views updated May 29 2018


commercial and political development
cosmopolitan port and culture
nationalist/ethnic debate

"It is the affliction of her two natures—the commercial and the Italian—that collide and cancel out each other. And Trieste cannot suffocate either of the two. This is her double soul." Such was the writer Scipio Slataper's description of his native city (La voce, 25 March 1909; in Slataper, pp. 38–39). From a small city of approximately 30,000 at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Trieste grew to a major central European city of more than 240,000 by 1913. Habsburg support for the free port and commercial privileges beginning in the mid-eighteenth century spurred the growth of the city that had been under Habsburg protection since the fourteenth century. Yet, by the eve of World War I, technological developments in commercial and maritime trade had begun to erode the city's economic foundations, and nationalist tensions threatened the political stability of the Habsburg port.

commercial and political development

Intending to challenge Venetian domination, the Austrian emperor Charles VI extended free-trade privileges in the Adriatic in 1719. From 1731 to 1775, Trieste functioned as the administrative center of the Habsburg Adriatic commercial zone. France's defeat of the Venetian empire in 1797 encouraged Austrian commercial expansion in the Adriatic and Mediterranean, and down to 1814 Trieste became a pawn in the contest between Austria and France. Three periods of French occupation (March to May 1797, November 1805 to March 1806, and November 1809 to October 1813) encouraged western European political associations, and Napoleon's choice of Trieste as the administrative center for the Illyrian provinces created links between the upper Adriatic region and areas of the Italian peninsula as far south as Rome. After 1814 Trieste and other Adriatic provinces, in part inherited from Venice, became part of Austria's Adriatic littoral. The port city's trade blossomed with Habsburg assistance. In 1835 the navigation firm Lloyd Austriaco was founded, and in 1836 the Austrian government granted the steamship line a charter, initiating a marriage between private venture and government that allowed Lloyd to become the largest steamship company in the Mediterranean by 1851. The insurance sector also flourished. Assicurazioni Generali, destined to be one of the largest insurance companies in Europe and the Mediterranean, was founded in 1831, and Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà was established in 1838.

Trieste grew as a pillar of Habsburg maritime commerce to become, perhaps, the fourth most important city in the empire after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. The city's architecture took on a Viennese aspect with development of the Theresian Quarter, named for the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa, centered on the Grand Canal. By the mid-nineteenth century, a neoclassical stock exchange building graced the main avenue leading from the Grand Canal to the major public square, Piazza Grande, which over the course of the century became home to imposing and ornate public buildings and the headquarters of Lloyd Austriaco. The Habsburg monarchy also sought to establish a direct presence in the city. In 1856

Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, the younger brother of the emperor Francis Joseph and supreme commander of the Imperial Austrian Navy, began construction of his royal palace Miramare. Fer din and die din 1867 in an ill-advised attempt to rule as the emperor of Mexico, but construction of the castle continued, and by 1871 the completed royal residence stood as a symbol of Habsburg authority.

By the mid-nineteenth century, under Habsburg tutelage, Trieste's trade position was enhanced. The Südbahn rail connection, completed in 1857, formed a direct link to Vienna. Although the Adriatic route could never match the northern German port route in terms of efficiency and economy, Trieste grew as a cosmopolitan port city serving international commercial interests. In the 1860s the convergence of Austria's loss of Venice to Italy, Habsburg suspicions of German states unifying under a "small German" model, and the monarchy's compromise of 1867 that split the empire into two parts served to focus Austrian energies on the development of Trieste. The Adriatic port served as an alternative to lost Venetian routes and politically unreliable networks through Bismarck's Germany.

In 1891 the monarchy abrogated Trieste's free-port status, but Habsburg monopolies, subsidies, and commercial advantages continued to feed economic growth. In 1913 trade with imperial regions accounted for over 80 percent of Triestine commercial rail traffic.

cosmopolitan port and culture

From the Habsburg perspective, Trieste rested in the hands of commercial elites of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, whose allegiance lay with the monarchy and whose focus was on economic concerns. The urban environment had an Italian character due to reliance on an Italian dialect as the lingua franca and general adherence to Italian customs. However, the city was reputed to be cosmopolitan, with a climate heavily influenced by diverse groups of immigrants, including Greeks, Ottomans, Jews, and English and Swiss Protestants. At the same time, a strong civic identity grew out of the city's pretensions to economic importance and autonomy within the Habsburg Empire. Writers in Trieste captured the contradictions of the "cosmopolitan" and "municipal" identities and the clash between economic internationalism and nationalist particularism. They also emphasized the psychoanalytic perspective, filtering to the port from Freud's circle in Vienna. The Irish writer James Joyce spent several years before World War I teaching English in Trieste and is reputed to have drawn inspiration for many of his characters, including Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, from the Triestines. Best known among the psychoanalytically inspired works is the novel Zeno's Conscience by Triestine native Italo Svevo.

