Raid of the Ghetto of Rome

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There are two sad elements to this story.

A-As so oft before during WWII victims had been given a sense of hope, often false hope given by the Nazi’s to even inflict psychological terror upon the physical crimes. However in this case the hope was given by the allies.

B. So very little is known about this event, just the numbers and no names.

On 10 July 1943, a combined force of American and British Commonwealth troops invaded Sicily.

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German generals again took the lead in the defense and, although they lost the island after weeks of bitter fights, they succeeded in ferrying large numbers of German and Italian forces safely off Sicily to the Italian mainland. On 19 July, an Allied air raid on Rome destroyed both military and collateral civil installations. With these two events, popular support for the war diminished in Italy.

On 25 July, the Grand Council of Fascism voted to limit the power of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and handed control of the Italian armed forces over to King Victor Emmanuel III.

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The next day Mussolini met with the King, was dismissed as prime minister, and was then imprisoned. A new Italian government, led by General Pietro Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel III, took over in Italy. Although they publicly declared that they would keep fighting alongside the Germans, the new Italian government began secret negotiations with the Allies to come over to the Allied side.On 3 September, a secret armistice was signed with the Allies at Fairfield Camp in Sicily. The armistice was publicly announced on 8 September. By then, the Allies were on the Italian mainland, giving hope to the Jews in Rome, hope that they would be liberated soon.

Only two months after Mussolini had been dismissed and arrested, he was rescued from his prison at the Hotel Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso raid by a special Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) unit on 12 September 1943; present was Otto Skorzeny.

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The rescue saved Mussolini from being turned over to the Allies, as per the armistice.

Three days following his rescue in the Gran Sasso raid, Mussolini was taken to Germany for a meeting with Hitler in Rastenburg at his East Prussian headquarters. Despite public professions of support, Hitler was clearly shocked by Mussolini’s disheveled and haggard appearance as well as his unwillingness to go after the men in Rome who overthrew him. Feeling that he had to do what he could to blunt the edges of Nazi repression, Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime, the Italian Social Republic.

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The RSI was proclaimed on 23 September 1943. Although the RSI claimed most of the lands of Italy as rightfully belonging to it, it held political control over a vastly reduced portion of Italy.The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Japan and their puppet states.

Just over 3 weeks later the Jewish ghetto in Rome was raided

On October 16, 1943, the Raid of the Ghetto of Rome occurred. 1,259 members of the Jewish community including 363 men, 689 women and 207 children were captured by the Gestapo. SS Captain Theodor Dannecker ordered that the ghetto be emptied.

Trucks pulled up on the cobblestoned piazza beside the Portico d’Ottavia, the neighborhood was sealed, and 365 German soldiers fanned out through the narrow streets and courtyards. Families hid at the backs of their shuttered shops. The able-bodied and quick-witted jumped from their windows or fled along the rooftops. The unlucky were hounded from their homes at gunpoint and herded into the idling trucks.

Of these, 1,023 were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp; only 15 men and one woman survived.

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Musica Italiano

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Don’t worry I haven’t suddenly turned Italian and although the music in this blog will be in Italian, the text won’t be.

The thing is every once in a while I like to deviate from my usually heavier historical subjects to a more light-hearted one.

I love Italy, I had the chance to visit the country several times especially a small town called Valli del Pasubio and a even smaller village called Sturma(you’ll ne hard pressed to find it on a map). I first visited as a young teenager

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To be honest I fell in love with the place.It is where I first learned how to eat proper food,not the potatoes and apple sauce diet I had insisted on prior to that. The food was just heavenly and 16 stone further I still have a loving relationship with food.

The blog however is about Italian music and not food.Even before I set foot in Italy I had a bit of a weak spot for Italian music,although I was a metal head, I couldn’t help falling for the soothing tones of the Italian language converted into music.

Italian music is often referred to as Italo Pop or Italo Disco but I don’t think any of these names capture the essence of the music.

Although I don’t really understand the songs, I do know that they tell a story just by the rhythm of the tunes. The song above called Gente di Mare(people of the sea),by Umberto Tozzi & Raf lost out in 1987 to Johnny Logan at the Eurovision Contest.

