The question of the adequate protection of racial, religious and linguistic minorities in Europe has been a vexed one for more than a century. This was the inevitable result of the redrawing of the map of Europe during the nineteenth century. In the creation of the Kingdom of Italy and the German Empire it was possible to establish boundaries almost entirely satisfactory from the racial point of view. In the creation of the smaller states in the Balkans this was not possible owing to the complicated mixture of peoples in that territory. The peace treaties of 1919 again created new states and changed the boundries of old ones. This brought about a whole new crop of minorities, of which one of the most conspicuous was the German minority in the South Tyrol which has recently brought the whole subject again to the fore. Although this territory was originally Austrian it was in Germany that the attempted Italianization of this minority was most strongly resented.
Italian-German Minority Incident
For several months a concentrated campaign was carried on in the German press against Italian methods in the South Tyrol. Dr. Held, the Bavarian premier, brought the matter to a head in a speech denouncing Italian methods. Mussolini on February 5 in a speech before the Italian parliament answered these attacks and in a most emphatic manner proclaimed Italy's right to Italianize any inhabitants in territory duly ceded to her. He furthermore said that in the defense of her rights Italy would even carry her banners beyond her present boundaries.
Mussolini's speech was answered by the German Foreign Minister Dr. Stresemann in a speech before the Reichstag in which he pointed out that when this territory was ceded to Italy she had made a solemn promise to be liberal to the German minority. Mussolini in a second speech reaffirmed his previous attitude, although in a less emphatic manner, and stated positively that Italy would never consent that the question should be referred to the League of Nations, The incident was closed by an exchange of notes between Italy and Austria in which Mussolini assured Chancellor Ramek that his threatening attitude applied only if there should be a union of Austria and Germany. Austria then agreed to let the matter drop.