|Andreas Hofer and the Cruel World of Divided Tirol
|Tirolese patriot Andreas Hofer was born in 1767 at St. Leonhard, in the Passeier valley where his
family owned Sandhof Inn. He was a horse trader, wine merchant and, after his marriage with Anna
Ladurner, an innkeeper. In his many travels and business dealings, he acquired a reputation for
honesty and intelligence. During the wars against the French from 1796 to 1805, Hofer first became
a sharpshooter and then a captain of militia. By the treaty of Pressburg in 1805, Tirol was
transferred from Austria to Bavaria, and Hofer, in utter devotion to Austria, became a leader of the
foment against Bavarian, and thereby French, rule. In January of 1806, Hofer and many like-minded
comrades were invited to Vienna by the Archduke to discuss an imminent revolt. In April of 1809,
Hofer mobilized the Passeier militia and the Tirolese rose in arms and marched to Sterzing, where
they seized the town and took the Bavarian occupation forces prisoner.
The militia then pursued the enemy troops through the Wipp Valley, inflicting casualties. The French
occupied Innsbruck, but left only a small garrison of troops there. Under Hofer's inspirational
command, patriots from all over the province swelled his troops and readied for battle. Victory was
theirs, Hofer's famous motto in their heads, "You've been to mass; you've had a schnapps. Now
forward in the name of God!" This resulted in the temporary reoccupation of Innsbruck by the
Austrians. On the morning after, extremely religious Hofer called all his officers together on the hill
for prayer and then proclaimed himself governor of the province in the name of the emperor himself,
and for two months, while the Tirol was free from invasion, he ruled the country and lived like a
Hofer thought he could return to his home and leave the government in the hands of an attendant
who had been sent from Vienna. However, the Tirol was abandoned at the armistice of Znaim, and
French Marshal Lefebvre advanced to subdue the country. Hofer inspired the people to risk their
lives for faith and freedom, and they organized resistance to the French "atheists and freemasons".
On August 13, in another battle on the Iselberg, the French were routed by the Tirolese peasants
under Hofer. The Bavarians were again forced to evacuate the country, and Hofer entered
Innsbruck in triumph with the government in his hands. He moved into the Hofburg, and ruled his
Francis II bestowed on him a golden medal, which led Hofer to innocently believe that the emperor
would never abandon his faithful Tirolese. However, news of the conclusion of the treaty of
Schönbrunn, by which Tirol was again ceded to Bavaria, reached him on October 14, and he was
shocked. On November 1, he lost the third battle of Berg Isel against a superior force of the enemy
and Hofer was forced to flee, with a hefty French reward on his head.
The overpowering French force pushed into the country at once, and because an amnesty had been
stipulated in the treaty, Hofer and his companions, after some hesitation, caved in. On November
12, however, after discovering deceptive reports of Austrian victories, Hofer changed his mind and
decided to fight to the last, again issuing a proclamation calling the mountaineers to arms.
He met little response. Hofer, a bounty on his head, had to take refuge in a mountain hut on the
Pfandler Alm with a faithful follower Kajetan Sweth, remaining there from November. A greedy
countryman, Josef Raffl, betrayed him for the reward, and on January 27,1810, Hofer was captured
by Italians and sent in chains to Mantua. After a hasty hearing, and without even waiting for the
sentence, he was shot to death in Mantua on February 20, 1810. This act caused immense disgust all
It also inflamed more hatred of the aggressive French. Just hours before his death, Hofer wrote to a
friend: "Goodbye cruel world. Death comes so easily to me that there will be no tears in my eyes."
Shortly before he died, he said: "The Tirol will again be Austrian" and in three years it was. In 1823,
Hofer's remains were removed from Mantua to Innsbruck, where they were interred in the
Franciscan church, and in 1834, a marble statue was erected over his tomb.