Cultural networks and literary circles embracing diversity remained intact on the eve of World War I, but political bifurcation went hand in hand with the emergence of ethnic antagonisms that increasingly pit Italians against Slavs in the second half of the nineteenth century. By the 1880s, the increasing wealth of Trieste had quickened the pace of immigration to the urban center, altering the ethnic and political landscape. The migration of workers from nearby rural districts in Italy, Istria, and Slovene and Croatian Adriatic provinces and the changes wrought by rapid urbanization set the stage for the opposition between socialists and national liberals.

nationalist/ethnic debate

Nationalist or ethnic antagonism in Trieste had its roots in the upheavals of 1848. In 1848 local civilian and military leaders, recognizing the port's reliance on Vienna, generally maintained calm in Trieste. The monarchy rewarded the city's loyalty by transferring the seat of the Austrian navy from revolutionary Venice. Nonetheless, the city's role as a port serving Germanic Austria increasingly clashed with the aspirations and ambitions of nationalist groups, in particular irredentist Italians, who wished to integrate all Italian-speaking territories into the new Italian state.

The 1860s were critical in the emergence of ethnic and nationalist politics in the northeastern Adriatic lands. Italian unification, particularly the inclusion of Lombardy and Venetia, former Habsburg holdings, in the new state of Italy, exacerbated tensions over the fate of the Italian-speaking populations of the Adriatic littoral. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 brought nationalist questions to the fore. It excited Slavic interests in autonomy and, by the turn of the century, spurred proposals for a third, Slavic component to the monarchy.

The most famous local nationalist incident occurred in 1882 and involved Guglielmo Oberdan (or Oberdank) and a plan to assassinate the Austrian monarch Francis Joseph, visiting Trieste to honor the five-hundredth anniversary of the city's adhesion to Austria. Officials uncovered Oberdan's plot, and he was hanged for treason. The execution furnished the irredentist movement with a local martyr for the Italian cause.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Trieste's municipal council rested squarely in the hands of Italian nationalists who controlled local matters. Heightening sensitivities to ethnic and cultural differences fueled nationalist antagonisms throughout the empire. In the northeastern Adriatic provinces, Slavs and Italians began to struggle against one another and against Austrian (considered Germanic) officials. The fever pitch of the prewar debate between factions favoring international commerce under the oversight of Austria and those with Italian irredentist aspirations was evident in 1912 in the firestorm that erupted over the publication of Angelo Vivante's Irredentismo adriatico (Adriatic irredentism). Irredentists expected Vivante, a respected member of an Italian Triestine bourgeois family, to support pro-Italian factions. Instead, he emphasized Trieste's dependence on Austria and painted irredentist schemes as "utopian" dreams, emphasizing the "antithesis between the economic element and the national one" as "the guiding thread of all Triestine history" (Vivante, p. 221).

At the end of World War I, victorious Italy's incorporation of Trieste into the liberal state could be counted an Italian nationalist triumph. However, Vivante's antithesis could not be reconciled. Italy's victory proved Pyrrhic. Italy was frustrated at the inability to annex other coveted territories in the eastern Adriatic; nationalists and socialists clashed; the port city, due to the ravages of war and political separation from hinterlands in central Europe, entered into a period of decline. Economic crisis and political and ethnic antagonisms set the stage for the well-known, bitter twentieth-century contests over the fate of Trieste.

See alsoAustria-Hungary; Italy; Vienna.


Primary Sources

Slataper, Scipio. Lettere triestine: Col seguito di attri scritti vociani di polemica su Trieste. Trieste, 1988.

Svevo, Italo. Zeno's Conscience. Translated by William Weaver. New York, 2001. Translation of Coscienza di Zeno (1923).

Vivante, Angelo. Irredentismo adriatico. Trieste, 1984.

Secondary Sources

Dubin, Lois C. The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste: Absolutist Politics and Enlightenment Culture. Stanford, Calif., 1999.

McCourt, John. The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste, 1904–1920. Dublin, 2000.

Pizzi, Katia. A City in Search of an Author: The Literary Identity of Trieste. London, 2001.

Schächter, Elizabeth. Origin and Identity: Essays on Svevo and Trieste. Leeds, U.K., 2000.

Sondhaus, Lawrence. In the Service of the Emperor: Italians in the Austrian Armed Forces, 1814–1918. New York, 1990.

