5/2007 – The Italian Press reacts to the Day of Remembrance

The Italian Press reacts to the Day of Remembrance

The February 10th Day of Remembrance was widely and thoroughly commemorated in the Italian press, which dedicated ample space to matters concerning the 1945-1947 eastern border problems, the foibe massacres and the exodus of the local Italian population of Venezia-Giulia and Dalmatia, and the successive cessation of those regions to Tito’s Yugoslavia. Following are two articles: the first, written by historian Paolo Simoncelli and entitled “Exodus and Foibe, The Disgrace of Istria”, appeared on January  31st in “Avvenire”, a major national daily which is the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference; the second is a comment by MarioCervi, entitled “Liberarsi delMigliore” which appeared in “Il Giornale”, another major Italian daily, on February 11th.

Exodus and Foibe, the Disgrace of Istria

Last Sunday, in these pages, the fashion designer Ottaviano Missoni shared his memories of “his” Zara, as well as the entry in the “Enciclopedia Italiana” which states that the city was ‘inexplicably’ razed to the ground as a result of 54 Allied bombing raids; the explanation, however, was simple: Tito wanted the existence of the indisputably Italian city to be completely erased.
It is enough to consider the reasons behind the gold medal honoring the City of Zara: there is mention of “resistence” (against the Germans!) and air bombings that devastated the city “more than any other Italian regional capital”, but without mentioning who it was that did the bombing: the wording makes one suppose that, perhaps, it was the afore-mentioned Germans. This is one of the many situations that give meaning to evocation. February 10th will mark the 60th anniversary of Italy’s imposed signing of the Paris peace treaty. Imposed, we say. The collective, emotional distance from those sorrowful decisions is significant today.
 De Gasperi, in his famous speech to the “Conferenza dei Ventuno”of August 10th, 1946, explicitly acused the Allies of deeply wounding the Italian national conscience and, in allowing the Yugoslavs to occupy 81% of Venezia-Giulia, of provoking a mass expulsion of Italian Istrians and Julian-Dalmatians. The punitive expedition of the aftermath disavowed the entire Italian political class of “cobelligerance” and “resistence”. It was pathetic that Saragat asked that “antifascist activity be evidenced in Italy and abroad”; DeGasperi thought it better, instead, to ask for a plebiscite (as had been suggested by the Archibishop of Trieste, Monsignor Santin). It was all in vain. The Italian ambassador in Moscow, Quaroni, went so far as to send a proposal for refusing to sign the treaty, citing “the concrete injustices on our behalf” and the violation of “the same principles that America embraced in its justifying entrance into World War II”: only a few weeks later, Quaroni was obliged to remind Foreign Minister Nenni of the legal act imposed by the victors, that Italy had “surrendered unconditionally…and thus was obliged to accept any and all conditions imposed by the victors”. Meaning the exodus after the foibe.
 But it was not only a matter of the will to punish. On the Allies’ side, there was a shameful Machiavellianism: only a few days before the end of the war, Tarchiani, the Italian ambassador in Washington, wrote to De Gasperi about the “non-exessive Allied aprehension” regarding the proximate, permanent Yugoslav occupation of Trieste, since they viewed it having a part to play in the irreconcilible strife between Italy and Russia, and therefore as an antidote to the Bolshevization of Italy, which was feared inthe U:S: and Britain”.
As if the foibe, the exodus and the devastation weren’t enough, political opportunism was added and shamefully accepted into the mix: this opportunism has made exiles of the post-war generations of Italians, by exiling their collective memory.
Paolo Simoncelli