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 The Wermacht established the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral (Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland) Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills (Operationszone Alpenvorland).
2–3 October 1943 In the so-called ‘German arson operation’ in Istria 52 houses were burnt down in Mačkolje (Caresana).
16 August 1944 Burning down four villages in the today’s Municipality of Duino-Aurisina: Mavhinje (Malchina), Cerovlje (Ceroglie), Medja vas (Medeazza) and Vižovlje (Visogliano); in the operation 110 homes were partially or totally burnt down.
9 May 1945 Official end of World War II in Europe.
Burning Down Mačkolje and Other Villages Around Trieste
The area of the former Austrian Littoral was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy after the World War I. The Treaty of Rapallo in 1920 defined the borders between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kraljevina SHS). The former acquired a substantial piece of land inhabited by Slovenian population.
The Istrian and Karst villages were annexed to Italy, which have by then and particularly after the introduction of the fascist government (1922) experienced the pressures upon the Slovenian ethnic community.
The Mačkolje (Caresana) village has experienced arson twice – once in May, 1921 and once within the so called “German arson offensive” which took place soon after the capitulation of Italy. Other four villages in this area burned down during the war, i.e. in 1944, were Mavhinje (Malchina), Cerovlje (Ceroglie), Medja vas (Medeazza) and Vižovlje (Visogliano).
Karst has been strongly affected by the arson in August, by the forced recruitment of Slovenian boys in special battalions (battaglioni speciali) and by the deportation of several hundred men to forced working camps in Germany on 27 February 1944 (Operation Bober).
A resistance movement was widely spread despite various reprisals. A local National Liberation Struggle Committee was active in Mačkolje during the war and a Slovenian partisan school between December 1943 until liberation in 1945.
Burning Down Mačkolje in 1943
The Mačkolje village organised the ‘vahta’, a watch for the locals to announce the approaching danger, much like as in any other villages. Barely 16-year-old Dalko was on watch on 2 October 1943, when he came running from ‘Pil’ warning the villagers of the approaching soldiers, ‘Germans, Germans, Germans are coming!’
First the soldiers organised a research of the male villagers, who barely managed to hide in time. Only a few men remained in the village, as most of them already joined the partisans or were serving in Italian special battalions (battaglioni speciali). After the search party the German soldiers left the village with three captured villagers.
In the afternoon they returned and burned down the village. The villagers were banished from their houses and attempted at recovering their possessions and cattle. 52 houses were burned down in the arson and only a few remained unharmed. That evening the villagers returned to their homes. They spent that night under the stars.
It was that evening that eleven of the villagers decided to join the partisan movement, but they were intercepted the very next day on their way on the Lipnik pri Zazidu plateau and assassinated along with two returnees from the dissolved Italian army. The sole survivor was an uncle of our witness, Danica Tul,’The thirteenth was saved by pure chance, he was shot only in the leg. He was my uncle Rudolf Olenik, who managed to escape despite his injury. He hid in the bushes. He returned to the village on 4 October and delivered the cruel news to the villagers.’
Burning Down Villages of Mavhinje (Malchina), Cerovlje (Ceroglie), Medeazza (Medja vas) and Visogliano (Vižovlje) in 1944
The villages of Mavhinje-Malchina, Cerovlje-Ceroglie, Medeazza-Medja vas and Visogliano-Vižovlje were burned down on 16 August 1944. The incident occurred due to the partisans blowing up the important viaduct at Moščenice and in general the rising activity of the partisan movement, which strengthened after the capitulation of Italy. The arson was carried out as a countermove, namely punishment of the disobedient villagers. Collaborators also assisted the German soldiers in the arson. The villages were burned down, while the Medeazza-Medja vas village was levelled to the ground. The villagers were forced to leave their homes in a haste and take only what was necessary with them. Prior to the arson the German soldiers robbed the houses and chased away the cattle. About 110 homes were destroyed in the incident.