Tag Archives: Resistance

Massacre? What Massacre? Anglo-American Responses to Monte Sole, Sept 29 – Oct 5 1944

Kevin Foster   Monash University

September 29 2017 marks the seventy-third anniversary of the largest single massacre of civilians on the Second World War’s western front. Over the long wet weekend from Friday 29 September 1944 until early the following week soldiers from Sturmbahnführer Walter Reder’s 16th Waffen-SS Reconnaissance Battalion, supported by other German troops, were given the task of clearing the partisans from the whole of the Monte Sole massif, the hills sandwiched between the Reno and Setta rivers, where the Gothic Line ran through the mountains south of Bologna. Fascist spies had confirmed that the partisan group, the Stella Rossa, which had been fighting a running battle with the Germans for weeks, was concentrated on the slopes around Monte Sole. The German commander, Kesselring, claimed that between 21 July and 25 September 1944, 624 Germans had been killed, 993 wounded and 872 missing in partisan operations.[1] Accordingly, at dawn on the 29th, the Germans began a wide encirclement, cutting off any means of escape. From the German perspective this particular rastrellamento was necessitated by the allies’ arrival at the Gothic Line. By 21 September US and South African troops were on the flanks of Monte Sole. Kesselring recognised the danger his troops faced. With the allies staring them in their faces they could not afford to have partisans nipping at their backs. Something had to be done.

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‘Ugly Secrets’? Primo Levi and the Resistance

Mirna Cicioni   Monash University

primo_leviIt is well known that Primo Levi was deported to Auschwitz as a Jew. What is less well-known outside Italy is that he was arrested as a member of one of the first fighting units of the Italian Resistance. Levi consistently made negative judgments about his participation in the Resistance. In his last book, I sommersi e i salvati, he summarises his experiences in four harsh adjectives: “la mia carriera partigiana è stata cosí breve, dolorosa, stupida e tragica” (Opere, II, 1098). On 8 September, the day of Italy’s armistice with the Allies, when Northern Italy became an occupied country, Levi was 24 years old, and had “poco senno, nessuna esperienza, e [. . .] un moderato e astratto senso di ribellione” (I, 7). With his mother and sister, he fled to Amay, a small village in the Aosta Valley, not far from the Swiss border, full of soldiers from the disbanded Italian army and informers from Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic.

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Italian Jewish experiences under Fascism

310+Nuw6I-L._Mirna Cicioni’s recent talk on Primo Levi’s brief time in the Resistance is a reminder how important and controversial the examination of the period remains, particularly as far as the experience of Italian Jews under Fascism is concerned. Stuart Woolf’s substantial review (Passato e presente, 2013, XXXI, 90, 131-143) of the diary of a young lawyer from Ferrara, Nino Contini, between 1940 and 1943 offers a wealth of detail on life in the internment camps and al confino, especially on the relations established between the confinati and their involuntary but far from unwelcoming local hosts. It includes very useful bibliographic references and marks the appearance of a significant addition to the well-known accounts by Carlo Levi and Cesare Pavese of their experiences as confinati in southern Italy.

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