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Mario Roatta (2 February 1887, Modena, Emilia-Romagna – 7 January 1968, Rome) was Benito Mussolini's commander of the 2nd Italian Army in Province of Ljubljana, best known for ordering besides internments to Italian concentration camps also summary executions, hostage-taking, and burning of houses and villages, for which after the war the Yugoslav government sought unsuccessfully to have him extradited for the war crimes against civil population.[1][2] He was also a head of fascist Italy's Military Intelligence Service (Servizio Informazioni Militari).[3]

Spanish Civil War

Mario Roatta fought alongside Francisco Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War and was made the commander-in-chief of the Corps of Volunteer Troops (Corpo Truppe Volontarie, or CTV), the Italian expeditionary force, in December 1936. His deputy commander was Luigi Frusci.

In early 1937, Roatta led Italian forces in the Battle of Málaga, a decisive Nationalist victory. However, he later played a leading role in the planning for the Battle of Guadalajara, a decisive Republican victory and Italian defeat. By 1938, Roatta was replaced as commander-in-chief of the CTV by Ettore Bastico and, instead, commanded the Flechas Division.

War crimes against ethnic Slovene civil population

In accord with the 1920s speech by Mussolini:

"When dealing with such a race as Slavic - inferior and barbarian - we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy. We should not be afraid of new victims. The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps. I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians.
Benito Mussolini, speech held in Pula, 22 February 1922[4][5]

Mario Roatta's "Circular 3C" (Circolare 3C), tantamount to a declaration of war on the Slovene civil population, involved him in war crimes while he was the commander of the 2nd Italian Army in Province of Ljubljana.[6][7] Under Mario Roatta's command, Italy's violence and ethnic cleansing against the Slovene civil population matched the Germans.[8] Executions, hostage-taking and killing, reprisals, internments into the Rab and Gonars concentration camps, and the burning of houses and villages were ordered. Special instructions specified the orders must be "carried out most energetically and without any false compassion."[9] Roatta insisted, "If necessary don't shy away from using cruelty. It must be a complete cleansing. We need to intern all the inhabitants and put Italian families in their place."[10]

In a letter home, one of Roatta's soldiers wrote, "We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them."[11]

According to historians James Walston[12] and Carlo Spartaco Capogeco,[13] the annual mortality rate in the Rab concentration camp was higher than the average mortality rate in Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald (which was 15%), at least 18 percent. Monsignor Joze Srebnic, Bishop of Veglia (Krk island), reported to Pope Pius XII that "witnesses, who took part in the burials, state unequivocally that the number of the dead totals at least 3,500".[13]

Escaping from Rome

As head of the army's general staff, Roatta was in charge of the defence of Rome from the Germans after the armistice in September 1943, and escaped a German attempt to capture him at his headquarters at Monterotondo, fleeing to Brindisi.[14]

Cold War and the British role in non-extradition

Yugoslavia requested Roatta's extradition to no avail, and he along with the other Italian war criminals were never tried. Britain has been accused of leniency in an attempt to bolster the remnants of the fascist government as a guarantee for an anti-communist post-war Italy.[2]

Historian Alessandra Kersevan and journalist Rory Carroll have accused the Italian public and media of repressing their collective memory of the atrocities committed during World War II, and of "historical amnesia,"[15] citing the forgiveness of Roatta and the jailing of two Italian filmmakers, who depicted the Italian invasion of Greece, of examples of historical revisionism.[1]

Trial for abandoning the defence of Rome

In early 1945, Roatta was tried for his fascist connection, for abandoning the defence of Rome, and for his involvement in the murders of brothers Carlo and Nello Rosselli [16] and sentenced to life imprisonment.[17] He managed to escape Rome just before being put in jail and found asylum in Spain. The sentence for life imprisonment was overturned in 1948 but Roatta did not return to Italy until 1966. During his time in Spain, Yugoslavia requested him to be extradated but Francisco Franco always refused.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Italy's bloody secret (Archived by WebCite®), written by Rory Carroll, Education, The Guardian, June 2001
  2. 2.0 2.1 Effie Pedaliu (2004) Britain and the 'Hand-over' of Italian War Criminals to Yugoslavia, 1945-48. Journal of Contemporary History. Vol. 39, No. 4, Special Issue: Collective Memory, pp. 503-529 ( preview)
  3. Heiber, Helmut, and Glantz, David M. (2005). Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945. New York: Enigma Books. ISBN 1-929631-09-X. , p. 838
  4. Verginella, Marta (2011). "Antislavizmo, rassizmo di frontiera?" (in Italian). Aut aut. ISBN 978-88-6576-106-9. 
  5. Santarelli, Enzo (1979) (in Italian). Scritti politici: di Benito Mussolini; Introduzione e cura di Enzo Santarelli. p. 196. 
  6. James H. Burgwyn: "General Roatta's war against the partisans in Yugoslavia: 1942", Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Volume 9, Number 3, September 2004, pp. 314-329(16), link by IngentaConnect
  7. Giuseppe Piemontese (1946): Twenty-nine months of Italian occupation of the Province of Ljubljana. On page 3. Book also quoted in: Ballinger, P. (2002), p.138
  8. Ballinger, P. (2002). History in exile: memory and identity at the borders of the Balkans. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08697-4
  9. Giuseppe Piemontese (1946): Twenty-nine months of Italian occupation of the Province of Ljubljana
  10. Steinberg, Jonathan (2002) All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-1943, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-29069-4, p.34
  11. James Walston, a historian at The American University of Rome. Quoted in Rory, Carroll. Italy's bloody secret. The Guardian. (Archived by WebCite®), The Guardian, London, UK, June 25, 2003
  12. James Walston (1997) History and Memory of the Italian Concentration Camps, Historical Journal, 40.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Cresciani, Gianfranco (2004) Clash of civilisations, Italian Historical Society Journal, Vol.12, No.2, p.7
  14. General der Fallschirmptruppe Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke
  15. Alessandra Kersevan (2008) Foibe - Revisionismo di stato e amnesie della repubblica. Kappavu, Udine
  16. "Foreign News: Trial of Errors". Time. 1945-03-12.,9171,797233,00.html. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  17. "ITALY: A Duke Departs". Time. 1945-04-23.,9171,855148,00.html. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 

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