a century ago the forced Italianization of Alto Adige - Corriere.it

a century ago the forced Italianization of Alto Adige - Corriere.it


The province had been acquired after the First World War. Thus fascism abolished the use of German, even translating toponyms and surnames

The police came to ask us: "Does Dad speak Italian or German at home?" My father advised us: "If they come back, reply that you speak Italian with your father and German with your mother". They were small and large daily harassments. Indelible. All the more, he explained years ago the patriarch of the South Tyrolean autonomy Silvius Magnago, that the homonymous father, a magistrate graduated from Innsbruck, was born in Rovereto and bore that Italian surname, but was from Trentino. AND for us historically Trentino is the Italian-speaking Tyrol. I myself am an Italian citizen, I respect the laws of the Italian state but my homeland is Austria and I remain a Tyrolean of German culture and education. Even if, he winked, I can understand certain things about Italians better than someone named Meyer.

For this, he explained, he held an incurable grudge against Hitler and Mussolini. Because with their Options in 1939 they had forced his own family to choose between staying on either side of that border at the Brenner which border hadn't been from the earliest times. He returned from the war with a severed leg, which he needed to block any buzz in the torrential rallies (In short! If I can stand an hour on one leg, you can well stand half an hour with your mouth shut!) he called the South Tyroleans to the rescue by striking hard precisely against forced Italianization.

Italianization claimed by Mussolini since the infamous Trieste speech of July 1920, when he theorized that the Italian nation was a single and compact block except for 180,000 Germans in Alto Adige, immigrants in our house (text), and started just one hundred years ago , In the 1
923. When the royal decree of March 29 signed by Vittorio Emanuele III, in the wake of the appointment as senator of Ettore Tolomei, also from Rovereto, a fascist of the first hour, the maximum theorist of the idea of ​​wiping out the German from the Tyrolean valleys, sanc the adoption of Italian as the only language of the Kingdom to be imposed everywhere: from barracks to schools, from railways to municipal offices, from hospitals to taverns. There was no wall where a sign did not dominate: Only Italian is spoken here. Away with books, notebooks, manuals in German or Ladin, the languages ​​spoken up to then by nine out of ten South Tyroleans. Away with the clerks, the officers, the surveyors, the janitors, the secretaries and the teachers unable to recycle themselves in the new language. Via the road signs with the names of countries, districts, squares, lanes from time immemorial German.

Was there a village, a stream or a mountain path to be renamed? Gentlemen, the catalog this!thundered Ettore Tolomei as he opened his volume of 8,000 names (destined to rise to around 10,000) ready for use. Some referred to ancient Latin names such as Egna, whose origin would go back to the Mansio Endidae, a Roman post station on the Via Claudia Augusta, between Trento and Bolzano, rebuilt after a fire in 1189 as Burgum Novum de Egna and then became Novum Forum and finally Neuwenmarcht and Neumarkt. More examples? Kohlern (charcoal pile) took the name of Colle, Kalch (furnace) that of Calce, Wolkenstein in Grden that of Selva di Val Gardena, Hhnerspiel that of Gallina alla Malga...

Interpretations (or real inventions) from the outset highly contested. But lucky to the point of convincing the American president Woodrow Wilson that at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, pointing his finger at the map where Klockerkarkopf was once marked, he would have said: Vetta d'Italia! Wow: I think the name speaks for itself. Not to mention the parallel Italianisation of names: Citizens bearing a German surname had to go to the registry office and choose a new one from a limited and improbable series of alternativessays Andrea Franzoso in the book Long live the Constitution. For example, the Messners could opt between: Sagrestani, Dallamessa, Monego, Delmonego; the Kostners among Costa, Dallacosta, Costantini; the Grubers between Dallafossa, Dalla Fossa, Fossari. The Zueggs, on the other hand, had to be satisfied with Fuscelli. Between one thing and another, bureaucratic laziness included, I don't think the upheaval affected more than 20% of the population - recalls the historian Leopold Steurer - but it was still a rape.

He, Tolomei, was satisfied with s. To the point of defining himself in his autobiography Life memories with words of vanity: He created South Tyrol. He created it as a current geographical concept, he imposed it on the conscience of the nation through thirty years of work. Gaetano Salvemini will tear him apart: He was the man who devised the most refined tools to torment national minorities in Italy.

And how can we forget Mussolini's Italianization of the school? At the beginning of the school year we were assigned a new teacher, Signor Ruggero Monteforte, a fascist from head to toe, writes Claus Gatterer in his book Beautiful country, bad people. His favorite concepts of him were Duce, revolution and style, fascist style of course. In accordance with this style, it was convenient from now on that Duce wrote himself in all capital letters, as well as the pronouns that referred to "him". Loyal to his style, he showed up on the first day of school in a Fascist uniform, black boots with gray-green trousers and a black shirt over it, a gray-green blouse with the collar of the Order on the chest, black belt and fez. A suck. Accompanied by the absolute ban on teaching and speaking German. Against which Canon Michael Gamper and other men and women of good will invented the Katakombenschulen, clandestine schools attended by at least 30,000 children. Extraordinary response to those who between 1926 and 1928 had planted the Victory Monument in the faces of the defeated Germans where a Latin inscription read: From here we educated others to the language, to law, to the arts.

A century after the Grand Council of Fascism of 12 March 1923 announcing the infamous Provisions for South Tyrol, intended for an orderly, prompt and effective action of Italian assimilation, thank goodness, everything changed. Even if, it must be said, the ethnic proportionality imposed by the German majority to rebalance many past injustices, systematically overturning the balance of power, ended up committing new ones in the long run. By removing oxygen, from school to public health, from the Italian minority. However, one thing is certain: in a Europe where the conquest of shreds of territory and sovereignty still today costs wars, slaughters, mourning and destruction, German and Italian South Tyrol, with all its limits and balances not yet finished, still remains an example of coexistence. For everyone. And thanks to everyone.

The 1946 treaty. For autonomy

The South Tyrolean question was settled after the war with the De Gasperi-Gruber agreement of 1946, which recognized Italian sovereignty over the province and provided for ample autonomy for the German-speaking community. A further step forward was taken with the package for South Tyrol elaborated jointly by the governments of Vienna and Rome in 1962-69.

March 18, 2023 (change March 18, 2023 | 12:00)

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