THE OUTHER PERIMETER
"HISTORY AND REGION"
THE SHIFT OF SOVEREIGNTY
The catastrophe of the First World War had among its outcomes the redesign of the political map of Europe. The dissolution of Austro-Hungary, and the Italian victory, brought about the dismemberment of the Tyrol. Ceded to Italy, the territory south of the Brenner and the Brenner Pass itself were destined to become a symbol of victory.
In the early years, the lands passed to Italy were governed by a liberal ruling class, whose internal positions were markedly different. Some demonstrated openness towards linguistic minorities while others already began advocating the aggressive denationalization, which the Fascists demanded.
Denationalizing interventions and the growth of Fascism locally increased, focussing on the public administration, the schools, language use, place names etc. Thanks to the preservation of their own schools, religious education and newspapers, the Catholic Church managed to maintain an “Oasis” where it was still possible to speak or read in German.
BUILDING THE “New bolzano”
Under the architect Marcello Piacentini, the city of Bolzano was remade. The Monument to Victory became the portal to the new Italian city, while in the rest of the province the regime embarked on a programme infrastructure development as a sign, propaganda even, of Fascist “modernity”.
ECONOMY – CITY PLANNING – DEMOGRAPHICS
The large industrial zone constructed in Bolzano in the mid-1930s caused an influx of workers from other regions. This radically altered the numerical balance between Italian-speakers and German-speakers in the city. New districts sprang up, including those of the “Semirurali” or semi-rural housing estates.
FASCISM AND CULTURE
Italianization and the growth of Fascism in society also spread through culture. German-language cultural institutions were eliminated or “absorbed”. In parallel, the regime created and promoted new artistic ventures, some even in German, but always under the sign of Lictor’s Fasces – the symbol of Fascism.
TOTALITARIANISMS AND THE “OPTION”
During the 1930s, Nazi propaganda found fertile ground among South Tyrolean German-speakers, who looked to Hitler’s Germany for their national restitution. This threatened the Italo-German alliance, so a solution was found, known as “the Option”, in which Hitler and Mussolini agreed to transfer German-speaking South Tyroleans to the Third Reich.
After 8th September 1943, Alto Adige fell into German hands and became part of Operationszone Alpenvorland. The Nazis built a concentration camp, which became the most dramatic symbol of those two years, while the rest of the population lived in the devastation caused by the intensive Allied bombing.
THE PATH TO DEMOCRACY
With difficulty, the two linguistic communities expressed distinct movements of resistance. At the end of the war South Tyroleans’ hopes of seeing a revision of the border were dashed. However the De Gasperi-Gruber Accord, signed 5th September 1946, provided a framework guaranteeing the rights of the German-speaking minority. This marked the first step on the road to living together.