Šmarje near Koper (Slovenia)

12 November 1920 The signing of the Treaty of Rapallo between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The multi-ethnic area of the former Austrian Littoral was obtained by Italy.

6 April 1941 Yugoslavia was attacked by Germany, later followed by the Italian, Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian army; its territory was partitioned between Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

3 May 1941 Italy formally annexed the Central and southeastern part of Slovenia – naming it Province of Ljubljana and thus extended its eastern borders.

2–14 December 1941 The Second Trieste Trial was being held against 60 Slovenian antifascist fighters. The Special Tribunal for the Defense of the State convicted five death sentences.

8 September 1943 Capitulation of Italy.

10 September 1943 Wermacht established the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral (Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland) and the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills.

2–3 October 1943 In the so-called ‘German arson operation’ in Istria 52 houses were burnt down in Mačkolje (Caresana).

19 June 1944 Istrian partisan detachment defeated German and fascist troops, which were raiding in Šmarje and chased them off.

21 June 1944 Šmarje was burnt down the second time and almost all buildings (120 houses) were destroyed.

9 May 1945 Official end of World War II in Europe.

November 1947 Šmarje were mostly rebuilt, also by the help of youth brigades.

Burning down Šmarje near Koper during World War II

Many Slovenian and Croatian men from Venezia Giulia (Julijska krajina) were mobilised to the Italian army after the World War II began in 1939 and after Italy joined in 1940.

They were soon disarmed and categorised in the so called special battalions (battaglioni speciali), as they were highly unreliable in their fight against the ‘allies’. Some of these men took this opportunity to join the Triple Entente forces, most of them re-joined the partisans, mostly as overseas combatants (prekomorci).

The anti-fascist resistance movement only strengthened during the war, in particular after establishing the National Liberation Struggle movement in Slovenia, which soon began its activities on the other side of the Rapallo border.

Quite soon some forms of resistence to the fascist de-nationalisation policies started to take place in the Venezia Giulia region. The Italian Government reacted to the sabotage operations conducted in the area by clandestine groups (then considered as terrorist groups) with a number of trials at the The Special Tribunal for the Defense of the State

The Italian Provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola, Fiume and Lubiana underwent the direct German military administration and were called “Operational Zone of the Adriatic littoral”. It was a very important strategic area for the German units that immediately started to employ actions for reinforcing their control over the communication routes and for suppressing the Resistence movement.]

Their first measure was the arson offensive in the beginning of October 1943, which was organised by the German supreme authority by Hitler’s command. The SS (Schutzstaffel) units was joined in the offensive by the 162nd Turkestan division, the battalion of Karst soldiers, the SS Karstjäger battalion and the 1st battalion of the 1st tank division. These forces were opposed by the quickly formed, poorly trained and few in numbers partisan units.

The German arson division began in the night between 1 and 2 October 1943. Soldiers penetrated from the villages of Opčine and Bazovica in three columns: towards Sv. Anton, Kubed and Sočerga, the other towards Rižana, Hrastovlje and Dol, and the third towards Osp, Črni Kal and Loka.

The first villages to be burned down were Mačkolje-Caresana, Tinjan and Črni Kal, followed by Šmarje, Bertoki, Bezovica, Boršt, Dol, Glem, Gračišče, Hrastovlje, Kubed, Labor, Loka, Lopar, Manžan, Marezige, Movraž, Pomjan, Popetre, Praproče, Trebeše and a few more settlements.

Arsons were accompanied by civilian killings and torture – people lost their homes, possessions and food so soon after the capitulation of Italy, which presented them with an optimistic perspective on their future.

The Istrian partisan section was established immediately after the arson offensive, i.e. 5 October 1943, and collaborated with the Italian antifascists.

The village of Šmarje was burned down twice during the World War II with 151 housing objects destroyed. The first arson caused less damage, as the village was not planned for burning down, but a few boys unintentionally provoked the soldiers as they were passing by. Most buildings, 120 houses and many agricultural buildings were destroyed in the second arson.

The 1st unit of the 1st battalion of the Istrian detachment executed a mobilisation and political propaganda march in Istrian villages, including Šmarje in the middle of June 1944. They also planned the destruction of a coal mine in Sečovlje on 17 June, but the activity was postponed due to increased guard. The village of Šmarje received the unit patrol of three fighters from Padna – Herman Detičar, Rafaelo Beržan and Leopold Uhan – to guarantee them food and report on potential enemy approach.

On 19 June a unit of 18 fighters were on their way to the village. On that very day the German army, fascists and the carabinieri raided the village and collected men for their carabinieri barracks. The partisans and their unexpected arrival surprised the soldiers, who were succumbed and driven away with the help of the locals, despite being four times larger in numbers.

Retaliation was to be expected from the occupying forces due to their bitter defeat and the villagers decided to leave their homes prior. Some of German soldiers and fascists invaded the village the very next day and about 500 soldiers from the SS units arrived from Trieste and Opčine on 21 June. They plundered and burned down most of the houses and a few stables, and arrested and took away five villagers.

The village of Šmarje was part of the Free Territory of Trieste until 1954. They were renovated during that period, in November 1947, with the help from the youth working units, which promoted the ideals of brotherhood, unity, peace, volunteering, discipline and prosperity.

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