were born here. Our roots remain in our hearts, in ours bowels, in our blood. In the memories of our fathers and mothers. Memories of joy and suffering.

Even if you [Croats and Slovenes] took everything, even our graves, you did not take our roots. We will continue to grow there, in our occupied lands. Where the spirit of our ancestors is, where our homes are, where our history can torment your consciences. Nor do you know how to dive into the sea and resurface on other shores. You are not sons of this sea.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

In Memory of Nicolò Luxardo (1927-2019)

Nicolò Luxardo III (1927-2019)
The Luxardo name is synonymous with a success story and with an enlightened company which is always attentive to its employees, but it is also inextricably linked to the painful and unforgettable page of the destruction of Zara, the Julian-Dalmatian exodus and the tenacious memory of the exiled communities. The whole of Veneto must be grateful to Nicolò – an Istrian of Ligurian descent – for having the strength to be reborn, which he demonstrated by making our land the homeland of Maraschino.”
– Luca Zaia, President of Veneto

It is sad to report that Nicolò Luxardo III, a member of the illustrious Luxardo family, passed away in his home in Padua earlier this month on December 3, 2019. He was an Italian Dalmatian exile and entrepreneur who helped rebuild the Luxardo company after the tragedies the World War II.

Nicolò was born in Trieste in 1927. His family, known throughout the world for its maraschino liqueur produced in the Dalmatian city of Zara, was then enjoying a business resurgence in the Kingdom of Italy. In 1943, however, the city of Zara was destroyed by Allied bombings and reduced to a pile of rubble. Tito's Yugoslav Partisans then descended upon Zara in 1944 and began a series of massacres which nearly wiped out the entire Luxardo family. His father Pietro, his uncle Nicolò II and his aunt Bianca were all murdered by the Yugoslavs. His uncle Giorgio (1897-1963) was the sole survivor of his generation.

Despite the millennial Italian character of the city and its population, the city of Zara was annexed to Yugoslavia after the war. Like thousands of other Italians of the Eastern Adriatic, the Luxardos were forced to abandon their native land and their factory, which was seized by the Yugoslav Communists, and had to rebuild their company in post-war Italy.

After conducting research and experiments aimed at finding an ideal location to grow the maraschino cherry, the company was reborn in 1947 in Torreglia, a small town in the province of Padua at the foot of the Euganean Hills. Here, Nicolò and his uncle Giorgio rebuilt the company which had been founded in Zara by Girolamo Luxardo in 1821. When he re-founded the company with his uncle, Nicolò was just twenty years old.

Nicolò Luxardo was a great man, entrepreneur, innovator and precursor of the times who witnessed so much history – some of it frightening – with the will to be reborn, enlightened pragmatism, and extraordinary moral strength, which are his greatest legacies. ... The personality and example of Nicolò Luxardo will be a guide for our entrepreneurs, especially the youngest ones whom he dedicated particular care to, who will respect the ideals in which he believed and invested: work, family, culture, history, attachment to the territory, attention to the product and attention to quality, which made Luxardo and his Maraschino an admirable example, known and appreciated all over the world.”
– Massimo Finco, Deputy President of Assindustria Venetocentro

In the following decades the Luxardo company had to fight numerous lawsuits against Croatian imitators in Yugoslavia who were attempting to market Maraschino liqueur using the Luxardo trademark. The Luxardo's successfully won all the court cases against them. Upon Giorgio's death in 1963, Nicolò assumed presidency of the company and resigned only in 2000, at the age of 73.

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Nicolò Luxardo was a great lover of beauty: he oversaw the restorations of many Venetian villas, collected books on the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus and on the history of the Republic of Genoa, the original birthplace of his ancestors.

In Padua he founded the Giovani imprenditori di Confindustria (a group of young entrepreneurs), oversaw the publication of the Dalmatian Italian magazine “Rivista dalmatica di storia patria” and wrote two books: the first dedicated to his family and the company, entitled “I Luxardo del maraschino”, and the second dedicated to the story of his father, uncle and aunt who were killed during the war, entitled “Oltre gli scogli di Zara”.