Maura E. Hametz


views updated Jun 11 2018


TRIESTE , port in Friuli, N. Italy. Although Jews may have lived in Trieste before the end of the 14th century, there is no authoritative information. After the city's annexation to Austria in 1382 Jews from Germany settled there; some were subject to the dukes of Austria and some to the local rulers. Jews soon took the place of Tuscan moneylenders in the economic life of the city. The Jewish banker Moses and his brother Cazino, who lived in the Rione del Mercato, are mentioned in 1359. The Jews tended to live in the Riborgo neighborhood, then the civic and commercial center. The 15th century was a period of development for the small Jewish community. Two Jewish bankers dominated the period, Salomone D'Oro and Isacco da Trieste. In 1509 the Emperor Maximilian I granted to Isacco the position of Schutzjude, or protected Jew. It is important to stress the position of Jewish women, who sometimes directed the family's banking establishment. As in the other Imperial possessions, Jews were obliged to wear the yellow badge. In 1583 there was an abortive attempt to expel the Jews.

In 1620 Ventura Parente and the Grassin brothers received from the City of Trieste the concession of the title of public banker and moneylender. In 1624 Ventura Parente obtained from the Emperor Ferdinand ii the title of Hoffaktor. During the 17th century Trieste's Patriciate took an unfavorable stand toward the Jews, asking the imperial authorities for their expulsion. The imperial authorities resisted the pressure and Jews were not expelled. However, in 1695 the 11 Jewish families in the city, around 70 people, were enclosed in the so-called Old Ghetto, or Trauner Ghetto. The Jews petitioned the authorities successfully for a healthier site, and in 1696 the Jewish ghetto was erected in the Riborgo neighborhood, near the harbor.

From the beginning of the 18th century the Hapsburgs adopted a mercantilist policy, which led to the development of the port of Trieste. In 1746 the Università degli ebrei, or Jewish community, was constituted. In this period there were 120 Jews living in Trieste. The most important families were the Morpurgo, Parente, Levi, and Luzzatto. In the same year the first synagogue was erected, the so-called Scuola Piccola. Maria Theresa permitted the richest Jewish families to live outside the ghetto. Moreover, Marco Levi, head of the community, received the title of Hoffaktor in 1765. In 1771 Maria Theresa granted a series of privileges to the Nazione Ebrea of Trieste. In the 18th century Jews were traders and craftsmen and some of them were factors to the Austrian court (see above). One of the most distinguished scholars of the mid-18th century was Rabbi Isacco Formiggini. Emperor *Joseph ii's Toleranzpatent of 1782 gave legal sanction to the gradually improving condition of the Jews in Trieste, and in 1785 the gates of the ghetto were destroyed. There were around 670 Jews in 1788. In 1775 the Scuola Grande or Great Synagogue was erected on the plan of the architect Francesco Balzano. The building included also a Sephardi synagogue.

In 1796 the community inaugurated a Jewish school under the Chief Rabbi Raffael Nathan Tedesco. This school was in part inspired by the proposals of N.H. *Wessely. The first Hebrew work printed in Trieste was Samuel Romanelli's Italian-Hebrew grammar, published in 1799.

In 1796 the French under Napoleon arrived in Trieste. In 1800, 1,200 Jews lived in Trieste. From 1809 to 1813 Trieste was part of the Kingdom of Italy. Some Jews were supporters of the French Revolution and Napoleon, although Napoleon's economic blockade ruined the city's trade. Thus, when the Austrians returned in 1814, the Jewish community was relieved. Tedesco was followed by Abramo Eliezer Levi, who was the chief rabbi of Trieste between 1802 and 1825.

The 19th century was the golden age of Trieste Jewry. In 1831 Giuseppe Lazzaro Morpurgo established the Assicurazioni Generali, which dominated the economic life of the city for more than a hundred years. During the 19th century some members of the community played an active part in the Risorgimento and the Irredentist struggle which culminated in Trieste's becoming part of Italy in 1919. Trieste Jews, such as the writer Italo *Svevo and the poet Umberto *Saba, were central in the creation of the Italian intellectual world. ii Corriere Israelitico, a Jewish newspaper in Italian, was published in Trieste from 1862 to 1915. In 1862 S.D. *Luzzatto issued there his dirge on Abraham Eliezer Levi. In the 1850s some Hebrew books were printed at the Marinigha press, including Ghirondi-Neppi's Toledot GedoleiYisrael (1853). The Jewish printer Jonah Cohen was active in the 1860s. His illustrated Passover Haggadah (by A.V. Morpurgo) with and without Italian translation (1864) was a memorable production.

The number of Jews increased gradually in the 19th century. In 1848 there were around 3,000 Jews, in 1869 there were 4,421, and in 1910, 5,160 Jews lived in Trieste. Most of the chief rabbis of Trieste were Italian Jews, such as Marco Tedeschi, elected in 1858, and Sabato Raffaele Melli from 1870 to 1907. The monumental new synagogue in Via Donizzetti opened in 1912 and it was inaugurated by Chief Rabbi Zvi Perez Chajes. It followed the Ashkenazi rite. After World War i Trieste was the main port for Jews from Central and Eastern Europe who immigrated to Ereẓ Israel.

