Operational Zone Adriatic Coast

Operational Zone Adriatic Coast

OZAK, the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast ( _de. Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland "("OZAK") or, colloquially," Operationszone Adria; _it. Zona di Operazioni Litorale Adriatico), was a Nazi German puppet district on the Adriatic coast including parts of present-day Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia [it icon http://www.panzer-ozak.it/immagini/mappaozak100grande.gif] during World War II. It was administered as part of the "Reichsgau" of Carinthia. The capital of the zone was Trieste.

OZAK was established, with its headquarters in Trieste, on 10 September 1943 by Hitler [A copy of an existing document is available online. It reads
"In addition to my (...) order of the commander of the Greater German Reich in Italy and the organisation of the occupied Italian area from 10 September 1943 I determine:
The supreme commanders in the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast consisting of the provinces of Friaul, Görz, Triest, Istrien, Fiume, Quarnero, Laibach, and in the Prealpine Operations Zone consisting of the provinces of Bozen, Trient and Belluno receive the fundamental instructions for their activity from me.
Führer's headquarters, 10 September 1943.
The Führer Gen. Adolf Hitler".
See second document at
] , as a response to the Italian capitulation (8 September 1943) following the Allied invasion of Italy. It comprised the provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pula (Pola), Rijeka (Fiume) and Ljubljana (Lubiana).
The Prealpine Operations Zone, comprising the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano-Bozen, and Trento, was established on the same day. Both operations zones formally belonged to the Italian Social Republic, which governed those areas of Italy not yet occupied by the Allies from Salò at Lake Garda.

Friedrich Rainer, Nazi Gauleiter of Carinthia was appointed Reich Defence Commissar of OZAK, thereby becoming chief of the civil administration. The province of Ljubljana was given a Slovenian provincial administration. Leading collaborator Gregorij Rožman, Bishop of Ljubljana recommended to Rainer that notorious anti-Semite Leon Rupnik should be the president of the new Ljubljana provincial government [Tone Ferenc, The German Occupier in Ljubljana p211; Jozo Tomašević, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia 1941-1945 p122, available online at http://books.google.com/books?id=fqUSGevFe5MC&dq=the+chetniks+by+jozo+toma%C5%A1evi%C4%87&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=-LhVfrc7Pg&sig=5MdcxAM9qowMnXF0Szy38oeOC1k#PPR1,M1] , and Rupnik was then duly appointed on 22 September 1943. SS General Erwin Rösener became Advisor to the President.
OZAK was the scene of genocidal activities. Its commander, Higher SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik, had become one of the most feared Nazi leaders in Eastern Europe after liquidating the Jewish ghettoes in Warsaw and Białystok and supervising the construction of the extermination camps who had earlier founded the extermination camps of Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, Majdanek, and Treblinka [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Globocnik.html Odilo Globocnik ] ] , with command of all camps in Poland from 1941 to 1943. After serving briefly as Gauleiter of Vienna he had been posted to Trieste, where to the very end he ran the prison of Risiera di San Sabba, the only SS camp ever set up on Italian soil [ [http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/photos/sabba1/sabba1.htm Gallery - The Risiera di San Sabba - Photos ] ] .
Globocnik, returning to his native city in triumph in mid-September 1943, established his office at Via Nizza 21 in Trieste and began to carry out "Einsatz R", the systematic persecution of Jews, partisans and anti-Nazi politicians in Friuli, Istria, and other areas of the Croatian Adriatic coastline. His staff of 92, mostly members of the German and Ukrainian SS with killing experience gained in Operation Reinhard, was quickly expanded to combat the unrelenting partisan activity throughout the region. Globocnik's domain included Risiera di San Sabba, a large, disused and decrepit rice mill at Ratto della Pileria 43 in the Triestine suburb of San Sabba [ [http://www.studioargento.com/sansabba/index.html Risiera di San Sabba ] ] . Under his supervision it was converted into the only Nazi extermination camp on Italian territory. The camp was used to detain hostages, partisans and political prisoners, and as a collection and transit camp for Jews being deported to Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen. This camp opened on 20 October 1943 and was staffed primarily by German and Ukrainian members of the SS under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Christian Wirth, former commander of Belzec. After Wirth was killed by partisans on 26 May 1944, he was replaced by SS-Obersturmbannführer Dietrich Allers.

Over 25,000 Italian, Slovene, Croatian and Jewish civilians passed through the San Sabba camp, and about 5,000 were killed there by various methods including gassing. Today the rice mill is an Italian National Memorial Site [ [http://www.deportati.it/English_risiera_memorial.html ANED | The camps | The "Risiera" National Memorial Site ] ] . The camp's commanders and collaborators were tried in Trieste [ [http://www.deportati.it/english_risiera_trial.html ANED | The camps | Risiera. The Trial ] ] until 1976, but their sentences were never carried out.

Since an Allied landing in the area was anticipated, OZAK also hosted a substantial German military contingent, the "Befehlshaber Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland" commanded by "General der Gebirgstruppe" Ludwig Kübler. On 28 September 1944, these units were redesignated XCVII "Armeekorps". Nearly every available armored vehicle, modern or obsolete, was pressed into service with "Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, Ordnungspolizei", or collaborationist Italian and Slovenian units.

On 29 April 1945, Waffen-SS troops set free the remaining inmates of the San Sabba camp and demolished the gas chamber and incinerator building, to destroy evidence of war crimes. On 30 April, several thousand volunteers of the Italian anti-fascist Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale rose up against the Nazis. On 1 May, Globocnik was given command of a chaotic assortment of German and collaborationist troops converging on Trieste as they retreated from Italy and Yugoslavia. These units were immediately engaged by the Partisans 4th Army before surrendering to New Zealand 2nd Division commanded by NZ Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg on the evening of 2 May. However, fighting continued between Tito's army and remnant Wehrmacht and collaborationist forces for several days. The Partisans began to withdraw from areas west of the Isonzo river on 15 May [ [http://www.milhist.net/history/victmed.html UK Official History &#149 Trieste and Austrian Crises ] ] [ [http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-2Ita-c12-2.html II: Confrontation with the Yugoslavs | NZETC ] ] and on 11 June the Yugoslav troops began to withdraw from Trieste [ [http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/W/WarsSecondWorldWar/TheArmy/en WARS – SECOND WORLD WAR - The Army - 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand ] ] .

External links

* [http://www.panzer-ozak.it/ Panzers in the OZAK 1943-1945] by Stefano di Giusto, standard reference to German and collaborationist armor in the "Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland". Accessed 15 June 2006.
* [http://www.retecivica.trieste.it/triestecultura/musei/civicimusei/risiera/brochure/Risiera%20inglese%20per%20e-brochure.pdf the story of Risiera di San Sabba]


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