I sent this letter to The Economist magazine in response to a short article concerning an Italian TV series being produced which has raised protests in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. The program essentially explores the issues surrounding the killing of Italian civilians by the Partisans in Istria during WWII and thereafter.
Such killings no doubt occurred - however, Italians have raised the amount killed to monumental proportions. Moreover, they suffer from the same syndrome as the Japanese - they fail to admit their complicity in crimes during WWII in occupied countries, in this case Croatia and Slovenia.
Most Italian commanders of forces in these areas never answered for their crimes. While the town of Lidice is well known as being destroyed by the Nazis, very few know of Podhum which suffered essentially the same fate at the hands of the Italians in 1942 (you can clearly see the monument to the 92 people killed on the Rijeka-Zagreb highway - the rest of the town was deported).
Most everyone has heard the famous command by German forces to kill 100 Serbs for every German soldier. No one ever hears of a similar command in Dalmatia - 5 for every civilian assaisnated and 20 for every Italian officer or official. And these commands were carried out.
John Kraljic *****************************************
Letters The Economist 25 St James's Street London SW1A 1HG United Kingdom
Re: "Memento Mori," August 28, 2004-September 3, 2004
Your article concerning the issue of Italian victims at the hands of Yugoslav Partisans paints a misleading picture.
While a certain amount of ethnic Italians in Istria suffered at the hands of the Partisans during and after World War II, you fail to note that Italy has dramatically inflated the number of such victims to stratospheric proportions.
More importantly, Italy has never admitted its responsibility for the vast war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by its regular army troops and fascists in Croatia and Slovenia during its occupation of parts of these countries during World War II.
Untold thousands of civilians were executed and killed by the Italians and their allies while close to a hundred thousand Croats and Slovenes were jailed or deported. The hundreds of monuments to these innocent victims scattered throughout Croatia and Slovenia attest to this.
Very few Italians were ever brought to justice for these crimes. Italy's attempts to turn attention to the events in Istria at the tail end of World War II can only be described as an attempt to assuage its own guilt.