[Shlomo Simonsohn /

Samuele Rocca (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

According to the census of 1931, the Jewish community of Trieste had 4,671 members, including 3,234 Italians and 1,437 foreigners. Census data for 1938 recorded 5,381 Jews in Trieste, belonging for the most part to the lower and middle sectors of the middle class. The racial laws at the end of 1938 caused an initial period of disorientation, including many conversions, the withdrawal of membership of many Community leaders and members, and the emigration of most foreign Jews. By 1939, however, the elected council had been replaced by one appointed by the Italian government. In October 1941, the first visible acts of real intimidation occurred. The facade of the central temple of the German rite and the headquarters of the community in Via del Monte were defaced with antisemitic slogans and red ink. Vandalism and violence recurred in July 1942, when several Fascist squads devastated the temple and assaulted defenseless passers-by. Similar incidents occurred in May 1943, when Jewish and Slavic businesses and shops were sacked. By then, the Jewish community of Trieste had no more than 2,500 members.

After the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943, and the German occupation of Italy, Trieste and the surrounding area were incorporated into the Adriatisches Kustenland and formally annexed as an integral part of the Reich, with dire consequences for the Jews. Not all Jews were able to go into hiding before a German Einsatzkommando initiated the first roundup of Jews on October 9. A second roundup occurred on October 29, and a third on January 20, 1944. During the latter event, Dr. Carlo Morpurgo, secretary of the community, remained at work in order not to abandon the elderly patients at the Jewish Pia Casa Gentilomo hospice. He was arrested and deported with them to Auschwitz, where he was murdered on November 4, 1944.

In March 1944, other Jews recovering in various hospitals throughout the city, including the Regina Elena, the psychiatric hospital, and the hospital for the chronically ill, were seized. After being arrested, the Jews were taken to the Coroneo prison and, after February or March 1944, also to the Risiera di San Sabba, the only concentration camp with a crematorium in Italy. Some Jews arrested in Fiume, Venice, Padua, and Arbe were also sent to the Risiera. From October 1943 to February 1945, about 60 convoys left Trieste, all headed for the concentration camps of Central and Eastern Europe. According to estimates, Jews deported from the Adriatisches Kustenland numbered 1,235, of whom 708 were from Trieste. Of the latter, only 23 returned.

Some Jews from Trieste joined the partisans and died in combat. Sergio Forti was killed in battle near Perugia on June 16, 1944; Rita Rosana died near Verona on September 17, 1944, at the age of 22; and Eugenio Curiel, a university teacher, was killed by Fascists in Milan on February 24, 1945, just a few weeks before the liberation.

[Adonella Cedarmas (2nd ed.)]

After the war about 1,500 Jews remained in Trieste; by 1965 their number had fallen to 1,052, out of a total of 280,000 inhabitants, partly because of the excess of deaths over births. In 1969 the community, numbering about 1,000, operated a synagogue and a prayer house of the Ashkenazi rite, a school, and a home for the aged. In the early 21st century the Jewish population of Trieste was around 600.

[Shlomo Simonsohn /

Samuele Rocca (2nd ed.)]


Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index; Milano, Bibliotheca, index; Bachi, in: Israel (Aug. 11–18, 1927); Colbi, ibid. (March 22, 1928); idem, in: rmi 17 (1951), 122–9; Curiel, ibid., 6 (1931/32), 446–72; Volli, ibid., 24 (1958), 206–14; Botteri and Carmiel, in: Trieste …, 6 (1959), May-June issue, 6–16; L. Buda, Vicende e notizie della comunità ebraica triestina nel Settecento (1969); H.D. Friedberg, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be Italyah (19562), 90. add. bibliography: T. Catalan, La comunità ebraica di Trieste (17811914), Politica, società e cultura, Quaderni del dipartimento di storia, Università degli studi di Trieste (2000); S.G. Cusin, and P.C. Ioly Zorattini, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Itinerari ebraici, I luoghi, la storia, l'arte (1998), 108–71; L.C., Dubin, The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste, Absolutist Politics and Enlightenment Culture (1999); M., Stock, Nel segno di Geremia, Storia della comunità israelitica di Trieste dal 1200 (1979); S. Bon, Gli Ebrei a Trieste 19301945. Identità, persecuzione, risposte (2000); S.G. Cusin and P.C.I. Zorattini, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Itinerari ebraici (1998).


views updated Jun 08 2018

Trieste City on the Gulf of Trieste, at the head of the Adriatic Sea, ne Italy. It was an imperial free port from 1719 to 1891, and became an Austrian crown land in 1867. It was ceded to Italy in 1919, occupied by Yugoslavia in 1945, but was returned to Italy in 1954. It is an important industrial and commercial centre with large shipyards. Industries: steel, textiles and petroleum. Pop. (2000) 215,096.