Sepp Mitterhofer (of Meran-Obermais), a BAS activist of the first hour and then chief of the “Südtiroler Heimatbund”, collected together the majority of these exhibits over the course of many years. This “Mitterhofer Collection” forms the core of the exhibition “BAS – Sacrifices for Freedom.”
Additional items were donated or loaned by several persons – often likewise BAS activists or their family members.
To demonstrate the simple methods which the BAS had to use, two loans from the Ferdinandeum Tyrolean Provincial Museum in Innsbruck are presented which were taken from the “BAS Archive,” the estate of the former BAS activists Herlinde and Klaudius Molling.
One of the great challenges for the makers of this exhibition was the limited space for the exhibition items. The curators of the exhibition are of the view that the design agency DP-art (Brixen) demonstrated great skill and creativity in solving this problem.
Another challenge in developing an exhibition with the title “Liberation Committee of South Tyrol” (BAS) is to be seen in the fact that, on one hand, the “official” Italian historical narrative and also many historians and authors in German-speaking regions have labelled the BAS activists as “politicals” – a label that is absolutely inappropriate for many of them. In the 1960s, practically all conceivable political ideologies were to be found among BAS activists in South Tyrol, Austria, and Germany, and the leaders of the BAS were convinced primarily that “something had to be done.” For the most part, South Tyrolean activists were simply patriots who felt that their homeland and unique ethnic culture were in grave danger – a stance for which there was more than sufficient evidence!
For someone like Sepp Kerschbaumer, leader of the South Tyrolean BAS and a devote Catholic, right-wing politics were anathema. Furthermore, his highest principle was that human life must be spared.
In contrast, since World War II, Italy tried to label these South Tyrolean patriots – and especially the supporters of the “freedom fight” beyond the Brenner Pass –as “right-wingers.” Of course, some of these supporters had corresponding leanings – but by no means could one rightfully categorize all Austrian or German BAS activists as “Neo-Nazis,” which in particular the Italian media, but also Italy’s foreign policies attempted to do – with not little success, even up to the present day. Ironically, especially media and politicians with a Neo-Fascist background were especially guilty of this.
Thus, one must unfortunately note that the Italian propaganda decrying the “right-wing extremist” BAS fell on fertile ground – frequently unfairly to the slandered persons, e.g., Fritz Molden, Wolfgang Pfaundler, and Prof. Helmut Heuberger, all former resistance fighters against the Nazi regime.
This exhibition wishes to highlight this discrepancy by listing (on the final exhibition panel – the “Wall of the Victims”) all of the persons who, according to the documentary evidence, lost their lives in the context of the events of the 1960s – regardless of the particulars of their violent death. Further, many South Tyrolese were arrested and severely tortured during this era. This exhibition also commemorates them and the sufferings of their families.
In the final analysis,
all of these individuals
were victims, and
“Sacrifices for Freedom.”
Mag. Sylvia and Dr. Hubert Speckner