After Italy’s unconditioned surrender in World War II, in September1943, and until the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Trieste and part of what once was the Austrian Littoral were pre-annexed to the German Third Reich with the name Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral: Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland – OZAK.
During that time, the Italian Guardia di Finanza (financial police) operated in the OZAK under the direct authority of the German Military Command. The “Fiamme Gialle” were included in the “Wirtschaftspolizei” (economic police) of Gruppenführer Odilo Globocnik, becoming the operating arm of the S.S. for tax inspections. But it does not end here. Under the command of Obersturmbannführer Dietrich Allers, they were also included in the Einsaztkommand Reinhardt, which means the special corp established for anti-partisan warfare and to deport the Jews, to whom the economic police confiscated all properties. The Einsaztkommand Reinhardt was also in charge of the death camp of the Risiera (rice mill) of S. Sabba.
When it comes to anti-partisan warfare, those corps of the Italian Financial Police distinguished itself in the reprisals carried out side by side with German troops. In its publication “Dallo squadrismo fascista alle stragi della Risiera” (From Fascist squads to the massacres in the Risiera) the A.N.E.D. (Associazione nazionale ex deportati politici – Italian National Association of former political deportees) describes in detail the role of the Guardia di Finanza in such actions (page 163, Italian edition): “We recalled the seven garrisons of the Guardia di Finanza on the Trieste-Fiume street, and the Germans provided more than 1,000 men from that corp upon an agreement between Colonel Angelo Molara and the German commander; there were many officers among them, including Angelo Duse who, after the war, served as deputy general commander of the corp in Italy”.
When it comes to military actions involving the Finanzieri, the book recalls their duty to grant safe passage on the Trieste-Fiume road: “The safety of the Trieste-Fiume road, never actually granted, was obtained via the uncontrolled destruction of dozens of Slovenian and Croatian villages, and also ruthless slaughters, like the one that took place in Lipa, on April 30th, 1944, where 387 harmless civilians were murdered”. According to official historiography, counting only the inhabitants of the town, in Lipa were murdered 269 people, including 85 children.
As for the fight against tax evasion, those “Fiamme Gialle” worked with commendable zeal, and, in co-operation with Bruno Coceani, the Fascist Prefect of Trieste appointed by the Nazis, they played a key role in the economic ruin of the so called “tax frauds”, mostly impoverished people who were striving to survive in the desperate antechamber of death – war.
The Nazi occupation of Trieste was indeed a dark time, following the equally dark 25 years of Italian and Fascist rule that the city had to suffer after being first occupied (1918) and later annexed to the Kingdom of Italy (1920).
Those 25 years of Italian domination had already destroyed to the roots the multicultural and multiethnic society of the Austrian Littoral – Österreichisches Küstenland, which was the result of centuries of coexistence in the Empire of the Habsburg, and this constituted the bases of the horrors that would afflict this border area during World War II.
The forced Italianization of the Austrian Littoral revealed the authoritarian side of a State that forced its own laws on the occupied population, crushing it beneath racial hatred fuelled by the false sense of superiority instilled in the Italian folk as “heir of the glory of the Roman Empire”, and which culminated in the Italian racial laws, proclaimed by Mussolini right from Trieste (where it would be the Allies to repeal them: LINK).
The results of this never ended insane propaganda, ever since the Italiana Risorgimento, are still visible: we have Italy, a nation that does not even know its real history, and is decaying companied by the State’s fanfares. Italian democracy has never truly become complete, as it bloom: this is Italy, a state of imbalances, always on the edge and about to return under an authoritarian power, because its operative structures are still there.
The Italianization of the Adriatic Littoral was fast and merciless, and it included the enforcement of the taxation system of the Kingdom of Italy, which substituted that of the old and much more tolerant Austria-Hungary.
And the merciless enforcement of the new fiscal regime as a mean to assimilate the occupied population was exactly the job of the Guardia di Finanza, which was very devote to it. This is why when the Nazis themselves occupied that Littoral (which the Italians had called “Venezia Giulia“), all they did was to incorporate a military corp so brutally efficient that they appreciated it as it was.
At the end of WWII, Trieste returned free and, at the coming into force of the Treaty of Pece with Italy, it became the capital city of an independent State, administered by a British-United States Allied Military Government (the AMG FTT) on behalf of the United Nations.
The Adriatic Littoral was gone, in its place there was the new Free Territory of Trieste, which the British and the Americans administered from 1947 to 1954: during that time, the autonomous province of Trieste, a body of the new State (LINK) became a rich area thanks to its new system of taxation (Annex X of the Pece Treaty) paying at least 20% less taxes than it did under the former Italian rule, but especially thanks to the trades of the international Free Port (Annex VIII of the same Treaty) and to its role for the transportation of resources needed for European Reconstruction (Marshall Plan – ERP).
During the administration of the AMG FTT, the Guardia di Finanza became the new tax police of the Free Territory of Trieste, with 2,500 military and civil employees, however, despite the Allies’ efforts to purge collaborationists, both the Guardia di Finanza and the Civil Police of the FTT included elements that had served the German occupation forces and Fascist Italy. And it was them to work for the local nationalistic lobby to attempt bringing the territory back under Italian sovereignty. They had created a network of spies within the administrative structures of the AMG FTT itself, paving the way for a “second redemption” that would downgrade the Free Territory to Italy’s “last colony”: (LINK).
Trieste’s spring ended in 1954, when its temporary civil administration was sub-entrusted to the Italian Government by the Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom under the Memorandum of Understanding of London.
Despite the Free Territory of Trieste remaining independent, with its own sovereignty and flag, despite it being recognized by Italy itself and being under the protection of the UN Security Council (LINK), Italian tax authorities continued the spoliation they had started in 1918 without sparing the former first Port of the Mediterranean either, because since it had become a State corporation of the Free Territory of Trieste, it was also a dangerous competitor for Italian ports.
For instance, the Treaty of Peace exempts Trieste from the payment of third State taxes and public debt, and since 1947 Italy is a third State (Annex X, art. 5), while under the 1954 Memorandum, the Italian Tax Police cannot work there without mandate from the administering Government: also, Italy and Trieste must each have their own, separate State Budget, and the officers in charge of the administration, being them civil or military officers, must not simulate to exercise Italian sovereignty over Trieste.
Instead, what we have is a cruel hunt to tax evaders, carried out by those tho act outside the law themselves: this is a proper summary of the “fiscal war” in this Littoral of ours. Here there is only one evader of international legality, and it is Italy.
The emblem of the 24th Waffen-Gebirgs-Karstjäger Division, involved in anti-partisan warfare in the Adriatic Littoral