On July 13 1920, Italian black-shirts burnt down the National Hall of Trieste, a symbol of the Slovenian presence in the multi-ethnic city of Trst/Trieste, then went on to riot and destroy about twenty other Slovenian businesses and organisations in the city. Benito Mussolini, who became Il Duce two years later, praised the act as a "masterpiece of the Triestine fascism".
Now, a century later, Slovenian president Borut Pahor and Italian President Sergio Mattarella have met to sign a Letter of Intent to return the building to the Slovenian minority, recognizing an existence that has been so violently denied under Fascist rule and beyond.
As part of the ceremony, the highest state decorations of Slovenia and Italy were awarded to Boris Pahor, the Slovenian writer and humanist from Trieste, born in 1913 and a survivor of both life under Italian Fascism and that in a Nazi concentration camp.
Presidents Pahor and Mattarella then met with representatives of the Slovene national community in Italy and the Italian national community in Slovenia.
After that the Slovenian and Italian presidents visited the exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the burning of the National Hall inside the building and signed their names into the Hall’s Golden Book.