This one of my all time favourites by Matia Bazar” Ti sento” which I believe means I feel you, the haunting husky voice just adds so much atmosphere to the song.

I am not an emotional man but the first time I heard Andrea Bocelli it literally send shivers down my spine.The combination of a classical tenor and contemporary music is just magical, like a fairy tale coming to life.

This song is proof that the language of music is without constraints and ignores physical borders. Sung in Italian,Dutch and English by an Italian Dutch man Marco Borsato and Andrea Bocelli. If this doesn’t give you Goosebumps nothing will.

Another 80’s Italian classic

 

I hope you enjoy the music just as much as I did. Finishing up with my favorite Italian song, it is jazz song in it’s purest and sincerest form by Paolo Conte.

 

 

The other Mussolinis

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Cynical me would have probably given this blog the title “Hey, karma is a b*tch” but I am aware that my audience is bigger then just me and therefore I aim to remain unbiased.

Bruno Mussolini (22 April 1918 – 7 August 1941) was the son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Mussolini’s wife Rachele.

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On 7 August 1941, the 23-year-old Mussolini, commander of the 274a Squadriglia (274th Squadron), was flying in one of the prototypes of the “secret” Piaggio P.108B bomber, MM22003,near the San Giusto Airport in Pisa, when the aircraft flew too low and crashed into a house.

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The Piaggio P-108 Bombardiere was a promising aircraft. Its four powerful engines and substantial 7,700-pound bomb payload gave it strategic capabilities, the only bomber produced in wartime Italy that could make that claim. However, the P-108 was produced in only limited numbers due to a lengthy development program, demands placed on Italian industrial capacity, and the scarcity of resources.

The youthful officer apparently failed to gain altitude and crashed into a house. Along with two crewmen, the pilot was killed. Five other crewmen were injured.

Just after 11 that morning, Benito Mussolini was stepping into his private elevator at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome when one of his aides rushed up. ““There’s been a crash at Pisa, Duce! Your son Bruno is wounded, and his condition is critical.” The dictator steadied himself against the sliding iron door and asked quietly, “Is he dead?” When the answer confirmed his worst fear, Mussolini was wracked with grief. He was a changed man.

The oldest son, Lieutenant Vittorio Mussolini, was heard to say some time later, “There was a Mussolini before Bruno’s death, and a Mussolini after it. Prior to August 7, 1941, despair was not part of his emotional range. The tragedy turned him into a different man whose lost stare, at times, provoked pity.”

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Mussolini hurried to the Santa Chiara Hospital in Pisa and gazed for a long time at the face of his dead son. Rachele was also devastated, but she remembered the most painful aspect of the ordeal as her husband’s silence. “It was as if he had turned to stone,” she said later.

Quiet though he may have been, at times Mussolini was prone to an occasional outburst prompted by his grief. Colonel Gori Castellani commanded the 247th Squadriglia of the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian Air Force, to which Bruno and Vittorio were assigned. When the colonel came to the distraught father’s office to extend his condolences, Mussolini bellowed, “I know why you are here! I know that you and everyone are pleased that I have suffered this loss. I don’t want to hear anything from you! You can get out!”

An inquiry absolved Bruno of any fault in the fatal accident, and he was subsequently awarded the Gold Medal for Aeronautic Valor. The New York Times reported that the investigation revealed the cause of the accident to be “…the improper functioning of the gas switch, due to the great distance between the motors and the pilot’s post.”

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An elaborate funeral was held at the Fascist Party headquarters in Pisa, and Bruno’s body was interred in the family crypt in the San Cassiano cemetery in the town of Predappio. Ironically, this father who deeply mourned the loss of his own son was responsible for the similar grief suffered by so many other families.

Battle of Santiago

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No this is not a piece on World War 2 or any other war for that matter,although it is often said that football is war.

The Battle of Santiago  is the name given to a particularly infamous football match during the 1962 FIFA World Cup. It was a game played between host Chile and Italy on 2 June 1962 in Santiago.The referee was Ken Aston, who later went on to invent yellow and red cards.

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By 1962 the World Cup had recovered from the 12-year hiatus imposed upon it by World War II and had become a fixture.