In 1893, a bronze statue of him was also set up on the Iselberg. In 1818, the patent of nobility
bestowed upon him by the Austrian emperor in 1809 was conferred upon his family.
|The area roughly known today as Tirol was occupied in ancient time by several Germanic tribes and
conquered by the Romans in the late 1st century BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire,
the area was again ruled by Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards and Franks, finally becoming part of
the Holy Roman Empire. The year 1248 is known as 'the year of Tirol's birth' because it was then
that the counties around the Brenner pass unified. Duke Friedrich IV built the castle Schloss Tirol at
Meran, and Innsbruck became the capital of all Tirol in 1429. Emperor Maximilian I turned the city
into a vibrant, thriving cultural and financial center in the 15th and 16th centuries. He built das
Goldene Dachl, a magnificent Renaissance building which is Innsbruck's most famous landmark.
The Tirol line of the Habsburgs died out in 1665, but Maria Theresa helped the city retain its glory
by building more fabulous buildings. Tirol was ceded to Bavaria after Napoleon's conquest in 1805
and it remained so until 1814, when it was given back to Austria at the Congress of Vienna. After the
railway came through the Brenner pass in 1884, Innsbruck became a vital, prosperous crossroads
linking north and south as well as east and west.
After World War One, as part of their move to prevent any future German or Austrian power, the
Allied victors at Versailles severed German speaking South Tirol from its historic and cultural roots in
Austria. At the Treaty of Saint-Germain of September 10, 1919, Italy was given the ethnic German
territories south of the Alpine watershed, including the southern part of the Austro-Hungarian County
of Tirol. Some 150,000-200,000 Tirolese German citizens were therefore sacrificed to Italy to do
with as she saw fit. At the time of the annexation in 1919, the overwhelming majority of the people
were of German heritage and spoke German.
Italy formally annexed the territories on October 10, 1920 and one of the first orders of the Italian
military regime was to seal the border between South Tirol and Austria, the people forbidden to cross
the new frontier. This move tore family, friends, businesses and even church parishes in two. The
postal service and traditional trade were interrupted and censorship was introduced. On May 15,
1921 the Italian government, although retaining military and police control of the newly created
provincial council of the "Provincia di Venezia Tridentina", did allow the first free democratic
elections (the last the people would see until April 18, 1948!). The result was a resounding victory for
the Deutscher Verband (German Association), which won close to 90% of the votes and thus sent 4
deputies to Rome. The German-speaking population was largely able to go about their normal
business as usual during this short time, however.
However, on Sunday April 24, 1921, as the German population of Bozen participated in a traditional
parade honoring spring events, 280 out-of-province Italian fascists arrived by train and, joining forces
with 120 local fascists, proceeded to attack the procession with clubs, guns and grenades, injuring 50
people and killing a local artist. Nobody was ever brought to justice for the attack. This was an omen
of worse things to come. In October 1922, the Italian government rescinded all protection of
linguistic minorities and began an Italianization program which demanded the exclusive use of Italian
language in the public offices and the closure of most German schools. It also offered incentives for
immigrants from other Italian regions to relocate with the intention of diluting the German majority,
and with this goal in mind, a large industrial zone was soon opened in Bolzano to lure workers and
their families to the area from other parts of Italy. Public service jobs became an exclusive domain of
Italian speakers. As in other areas where the Allies artificially created new populations, the Italian
speaking population grew from 3% in 1910 to over 34%. There would be trouble in days to come.
With the vengeful Allied separation of South Tyrol from Austria, there was a painful tear in history
at the Schneeburg mountain mining community. With each departing or torn-apart miner family, the
close bond which had developed over the centuries disappeared along with historical uniforms,
language, holidays, customs, music, privileges and area names. Their various connections to the
surrounding valleys and the divided Tirol disappeared or were interrupted by the closed state border.
In 1939, the German-speaking population was given a terrible choice of either emigrating to
neighboring Germany/Austria or staying in Italy and accepting complete Italianization.
