Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills

Operational Zone of the
Alpine Foothills
Operationszone Alpenvorland
Flag Emblem
The Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills ("OZAV").
Capital Bozen
Government Commissariat
High Commissioner
   19431945 Franz Hofer
   Establishment 1943
   Disestablishment 1945
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
Today part of  Italy

The Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills (German: Operationszone Alpenvorland (OZAV) ; Italian: Zona d'operazione Prealpi) was a Nazi German district in the sub-Alpine area created in Italian territory during World War II.[1]

Origin and geography

OZAV was established on 10 September 1943 by the occupying German Wehrmacht, as a response to the Allied Armistice with Italy proclaimed two days earlier following the Allied invasion of Italy. It comprised the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano and Trento. The Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral, comprising the provinces of Udine, Görz, Trieste, Pula, Rijeka, Kvarner Gulf and Ljubljana, was established on the same day. Both operation zones formally belonged to the Italian Social Republic (RSI), which governed those areas of Italy administered from Salò at Lake Garda and not yet occupied by the Allies.


OZAV was administered by High Commissioner Franz Hofer. The zone was administered as part of the Reichsgau of Tyrol-Vorarlberg. The capital of the zone was Bolzano. Hofer wanted to amalgamate the operation zone to his Gau and thus bring forth the reunification of Tyrol and the territorial resurrection of the old Austrian crownland of Tyrol.[2] This did not take place, as Hitler wanted to show consideration for Mussolini, although the Salo government had almost zero influence in the region during German rule.[3]

The Italian influence was resisted and dismantled by the Germans, who decreed the restoration of the provincial borders of 1919 (plus the addition of Belluno), and forced the resignation of the ethnic Italian Podestàs in South Tyrol who were replaced by German-speaking mayors recruited from the local population identifying with the Third Reich.[4] In September 1943, the German language was given equal status with the Italian language.[4] German and Ladin names of streets and localities were displayed alongside Italian names.[4] Fascist and Italian-language newspapers were shut down and the importing of newspapers from the RSI was banned.[4] The Fascist party was outlawed.[4] Laws were introduced limiting the immigration of Italians escaping military service from the RSI.[4] However, the Italian lira remained the legal tender.[4]

The effect of these policies was a rapid and draconian reversal of the stringent policy of Italianization which had been imposed on the region by the Italian government beginning in the early 1920s.

Military units in the region came under the Befehlshaber Operationszone Alpenvorland commanded by General der Infanterie Joachim Witthöft, a former divisional commander in the XXVII Corps of the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer).


Primary enforcement of German regulations was performed by the Südtiroler Ordnungsdienst[5] (SOD, the "South Tyrol" civil police), which had been recruited from the ADO (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Optanten für Deutschland or Association of Optants for Germany); it was mirrored in Trento (Trentino) by the Corpo di Sicurezza Trentino (CST) and in the Belluno province by the Corpo di Sicurezza Bellunese (CSB), both composed of people drafted from all male residents between the eighteen and fifty years of age. The SOD was also actively involved in the pursuit of the Jews and the well-known “Dableiber” (those who had chosen Italy when they were compelled to declare their allegiance), like Michael Gamper, Friedl Volgger, Rudolf Posch and Josef Ferrari. Many of the Dableiber were current or former Catholic priests and were persecuted by the Germans.

See also


  1. After the German surrender, Bozen was put under military occupation by the United Nations and given back to Italy only in 1947 when it had become a Republic.
    • Steininger, Rolf (2003). South Tyrol: a minority conflict of the twentieth century. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A: Transaction Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 0-7658-0800-5.
  2. Steininger 2003, p. 69
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Steininger 2003, p. 71
  4. Steininger 2003, p. 70

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