EXPLORING THE GLOBE | Trieste: The San Sabba rice mill

Trieste, Italy

Realizing that it doesn't make sense.
It was January 27, 1945 when the Red Army soldiers entered the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and liberated the prisoners survived the Nazi extermination camp.
the most heinous horror in human history was revealed to the world: the Holocaust.
Each year we gather for a moment of reflection for the Remembrance Day, an international memorial day to remember World War II’s Holocaust victims.

We remember what happened in the rest of the world during the World War II but too often we don't know what happened about us.
In fact, not everyone knows that the only death camp in Italy with the crematorium was in Trieste.
Recently, during my trip to Trieste, a magical seaport city located in Northeastern Italy, I got to visit the San Sabba rice-husking plant and know some people, witnesses to a sad moment in history. A Nazi concentration camp, inside Trieste’s city, a short walk from Triestina stadium. Everyone knew about it.
In this death camp died about three to five thousand people. Friulians, Istrians, Slovenes and Croats, Jews and people from Trieste.
Some elderly people I met, told me that it was almost impossible to breathe during the wind days, it was difficult to explain that smell. There was an acrid, a burning smell in the air. 
People saw also the German soldiers brought paper bags out of the rice mill, large bags used for cement and filled with ashes. The bags were transported to sea and then dumped from the jetty.
The rice mill is now a memorial site which exhibited evidence of human suffering.

The large rice-processing plant was built in 1898 in San Sabba, a suburb of Trieste. After the Nazi occupation, the Rice Mill is requisitioned and used by the German forces as a temporary prison camp for the detention of captured Italian soldiers. Towards the end of 1943, it was converted into a Polizeihaftlager, a police internment camp, and used for the transit of deportees bound for Germany and Poland and for the internment and execution of partisans, political prisoners and Jews. 
As the Rice Mill was made up of several buildings, the Nazis organized the various floors and rooms according to the destination of the prisoners.
At the factory entrance there was the "death cell". In it were kept internees transported from prisons or captured in round-ups and earmarked for execution and cremation within a few hours.
A dressmaking and shoemaking shop was located on the ground floor of the three-storey building where prisoners worked. Here, there were also quarters for the SS officers and soldiers.
The next building, made of four storey high, was intended for the detention of Jews, prisoners of war and civilian prisoners, men and women of all ages, children and babies, all destinated to be deported to Germany.
In the inner courtyard, was the building housing the oven in which bodies were cremated.

In 1944, for three months, the Nazis used the existing dryer for drying rice. 
Later, an architect, worked for the realization of a new project. The architect was also called "expert" because he was part dell'Aktion T4, the Nazi program of euthanasia, and had already designed crematorium for concentration camps in Poland .
The dryer was thus transformed into the crematorium.
Many are the theories about the methods of execution used: gassing, a blow with a club at the base of the skull, shooting.
To smother the screams and the noise of the executions Germans used the revving of engines, the baying of deliberately excited dogs and the playing of music. 
On the night between 29th and 30th April 1945 the Nazis abandoned the Rice Mill. To remove the evidence of their crimes, the buildings of the crematorium were blown up with dynamite.
Only in 1965 the San Sabba was designated as a National Monument by decree of the President of the Italian Republic, Saragat.
In 1975, renovated by the Triestine architect Roman Boico, the Risiera was converted into a museum.
What happened to the responsible for the crimes?
After 30 years of silence and
forgotten files, in 1976 the trial was completed. Among many accused, were two Nazis: the commander of the Rice Mill, Oberhauser and his immediate superior, Allers.
Unfortunately, none of the accused were present at the trial. Several defendants were executed by partisans, others died of natural causes.
The commander Oberhauser, was arrested in Austria and after four years and six months in prison he did what he has always done before joining the SS: selling beer at his factory in Monaco of Bavaria.You might ask why Oberhauser was never extradited.
The Italian justice system has not requested the extradition because under the agreements between Italy and Germany
existing at that time, citizens accused of crimes committed abroad could be extradited only if suspected of crimes committed after 1948.
An useless trial.
Oberhauser was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes and died in 1979 at age 65.
Allers died in 1975. A year before the trial.

We will always remember.
We will always realize that it doesn't make sense.

via Giovanni Palatucci, 5 – Trieste
Opening time:
Working days and holidays  9 am – 7 pm;
Closure days: 1st January, 25th December.
Free entrance.
Bus lines:
Take bus 8 from the train, a 20-minute trip; from the last bus stop (Roiano) walk past the stadium, turning left into Via Palatucci. 
By car: Statale A4 exit Valmaura/Stadio/Cimitero. 

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