During the Second World War, the Austrian Tirol suffered massive damage from air attacks. In a
bomb attack on small Woergl, February 22,1945, 69 civilians were murdered, 43 houses destroyed
and 105 badly damaged. From 1943 until April, 1945, Innsbruck experienced 21 bomb attacks and
suffered heavy damage. By May 1945, Innsbruck lost hundreds of civilians to the Allied terror
bombing. The Innsbruck cathedral, with its domes and Baroque interior featuring a high altar painting
by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Bahnhof and Maria-Theresienstrasse were destroyed. The
Cathedral has since been rebuilt. 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Vorarlberg and north and
South Tirol, killing 1500 civilians. Over 6,849 sorties were flown over targets from Verona to the
Brenner Pass with 10,267 tons of bombs dropped on cities such as Trent (Trient, Trento).
The city of Trent (Trient, Trento) is on the river track to Bolzano and the low Alpine passes of
Brenner and the Reschen Passes over the Alps. In 1027, Emperor Conrad II created the Prince-
Bishops of Trent, who wielded both temporal and religious powers. In the following centuries, the
sovereignty was divided between the Bishopric of Trent and the County of Tirol (from 1363 part of
the Habsburg monarchy). Trent became an important mining center.
Trent became famous for the Council of Trent (1545–1563) which gave rise to the Counter-
Reformation. The prince-bishops ruled Trent until the Napoleonic era, when it bounced around
among various states. Under the reorganization of the Holy Roman Empire in 1802, the Bishopric
was secularized and annexed to the Habsburg territories. The Treaty of Pressburg in 1805 ceded
Trent to Bavaria, and the Treaty of Schönbrunn four years later gave it to Napoleon's Kingdom of
Italy. With Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Trent was finally annexed by the Habsburg Empire, becoming
part of the province of Tirol.
After World War One, Trent, along with Bolzano (Bozen) and the German speaking part of Tirol
that stretched south of the Alpine watershed, were annexed by Italy, but then annexed to Greater
Germany in 1943.
From November 1944 to April 1945, Trent was bombed as part of the so-called "Battle of the
Brenner." War supplies from Germany to support the Gothic Line were for the most part routed
through the rail line through the Brenner pass. As stated, over 6,849 Allied sorties were flown over
targets from Verona to the Brenner Pass with 10,267 tons of bombs dropped on Tirol cities and
towns. Parts of Trent hit by the Allied bombings included the Renaissance church of S. Maria
Maggiore, the Church of the Annunciation and several historic bridges over the Adige river.
Daily food rations were below 1000 calories. Life was grim for Tirol's residents. As the Allies had
decided that the province should remain a part of Italy, Italy and Austria negotiated an agreement in
1946, recognizing the rights of the German minority. This lead to the creation of the region called
"Trentino-Alto Adige/Tiroler Etschland" by the new name of "Venezia Tridentina". German and
Italian were both made official languages, and German-language education was permitted once more.
But as the Italians were the majority in the region, the self-government of the German minority had
become an impossibility. The French occupied Nord-tirol until 1955. East Tirol was occupied by the
British until 1953.
More and more Italian-speaking immigrants were enticed to the area, leading to strong dissatisfaction
among German South Tiroleans, which culminated in acute tension and violence, and the South
Tirolean question (Südtirolfrage) became an international issue which was taken up by the United
Nations in 1960. Eventually, the area of Bolzano-Bozen gained new autonomous status from 1972
onwards which has resulted in a considerable level of self-government and South Tirol today is one
of the wealthiest Italian provinces and enjoys a high degree of autonomy. It has strong relations with
the Austrian state of Tirol.
As a result of Italianization, only about 69.15% of today's South Tirol population are German
speaking and 25% are Italian-speaking (35% in the 1960s). Some ethnic tensions still persist. Italians
no longer have a monopoly on public service and government jobs and the independence controversy
is an especially keen issue of the German parties and the idea of a Freistaat (free state) has surface
again and again and there are strong advocates of self-determination. In Hofer's words, Tirol might
once again be Austrian.
|Above: Ancient Trent and modern Trent during the first allied bombing over the city on April 2,
1944. From historic bomb mapping missions carried out by the US in the area, Trent is unique in
that it is known that 32,019 of the high explosive Allied bombs (801 with long delay fuses) aimed
to attack 271 targets are still missing and unaccounted for, laying in wait to maim and kill people.