The Foibe massacres were massacres against Italian soldiers and civilians in Venezia Giulia, Quarnaro and Dalmatia, which took place during and immediately after the Second World War by Yugoslav partisans and the secret police from the OZNA.
This name derives from large karst sinkholes called Foibe where many of the victims’ bodies were thrown. On September 8, 1943, with an armistice between Italy and the allies, there was a collapse with the Royal Army. From 9 September the German troops took control of Trieste, leaving the Venezia Giulia uncovered. The partisans thus occupied a large part of the region. The fallen include not only personalities linked to the National Fascist Party, but also officials, civil servants and public employees: teachers, bank employees, postmen, priests, radical nationalists and ordinary citizens.
With the Menia law of March 30, 2004, the Day of Remembrance in memory of the victims of the Foibe was proclaimed in Italy, on the day of February 10 of each year. The same provision also established a specific commemorative medal intended for the relatives of victims up to the 6th degree.
To understand the Foibe phenomenon, it is necessary to look for the roots in the centuries-old dispute between the Italian and Slavic populations for the possession of the territories to the north-east, on the eastern Adriatic. With the so-called “Wilson Line” the Slavs saw a large slice of Istria subtracted from the Italians with the consequence that 500,000 Slavs suddenly found themselves in foreign territory. Their discontent determined the story of brutality and massacres against the Italians. It is estimated that the killings of Italians in the period between 1943 and 1947 were at least 20,000; the Italians forced to leave their homes were at least 250,000.
The killings took place in a particularly cruel way: the condemned were tied to each other with a long iron wire tied to their wrists and lined up on the banks of the Foibe. Bursts of machine guns hit only the first of the group who, dead, fell into the abyss, dragging away with them all the other unfortunates, who in agony after the fall survived for days amidst unimaginable suffering on the corpses of their companions. The drama ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1947, when Italy handed over numerous territories to Yugoslavia, giving up forever Zadar, Dalmatia, the Kvarner islands, Fiume, Istria and part of the province of Gorizia.