With Nicolò Luxardo's death Italy loses one of its last surviving representatives of Italianity in the Eastern Adriatic, as well as a great industrialist.

He leaves behind his wife Anna Maria Angelini, a poetess with whom he had two children, Guido and Piero, who run the Luxardo company with their cousins; the latter has also been the chairman of the Campiello Prize Management Committee since 2011.

Wife Anna Maria, sons Piero with Cristina, Guido with Elena,
sister Alessandra, grandchildren Alvise, Martina, Gaia, Nicolò,
Chiara, Laura and Francesco, with deep sorrow announce
the loss of Nicolò Luxardo Franchi, 92 years old.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A City Hostile to the Austrians: Irredentism in Trieste

(Written by Marco Vigna, taken from the newspaper “Il primato nazionale”, December 8, 2019.)

The massive presence of irredentism – that is to say, Italian patriotism – in Trieste can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century. Trieste is a very symbolic city, notable for its size, its geographical location and its history.

In 1848 a governor of this city, General Ferencz Gyulai (later Field Marshal, Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia and commander of the Austrian army in the war of 1859) had published an article in L'Osservatore Triestino – which at that time functioned as a government press organ – in which he contrasted the Slavic subjects, whom he considered loyal to the empire, with the Italians, whom he accused of being collectively hostile to imperial authority. In truth, the governor does not appear to have been wrong.

Trieste: The Hostile City

Within a few months following the publication of this article, there were three attempts at insurrection in Trieste, all three nipped in the bud by the imposing military and police apparatus: the riot of August 20, 1848, which resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests; another attempted insurrection on October 10-11; and then riots which lasted from October 23 to October 29, 1848.

On March 17, 1849 Trieste was placed under a state of siege: an entire regiment – the Fürstenwärther – was concentrated in Opicina. The castle of Trieste was put in a state of alert in anticipation of a siege, and a national guard was trained, most of whose recruits were foreigners. The concentration of large military forces in Trieste occurred when Hungary, Lombardy and Venetia were in full revolt, while Carlo Alberto's army was in pursuit of Radetzky's forces. Despite this dramatic situation for the empire, it was decided to place several thousand troops in the city of Trieste, demonstrating its importance and recognizing the danger of its potential insurrection.

On the other hand, Gyulai was one of the most renowned imperial generals and in 1850 he managed to prevent the insurrection of Trieste by becoming Minister of War, then military commander of Lombardy-Venetia, and finally viceroy. His career depended largely on the merits acquired in 1848.

Even the central government seemed convinced of the antipathy of Trieste towards the empire, so much so that on October 28, 1848 it had communicated to the imperial authorities in Trieste that, in order to effectively oppose the Triestine Society (Società dei Triestini), which was "absolutely Italian and anti-German", it was necessary to develop and enhance the German society, which already existed, as well as a Slavic society, which was then in the process of being formed. In accordance with this, already on December 1 of that year Gyulai gave the order to encourage Slavic immigration.

These judgments and evaluations were passed on to the governors and to the central government, which had at its disposal a widespread network of police and informants. The police chiefs knew the mood of the population very well, took note of what they said and did, and reported it regularly to their superiors.

For example, in 1848 the chief of police of Trieste, Altgraf von Salm, communicated to Vienna that the most widely-read newspapers in the city were the following seven: Il Costituzionale, La Guardia nazionale, La Frusta, La Gazzetta di Trieste, Il Giornale di Trieste, Il Telegrafo della sera, Il Diavoletto. Of these, Salm wrote, only one (Il Diavoletto) was in favor of the empire and it was also the least read.

In the following years, the Kaiser's visits to Trieste revealed the citizens' coldness towards him. Franz Herre, the well-known biographer of Franz Joseph, provided a detailed description of the isolation and hostility with which the emperor and empress found themselves surrounded in Italy, wherever they went: Milan, Brescia, Venice...

Two visits by the kaiser to Trieste, in 1851 and 1856, were both politically negative, since in both circumstances the city proved cold and contemptuous towards the imperial couple. During the visit of 1851 the carriage, upon its departure, was accompanied not by a procession of jubilant subjects, but rather by small groups of children, some of whom booed. During the visit of 1856 the police had been alerted months in advance about the upcoming visit of the sovereign, because it was feared that there would be public demonstrations hostile to the monarch. A police report warned the Interior Ministry that a "festive reception to His Majesty was doubtful".

