Ettore Tolomei

Ettore Tolomei

Ettore Tolomei (16 August 1865 in Rovereto, then Welschtirol province of Austria-Hungary, today Trentino , Italy – 25 May 1952 in Rome) was an Italian nationalist and fascist. He was designated a Member of the Italian Senate in 1923, and ennobled ("Conte della vetta") in 1937.

Pre World War I activism

Born into a nationalistically oriented family, after his studies in Florence and Rome Tolomei became associated with the nationalistic Dante Alighieri Society. After graduation in 1888 he taught in italian schools at Tunis, Thessaloniki, İzmir and Cairo. He returned to Italy in 1901 and was appointed Inspector General of Italian Schools Abroad by the Foreign Ministry's Office.

His nationalistic activities had begun in 1890 with the founding of the weekly magazine "La Nazione Italiana" (The Italian Nation), a propagandistic publication whose aim was to popularize the positions of the Dante Alighieri Society [Framke 1987, p. 43.] . Its articles dwelled mainly on the issue of Trento and Trieste, then still under Austro-Hungarian rule, but covered other areas as well, like the Levant and North Africa, anticipating the fascist dream of a new Mediterranean empire [Steininger 2003, p. 15.] .

As the end of the century neared, Tolomei's activities began to focus on the northern boundaries of Italy. To him, this natural boundary was the main water divide of the Alps near Resia Pass and Brenner Pass, even though few Italians lived in this mostly German-speaking area of the Austrian Empire. In this early phase, he saw the Ladins (a group speaking a Rhaeto-Romance language which inhabited the mountainous areas in what was then the eastern part of Southern Tyrol, a territory now divided between the provinces of Bolzano, Trento and Belluno) as the Latin element through which "an Italian-Ladinic wedge [Steininger 2003, p. 15.] " could be driven into the Germanic-speaking region, which in those days he called "Alto Trentino" - Upper Trentino, not having yet devised the name "Alto Adige" - High Adige, a creation which would become the official Italian designation for the province after World War I up to this day [Gianni Faustini, "Facevo il giornalista". Appunti e notizie autobiografiche sull'attività giornalistica di Ettore Tolomei. In: Sergio Benvenuti/Cristoph H. von Hartungen (eds.) 1998, p. 169.] . This would have required an italianization of the Ladins, a plan he later abandoned in favour of the greater goal of italianizing or displacing the German-speakers who, according to Tolomei, were Germanized Italians that had to be re-italianized; this claim today can sound silly, but similar claims were common, in that time, between all European nationalistsFacts|date=July 2008.

In 1904 Tolomei climbed the 2911m high Klockerkarkopf or Glockenkarkopf [] , which he believed to be the northern-most mountain on the main water divide in the Tyrolean Alps. In fact, the northern-most point of the Adrian drainage basin is not the Klockerkarkopf, but the nearby Western Zwillingsköpfl. Tolomei claimed to be the first climber and renamed the peak "Vetta d'Italia" - Summit of Italy (with a clear political aim), although Fritz Kögl had already climbed it in 1895 [Steininger 2003, p. 15.] . It is not clear whether Tolomei was aware of Kögl's ascent or not, although an extensive article about it had appeared in the Austrian Alpine Club magazine.Italian maps later adopted this name. According to a legend U.S President Woodrow Wilson, for this reason believed that South Tyrol was an Italian land Facts|date=June 2008. In 1938 Tolomei was given the title "Conte della Vetta" (Count of the Summit) by the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III.

To further his goals, in 1906 Tolomei founded the "Archivio per l' Alto Adige", a magazine which moved along the same propagandistic lines as "La Nazione Italiana", but focussed solely on the South Tyrolean issue. The "Archivio" propagated the Italianness of South Tyrol in articles that claimed scientific authority and objectivity, but where in fact deeply tinged with ideology and propagandistic intent, and for Tolomei a tool for personal promotion and narcisstic gratification [Ferrandi 1986, p. 26.] . An important instrument in the struggle for the italianization of South Tyrol, apart from the scholarly articles in the "Archivio per l' Alto Adige" which soon enjoyed a large readership in Italy, was the creation of an italian name for every village and geographical feature in South Tyrol. As World War I neared, toponimy assumed increasing importance. The toponymic studies where presented as a re-Italianization of names which, according to Tolomei and his collaborators, had ben Germanized not many generations before [Cristina Fait, Per la Verità ed il Diritto d' Italia. Archeologia e "Idea di Romanità" nell'Alto Adige dall'inizio del Novecento fino alla seconda guerra mondiale. In: Sergio Benvenuti/Cristoph H. von Hartungen (eds.) 1998, p. 149-150.] . The result of these activities, called "Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige", would be published in 1916 by the "Reale Società Geografica Italiana la prima ".

Activities during WWI

In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Tolomei fled to Rome in order to avoid being drafted by the Austrian army. By this time, he had succeded in giving the Region between the Brennero and the Salurner Klause an appearance of Italianness. The "Archivio" had become the reference work for all matters regarding South Tyrol, and during the war became the sole source of information for Italians. The idea of an Italian legal entitlement to South Tyrol had become generally accepted [Steininger 2003, p. 16-17.] .