The 1954 and ’58 tournaments had both been held in Europe.  The nations of North and South America threatened to boycott the tournament—as they had done in 1938—if that trend continued.  Most assumed that Argentina would be the choice, but the Chilean federation mounted an underdog candidacy and ended up running away with the vote.

In this Group 2 clash, already heightened tensions between the two football teams were exacerbated by the description of Santiago in crude terms by two Italian journalists Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli; they had written that Santiago was a backwater dump where “the phones don’t work, taxis are as rare as faithful husbands, a cable to Europe costs an arm and a leg and a letter takes five days to turn up”, and its population as prone to “malnutrition, illiteracy, alcoholism and poverty. Chile is a small, proud and poor country: it has agreed to organize this World Cup in the same way as Mussolini agreed to send our air force to bomb London (they didn’t arrive). The capital city has 700 hotel beds. Entire neighborhoods are given over to open prostitution. This country and its people are proudly miserable and backwards.”Chilean newspapers fired back, describing Italians in general as fascists, mafioso’s, oversexed, and, because some of Inter Milan’s players had recently been involved in a doping scandal, drug addicts.The journalists involved were forced to flee the country, while an Argentinian scribe mistaken for an Italian in a Santiago bar was beaten up and hospitalised.

Chile’s organization and preparation of the tournament had been severely disrupted by the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in human history.

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Articles in the Italian papers La Nazione and Corriere della Sera were saying that allowing Chile to host the World Cup was “pure madness”; this was used and magnified by local newspapers to inflame the Chilean population. The British newspaper the Daily Express wrote “The tournament shows every sign of developing into a violent bloodbath. Reports read like battlefront dispatches. Italy vs Germany was described as ‘wrestling and warfare'”

The first foul occurred within 12 seconds of the kick-off.[1] Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the twelfth minute after a foul on Honorino Landa, but refused to leave the pitch and had to be dragged off by policemen.

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Landa retaliated with a punch a few minutes later, but he was not sent off.

English referee Ken Aston overlooked a punch by Chilean Leonel Sánchez to Italian Mario David, which had come in retaliation for being fouled seconds earlier. When David kicked Sanchez in the head a few minutes later, he was sent off.

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In the violence that continued, Sanchez broke Humberto Maschio’s nose with a left hook, but Aston did not send him off. The two teams engaged in scuffles and spitting, and police had to intervene three more times. Chile won the match 2–0.

When highlights from the match were shown on British television a couple of days later (not the same night, because film of matches still had to be flown back), the match was famously introduced by BBC sports commentator David Coleman as: “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.

Secret message in a bullet

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One of the biggest mistakes Hitler made during WWII was actually partnering up with Benito Mussolini and his army.

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The Italian army was extremely effective before the war and well into 1941. The Italian army invaded Ethiopia and Albania and crushed the defending armies. However this was against countries with outdated tech, small armies and horrible leadership. So the Italian army, with more modern technology and better leadership (than the defenders at least) proved the Italian army to be a formidable opponent. Of course this was against nations that were significantly weaker than the Italian Army.

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Against militaries with equal strength, the Italian army was possibly the worst in combat. Compared to the other belligerents, the Italian army had outdated technology, most being designed or purchased around the early 1930’s, horrible leadership and insufficient support or intelligence.

In 1944, an Allied soldier somewhere in the south of Tuscany scribbled a coded message onto a scrap of paper, rolled it up, and stuffed it inside a bullet for safe keeping. It was August, and the tide of WWII was rapidly changing. The Allies were pushing into Europe and soon, the war would be over in Europe.

Recently, a team of Italian metal-detector fans were roaming around in southern Tuscany, picking up bits and pieces here and there. Then, someone found something odd.

It was a bullet that had been inverted into its own casing. It struck them as strange, since soldiers needed all the bullets they could get. When they pried the bullet out of its casing, they found something that no one had seen in decades.

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Hiding messages in bullets was actually not an uncommon practice. A bullet was opened, the powder dumped out, and a message placed inside. Bullets were small, making them easy to carry and to hide, and they could also be easily thrown away if a soldier was captured. Bullets made especially good message carriers because they could literally be left lying around anywhere; bullets are a pretty common site on a battlefield.