After his departure, the chief of police of Trieste, Franz von Hell, made it known that Franz Joseph was unhappy with the reception he had received. A booklet published shortly after by Baron Pascottini, a senior government official, reports the conditions of the time. He described a Trieste in which irredentists were everywhere, brazen though hidden, and that they had been able to influence the populace "to apathy, to silence, to non-intervention in public shows", when the emperor had come.

The awareness that Trieste was, for the most part, opposed to imperial rule remained rooted in the minds of the imperial authorities and was regularly reaffirmed until 1914. In 1859 the city again came under siege, despite its distance from the front, therefore purely for reasons of internal public order. In 1862 Franz Joseph, speaking with Marshal Thun, expressed his disdain for the political conditions of Trieste, while the Minister of War called it a "rebel's nest" (Rebellennest). In 1866, Trieste was placed under siege yet again.

A few years later, on August 5, 1869, General Karl Moering, Lieutenant of the "Littoral" (that is, Venezia Giulia) sent a report to Minister Giskra. He wrote that political and social life in Trieste was entirely dominated by a bloc which brought together almost all Italians and that it was against the Austrian government.

The Exhibition for the 500th anniversary of the so-called Austrian dedication of 1382, held in 1882, was a disaster for Austria's image. It is superfluous to recall that it was on that occasion that Guglielmo Oberdan planned to kill Franz Joseph and ended up sentenced to death. The sentence was met with the disapproval of the international community, which opposed the use of capital punishment for an act which was not committed, but only planned, which legally is a very different thing. But the Exhibition itself was unsuccessful. The solemn inauguration, in the presence of an archduke and various government authorities, was practically deserted, because the Triestines boycotted it.

The Irredentist Spirit

Still a few years before the world war, Habsburg officials and soldiers wrote in their official reports that Trieste's citizenry was predominantly irredentist, so they ordered measures consistent with their firm belief. For example, the brutal repression of the 1902 Lloyd strike, which saw three different cases of the military opening fire upon crowds of demonstrators (leaving at least 14 dead and an unknown number wounded) was due to the belief that the demonstrators were mostly irredentists. The government of Vienna had explicitly given orders "to make an example" out of them. The city was once again under siege and remained so from February to April. Military units were even brought in from places such as Klagenfurt and Ljubljana and three battleships from Pola. Vienna sent the executioner Josef Lang, the same who later hanged Cesare Battisti. It was on that occasion that Conrad von Hötzendorf, then military governor and later chief of the imperial staff, was convinced that irredentism was socially and culturally invincible, and that force needed be used in order to crush it.

The Austrian governor of those years, Leopold von Goess, formally and in writing advised against granting an Italian-speaking university in Trieste because the Volksitaliener (a term used by the imperial administration to designate those who were of Italian ethnicity, although legally subjects of the empire: Volksitalianer means "ethnic Italians") were unfavorable to Austrian rule. That is more or less what was also said by the Statthalter who replaced him, Konrad zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who contrasted the loyalty of the Slovenes to the empire (who, in his opinion, should be helped) with the hostility of the Italians.

The lieutenant of Trieste, Baron Alfred Fries-Skene, appointed in February 1915, sent a secret report to the government in 1916 in which he reported both on the situation of the city and of the region during the war and in the pre-war period. The Die politische Verwaltung des Küstenlander in eineinhalb Kriegsjahern described a Trieste which even before 1915 was already pervaded by a strong irredentist spirit, with the municipal administration and all its apparatus, the schools and the largest city newspaper (Il Piccolo) all opposed to imperial authority.

The idea that the population of Trieste was made up mostly of irredentists is found not only in the books and memoirs of Italian nationalists, but also in the documents and official decisions of the imperial administration. The short list of sources mentioned above is far from complete.

See also:
Trieste, the Most Italian City
Making Trieste Slavic: An Overview
Making Trieste Slavic: Ethnic Cleansing and the Attempted Slavicization of Trieste