As Italy joined the war on the sides of the Allies in 1915, Tolomei joined the Italian armed forces under the pseudonym Eugenio Treponti, to avoid being executed as a traitor if caught by the Austrians. He is immediately assigned to the Chiefs of Staff committee [Maurizio Ferrandi, Scheda Biografica. Biographische Übersicht. In: Benvenuti/v. Hartungen 1998, p. 182.] . The "Archivio" continued to appear as "Serie di Guerra" - War series, printed in Rome. The spectrum of the topics changed, and most articles where now written by Tolomei himself. As a result, the magazine's propagandistic intentions became more obvious. From 1915 onwards Tolomei increased his lobbying activities, sending several letters to government officials and nationalistic associations detailing his views on the steps to be taken for and after the annexation of South Tyrol. He anticipated that German speakers would assimilate to the italian language and culture, although there where already thoughts of a possible resettlement. Also in 1915 he published his programmatic points for the "annexation and adaptation" of South Tyrol in the "Archivio per l'Alto Adige". In its Volume 11 of 1916 appeared the "Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige", a translation of over 10,000 village and place names. " [...] for the first time, the entirety of the indigenous nomenclature of place names, including the names of geographical features and farmsteads, were transformed into another language through one man's act of will" [Steininger 2003, p. 17.] .In the years 1916 and 1917 he collaborated with the "Istituto DeAgostini" to prepare maps for the region which should show it as being part of Italy. These maps where used by the Italian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, strengthening the impression that this was really an old Italian region.

After the occupation of Tyrol by Italian troops, Tolomei vigorously advocated decisive measures to radically alter the ethnic situation so that South Tyrol would become permanently italian. Although he was nominated "Commissario alla Lingua ed alla Cultura in Alto Adige" - Commissioner for language and culture in Alto Adige, during the first postwar years his suggestions where not received well by the liberal administration. His big moment would only arrive with the fascist takeover of the Italian state [Steininger 2003, p. 18] .

Post World War I career

Shortly after Italian troops had occupied the southern part of Tyrol in the wake of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti in November 1918 (which was confirmed by the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919), Tolomei was appointed to a cultural office in the main city of the area, Bozen (Bolzano).

On 2 October 1922, Tolomei led a group of Blackshirts when they occupied the town hall of Bolzano and managed to persuade the Civil commissioner Luigi Credaro to depose the mayor; the following day they moved to Trento and, using similar tactics, obtained the suppression of the administrative Provincial assembly and, after Credaro's and minister Salandra's dismissals that of the entire Central office for the new provinces. It was 'de facto' the end of all democratic policies in the area of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol between the wars: supported by Mussolini, Tolomei enforced his policy of Italianization from 1923 onwards. Not only the names of towns were changed, but also people were forced to change names and to learn Italian. His program totalled 32 points, of which some of the most salient were:

* prohibition of the name "Tirol", and any variation of the same;
* closure of German-language schools:
* dissolution of parties specific to the German-speaking community;
* imposition of Italian as the only official language;
* closure of German-language press.

In 1939, his work led to the Alto Adige Option Agreement that forced people to choose between remaining in Italy or emigrating to the Third Reich, the so called "Option für Deutschland".

In 1943, when Italy surrended, he was seized by German forces and deported, first to the Dachau concentration camp then to a sanatorium in Thuringia.

After the war, he retained his title of senator, resumed as a consultant to the Italian government, and was honored with a state burial in 1952Facts|date=June 2008.

Due to his policies of enforcing Italian names on towns in the province of Bolzano-Bozen, he is denigrated as "the undertaker of South Tyrol" by the German speaking group in the area.

External links

* PND|118826883
* [ Ettore Tolomei - Der Totengräber Süd-Tirols] . Tiroler Schützenkompanie Andreas Hofer Meran



*cite book |author=Benvenuti, Sergio |coauthors =Hartungen, Christoph von (eds.)|title=Ettore Tolomei (1865-1952). Un nazionalista di confine. Die Grenzen des Nationalismus |publisher=Museo Storico in Trento |location=Trento|year= 1998 |pages= |isbn=|oclc= |doi= |accessdate=
*cite book |author=Ferrandi, Maurizio |title=Ettore Tolomei: l'uomo che inventò l'Alto Adige |publisher=Publilux |location=Trento |year=1986 |pages= |isbn=|oclc= |doi= |accessdate=
*cite book |last= Framke |first= Gisela |title=Im Kampf um Südtirol. Ettore Tolomei (1865-1952) und das ‚Archivio per l'Alto Adige'|publisher=M. Niemeyer |location=Tübingen |year=1987 |pages= |isbn= 3-484-82067-5 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=
*cite book |author=Steininger, Rolf |title=South Tyrol: a minority conflict of the twentieth century |publisher=Transaction Publishers |location=New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-7658-0800-5 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=

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  • Ettore Tolomei — (* 16. August 1865 in Rofreit/Rovereto (damals Welschtirol, heute Trentino/Italien); † 25. Mai 1952 in Rom) war ein italienischer Politiker, Senator, Nationalist und Faschist. 1937 wurde er als Conte della Vetta geadelt. Als Verfechter der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige — Le Prontuario dei nomi locali dell Alto Adige (Guide des noms de lieu dans le Tyrol du Sud) est la liste officielle des 16 735 noms de lieu du Haut Adige. Due au sénateur Ettore Tolomei (1865 1952) elle a été officiellement adoptée par l… …   Wikipédia en Français

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