The Tribunale Building

For Colonel Donald and the New Zealanders who first arrived in Trieste, the Tribunale (Law Courts) building was occupied by belligerent SS officers who refused to surrender.  To quote the Official History:

"At the Tribunale Donald could not persuade the garrison commander to surrender; he was an SS officer who ‘was still humbugging undecidedly and was apparently under the influence of alcohol.'  Donald therefore arranged with the Yugoslav commander that tanks of C Squadron of 19 Regiment and C Squadron of the 20th would surround the building and give it a 20-minute pounding with their guns and Brownings. First the square was cleared of all troops and civilians, and at 7 p.m. 18 tanks at ranges of from 20 to 50 yards blew gaping holes in the walls and through the windows of the Tribunale. The Germans took shelter in the cellars and had few casualties, but the Yugoslavs entered the building and by morning had rounded up some 200."

The shelling of the Tribunale was one of the few incidents of damage inflicted by the New Zealand troops on arrival at Trieste. A few photographs survive from the event.

Front of the Tribunale today. Note the windows in the corner face
Main frontage of the Tribunale today
You can click on each photo for a larger image (use your browser's Back button to return to this page)

In his book "In Peace and War", Lt Col Haddon Donald, commander of the 22 Battalion, recalls:


"....I decided to try on my own to persuade them to surrender. With no flag of truce available, I made do with my handkerchief, which was white and reasonably large... I knew enough Italian and German to be able to explain who I was... and we would give them safe conduct back to a British prisoner of war camp.....They stepped back inside and slammed the door." 

"I was fast losing patience with the SS types in the Tribunale, but decided to have one more go at offering then safe conduct.... Terry McLean, my adjutant, could speak some German and by this time an Austrian civilian had joined us to act as an interpreter. The three of us, under a better constructed white flag marched once more across the Square to parley with the Germans."

"I gave the order to fire and keep firing until we had blown several entries into the building.... The tank boys were having a wonderful time. Never had they had such an easy target and nobody was shooting back at them."

One of several conferences between Germans occupying the Tribunale and New Zealanders. Note the window.
Trying to decide what to do
About the time of the second trip to the front door of the Tribunale. Note the "better" white flag in the foreground
The tanks lined up ready to fire. Again note the window.
After the tanks - note the window is now blown apart and the smoke damage on many of the windows.
The corner of the Tribunale from a distance, and the window with smoke scars.

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Last updated: 23/04/2006