A Day in the Death Penalty Around the Martyrology 1869: Charles Orme, rambler

1916: Nazario Sauro, Italian patriot

August 10th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1916, Italian nationalist and sailor Nazario Sauro was hanged by an Austro-Hungarian military court in Pula, Croatia.

Born in the Habsburg-controlled port of Koper at the crown of the Adriatic Sea,* young Sauro (English Wikipedia entry | Italian) evinced a much greater affinity for the seas than his schooling and had his first command — a merchant ship — by the tender age of 20.

Besides seamanship, his birthplace blessed or cursed him with the fin de siecle‘s ferment of Italian irredentism: his native Istria was one of those outlying lands with an ample Italian heritage laboring under the moldering Austrian boot. Patriots pined to append it to Mazzini’s energetic young state.

So, Sauro alongside his nautical career developed an avocation in remaking the map. He took pains to monitor harbor defenses during his shipping runs around the Adriatic; nor was his conviction in national self-determination confined to his own country, for he won admiration in Albania by smuggling supplies to anti-Ottoman rebels there.

With the outbreak of World War I, Sauro — then nearing 34 years of age — hopped a train over the border into his true nation and enlisted in Venice to fight against Austria. Considering that he was still a subject of Austria, this action invited a treason charge were he ever to be captured … and this finally occurred when now-Lt. Sauro ran aground in a submarine in the Austrian Bay of Kvarner on July 30, 1916. Once someone recognized him from his long prewar career at sea, his fate was sealed.


Lyrics here

Still a celebrated patriotic martyr to this day, number of cities around Italy host monuments to Sauro and streets named for Sauro; he’s also honored by the Italian navy’s Sauro-class submarine. Mussolini had a grand statue of the illustrious native son erected in Koper in 1935, when that city was under Italian control … but Nazi Germany tore it down in 1944 once relations between the former Axis partners went pear-shaped.

* Koper is in present-day Slovenia, but within literal (and littoral) walking distance of Italy.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Austria,Capital Punishment,Croatia,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Habsburg Realm,Hanged,History,Italy,Martyrs,Separatists,Soldiers,Treason,Wartime Executions,Yugoslavia

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3 thoughts on “1916: Nazario Sauro, Italian patriot”

  1. Hung Bieri says:

    Dopo l’esecuzione, avvenuta alle 19 e 45, il corpo di Nazario Sauro fu sotterrato di notte e in maniera segreta dagli austriaci in area sconsacrata nei pressi del cimitero militare. Solo al termine della guerra la Marina italiana riusci a sapere il luogo ove era stato sepolto La decima galleria della strada delle 52 gallerie del Monte Pasubio , scavate in occasione dei combattimenti della prima guerra mondiale, porta il suo nome.

  2. Oh, i forgot to criticize the proItalian fervor. Austria granted minority rights to all ethnic and linguistic minorities. The minorities had a right to their own language and to establish their own libraries. After Italy who had been an ally of Austria but turned around, partly because of the donations the French made to Mussolini, leader of a socialist party at the time, had conquered Istria they celebrated by burning the Slavic libraries. Nowadays Istria is divided by Slovenia, Croatia and Italy.

  3. The Italian minority in AustriaHungary was divided. Especially in Triest where most Italian speakers were proAustria. Parts of presentday NorthEast Italy and Slovenia had been Austrian for centuries. And the Austrian economy was far from being in bad shape. Funny enough the Friuli , related to the Italians, were almost all proAustrian. I am afraid Austria acted according the law to execute a deserter and traitor. By the way during the First World War Austria achieved its only military successes against the Italians…

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