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The diplomacy of silence: atrocities and the Italo-Yugoslav frontier in the Foreign Office papers, 1941-1947

Morettin, L. (2017) The diplomacy of silence: atrocities and the Italo-Yugoslav frontier in the Foreign Office papers, 1941-1947. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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In Europe mass killing is usually associated with the Holocaust. The areas where the brutality of the Second World War concentrated the most are identified with the regions that in today's terms include St. Petersburg and the western rim of the Russian Federation, most of Poland, the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine. This is what historian Timothy Snyder has called the 'blood lands.' The present research argues that Snyder's concept of "blood lands" extended through Greece to former Yugoslavia and Venezia Giulia, the area that is the focus of this thesis. With the invasion of Yugoslavia by Fascist Italy in April 1941 Venezia Giulia witnessed some of the most horrendous crimes committed by the Italian army against Slavs. After Fascism collapsed in September 1943, and especially in the period 1945-1947, the Communist forces led by Marshal Tito and Italian Communist partisans who ideologically shared Yugoslavia's plans in revenge unleashed a terror and exterminatory campaign against Italians. Both sets of persecution were facilitated by an open hostility between the two ethnic groups that dated back centuries. Focusing particularly on the Yugoslav Communist persecution of Italians in Venezia Giulia, this thesis establishes that it was true that the vicious Communist partisan atrocities targeted not just Italian prisoners of war and returning soldiers, but also unarmed civilians due to their ethnic background, as Italian survivors always claimed, even if many of them were innocent of any wrongdoing or even of political activism. Also the horrifying violence was not just a form of spontaneous vindictiveness that captured the imagination of the Italians in Venezia Giulia, but it was rather something meticulously planned and carried out well after the war was over because the conflict had to continue by other means, in the prisons, concentration camps and in the homes of civilians. This thesis reconstructs the killings and persecution of Venezia Giulia from the archives of Western observers and illustrates that this political mass murder was part of a more persistent strand in the first half of the twentieth century to destroy, subjugate and drive out groups judged dangerous. At the same time it shows how little Anglo-American observers were able or willing to do to intervene in the chaotic context of the end of the Second World War. The major contribution ofthis book is not only to bring victims in the full light of history, but also to explain that in Italy there is a fiction of war. The 8 May 1945 is celebrated as the end of the conflict in Europe. It was not. The killings went on for many years as the violence that was unleashed could not be reined in and this research tries to make sense of the brutality and loss.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Duggan, C., Heuser, B. and Major, P.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of History
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:74413

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