Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism
|Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell'Antifascismo|
|Jurisdiction||Kingdom of Italy|
The Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell'Antifascismo (OVRA; Italian for "Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism") was the secret police of the Kingdom of Italy, founded in 1927 under the regime of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and during the reign of King Victor Emmanuel III. The German Gestapo were the equivalent of the OVRA. Mussolini's secret police were assigned to stop any anti-Fascist activity or sentiment. Approximately 5,000 OVRA agents infiltrated most aspects of domestic life in Italy. The OVRA was headed by Arturo Bocchini.
In the aftermath of the attempted murder of Mussolini by the young Anteo Zamboni, in Bologna on 31 October 1926, a swath of repressive legislation was swiftly enacted by the Italian government. All political parties, association and organizations opposed to the Fascist regime were dissolved, and everybody who was proven to have "committed or expressed intention to commit actions directed to violently subvert the social, economic or national order or undermine national security or to oppose or obstruct the actions of the Government" could be sent into exile to remote locations by the police.
On November 25, 1926, the new "Legge di Difesa dello Stato" ("State Defense Law") instituted a "Tribunale Speciale" (Special Court) to try those who were accused to be "enemies of the State", and sentence them to harsh prison terms or even to death, since the death penalty had also been restored under the new law.
Priority was given to the reorganization of the National Police Force, known as "Pubblica Sicurezza" or PS, and the man entrusted to this task was a career Police officer named Arturo Bocchini. The new Code of Laws concerning Public Security ("Testo Unico delle Leggi di Pubblica Sicurezza" often abbreviated as TULPS) enacted in 1926 and revised in 1931, mentioned specifically a "Department of Political Police" as a special division of the force with the aim to control and prevent political dissent. Later on this division came to be known as OVRA, although its existence remained secret until December 1930 when the official press agency Stefani released a statement quoting the OVRA as a "special section" of the police.
Bocchini appointed inspector Francesco Nudi as head of the OVRA. Nudi was later replaced by Guido Leto. It is believed that about 4,000 people were arrested by the OVRA and either tried by the Tribunale Speciale or sent into exile on remote Mediterranean islands. The conditions in these places were extremely poor, so many anti-fascists simply left Italy for their own safety. It is known that Heinrich Himmler met with Bocchini repeatedly and modeled the organization of the Gestapo on that of the OVRA. A secret protocol was signed on April 2, 1936, by the heads of the two police organisations to further cooperation and collaboration.
One of the chief duties of the OVRA was to operate and maintain the CPC ("Casellario Politico Centrale"), a special archive where all personal information about known "subversives" was dutifully compiled to create a "personal profile" containing all data concerning the subject's education, culture and habits, down to the minute details about his personal character and his sexual orientation.
From 1927 to 1940, only ten people were sentenced to death by the "Tribunale Speciale". As a result, the actions of the OVRA have been massively overshadowed by the actions of their contemporaries—the Gestapo and SS in Nazi Germany and the NKVD in the Soviet Union.
During the Second World War
With the establishment of the Italian Social Republic in northern Italy, many OVRA agents flocked to this state led by Mussolini, fighting until Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans on April 28, 1945.
OVRA agents were favourite targets of communist partisans, as they were a symbol of the fascist government.
After the war ended the OVRA was officially disbanded, but a Decree issued on April 26, 1945, stated that the CPC should be maintained and "updated with all the information pertaining to anybody whose political activity is aimed at breaking the laws and regulations enacted by the democratic Government against neo-Fascism, anarchists who are by definition against any law and government, and political activists whose moral depravity and contempt of law could prompt them to instigate unrest or commit acts of terrorism". Later on a division of the PS named "Servizio Informazioni Speciali" ("Special Informations Service", better known as SIS) was known to have been set up by the new Minister of Interior, the Socialist Giuseppe Romita, as a result of a new reorganization of the Police offices, with the task of taking over the management of the CPC and investigating politically motivated crimes and other felonies related to that particular time (such as black marketeering, etc.), and that many of the former officers of the OVRA were being reinstated as members of the new SIS. Even the person appointed as head of SIS was Inspector General Santoro, one of Leto's former deputies.
Most of the laws and regulations of the old TULPS of 1931 were kept in force by the Italian Republic, and the same former boss of OVRA Guido Leto was later reinstated as a fully fledged national Police officer, and entrusted with the supervision and coordination of Police academies in postwar Italy.
In popular culture
The 1970 Italian movie The Conformist focuses on OVRA agents tracking down a dissident intellectual in France.
- Servizio Informazioni Militari - Fascist Italy's military intelligence service
- Gestapo - Germany's secret police
- Tokkō - thought of as Japan's version of said organization
- Wagner. p. 712
- Wagner, p. 712