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Los von Rom?

Die Südtirolfrage 1945/46 und das Gruber-De Gasperi-Abkommen (Innsbrucker Forschungen zur Zeitgeschichte 2), Innsbruck 1987, 405 Seiten.


South Tyrol was Italy's bounty for switching sides during the First World War. An area with a German-speaking population of 99 percent was turned over to Italy after having been part of Austria for five centuries. President Woodrow Wilson's declared right of peoples to self-determination did not apply to South Tyrol.

Alto Adige, the new name for the annexed region, was to become totally Italianized. There were no German schools, German was forbidden in public, names of towns, even German last names, were changed to Italian names, and the mayors of towns were replaced by Italian administrators. Repression reached its peak under fascism, culminating in the Hitler-Mussolini agreement to resettle the German speaking population north of the Brenner Pass.

After the defeat of Germany in 1945 Italy found itself in a favorable position, having changed sides again. Austria, on the other hand, had fought on the side of Germany to the end; whether totally voluntarily or not, did not matter much.

As the allies try to solve the problem of South Tyrol in 1945/46 they are faced with the same situation that led to the Treaty of Saint Germain in 1919. Together with the smaller countries of Europe, a solution is sought to possibly right the wrong of 1919 against a background of diverse forces arguing their case for the future of the people of South Tyrol.

The author of this study, Chairman of the Department of Contemporary History at Innsbruck University, analyzes the situation in which the parties found themselves right after World War II. A relatively large number of documents has become available recently from American, British, Italian and Austrian sources, many never accessible before.

In a step by step analysis the positions of Italy, the South Tyroleans, and Austria are scrutinized carefully by interpreting various documents and notes. Why wasn't South Tyrol returned to Austria in 1945/46? Was it the fault of the Tyroleans, both north and south, the allies, the government in Vienna? Did Gruber, foreign minister of Austria, reach the only realistic agreement with his Italian counterpart, Alcide DeGasperi?

The book not only raises questions, the author tries to answer as many as possible. New interpretations are not possible until one additional source will become available, the Russian archives. The author also did not obtain much information from the French.

The book makes very interesting reading. Some interpretations by the author may be bold, but in the light of later developments in South Tyrol one tends to accept the theory that the Gruber-DeGasperi Agreement of September 5, 1946 may well have been the best attainable. It subsequently has led to limited autonomy of South Tyrol and established Austria as the protector of its German speaking inhabitants.

Prof. Karl Odwarka

University of Northern Iowa

in The European Studies Journal, Vol. V, No 1, 1988.

OStD Werner Ripper in: Informationen für den Geschichts- und Gemeinschaftskundelehrer, Heft 35-36/1988 (pdf, 52KB)

Dirk Rumberg in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 22.3.1988

Reinhard Olt in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13. Oktober 1987, S. 12.