In one of the worst, yet little-known, tragedies to affect Italy, an estimated 300,000 men, women and children living in Trieste, Gorizia and the Istrian peninsula were forced from their homes between 1943 and 1945.
Up to 15,000 were then believed to have been tortured, shot or pushed to their deaths in gorges, called Foibe, in north-western Yugoslavia as part of Marshal Josef Tito’s attempt to cleanse the country of Italians.
La Casa del Ricordo (the House of Memory), which opened yesterday on San Teodoro road in Rome, is the first of its kind in Italy.
“Troubled is the nation that loses pieces of its history,” Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno is reported to have said at the opening.
After the war, the so-called Foibe massacres were swept under the carpet as Italy tried to recover.
There has never been a formal investigation of the crimes, which also divided Italian politics until fairly recently. Right-wingers accused the Left of trying to wipe the atrocity from history while only concentrating on the crimes committed by Benito Mussolini, the founding father of Fascism and Italy’s leader between 1883 and 1945.
But centre-right politicians sought to make as many Italians aware of the tragedy as possible, and so pushed for the introduction of a national day of remembrance in 2005. Victims are now commemorated on February 10th each year.