It’s dated 8/13/44. The order of the month and day, as well as historical evidence, mean the soldier who wrote this was probably American.

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So what does the coded message say?

“THEY THROW GRENADES. WE PULL PINS AND THROW BACK.”

And underneath:

“NOTIFY REINFORCEMENTS STAND DOWN–NOT NEEDED”

This means that during one engagement, the American soldiers, one of whom wrote this note were catching grenades thrown by the Axis soldiers, but their pins were still intact. What was the reason?

It seems that the grenades in question were an Italian variety that had two pins instead of the typical one. Both needed to be pulled in order for the grenade to detonate. But the grenades coming in on the American soldiers had only one pin pulled, which means that the soldiers throwing them were not Italian, as they would have been trained in how to use them, but German.

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Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, so the only troops still fighting there would have been German–and they would not have known that the Italian grenades had two pins. Imagine their surprise when the same grenades came flying back, and this time, they did explode. The Americans did their research, and it helped–to the point where reinforcements were definitely not needed.

The last days of “Il Duce” Benito Mussolini

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In September 1943, Nazi paratroopers staged a daring commando raid that rescued Mussolini from the Apennine Mountain ski resort where he was being detained. Hitler installed Mussolini as the figurehead of the Social Republic of Italy (known informally as the Republic of Salo), a Nazi puppet state in German-occupied northern Italy.

By April 25, 1945, however, the Third Reich was quickly losing its grip on northern Italy. With his stronghold of Milan teetering on the precipice, Mussolini agreed to meet with a delegation of partisans at the palace of Milan’s Cardinal Alfredo Schuster. There, a furious Mussolini learned that, unbeknownst to him, the Nazis had begun negotiations for an unconditional surrender.

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Mussolini stormed out of the palace and fled Milan with his 33-year-old mistress, Clara Petacci, in the 1939 Alfa Romeo sport car he had bought as a gift for his girlfriend.

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The following day, the pair joined a convoy of fellow fascists and German soldiers heading north toward Lake Como and the border with Switzerland. Mussolini donned a German Luftwaffe helmet and overcoat, but the disguise did little to save him when partisans stopped the convoy at the lakeside town of Dongo ,on the north western shore of Lake Como.,on April 27. For 20 years, Mussolini had built a cult of personality with his image emblazoned on posters and newspapers. Now, the familiarity of his distinctive shaved head and granite jaw, even in disguise, did him in.

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A group of local communist partisans led by Pier Luigi Bellini delle Stelle and Urbano Lazzaro attacked the convoy and forced it to halt.

The partisans recognised one Italian fascist leader in the convoy, but not Mussolini at this stage, and made the Germans hand over all the Italians in exchange for allowing the Germans to proceed. Eventually Mussolini was discovered slumped in one of the convoy vehicles. Lazzaro later said that

His face was like wax and his stare glassy, but somehow blind. I read utter exhaustion, but not fear … Mussolini seemed completely lacking in will, spiritually dead.

The partisans arrested Mussolini and took him to Dongo, where he spent part of the night in the local barracks.In all, over fifty fascist leaders and their families were found in the convoy and arrested by the partisans. Aside from Mussolini and Petacci, sixteen of the most prominent of them would be summarily shot in Dongo the following day and a further ten would be killed over two successive nights.

Claretta Petacci, Mussolini’s mistress, was captured  with him.

Fighting was still going on in the area around Dongo. Fearing that Mussolini and Petacci might be rescued by fascist supporters, the partisans drove them, in the middle of the night, to a nearby farm of a peasant family named de Maria; they believed this would be a safe place to hold them. Mussolini and Petacci spent the rest of the night and most of the following day there.

On the evening of Mussolini’s capture, Sandro Pertini, the Socialist partisan leader in northern Italy, announced on Radio Milano:

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“The head of this association of delinquents, Mussolini, while yellow with rancour and fear and trying to cross the Swiss frontier, has been arrested. He must be handed over to a tribunal of the people so it can judge him quickly. We want this, even though we think an execution platoon is too much of an honour for this man. He would deserve to be killed like a mangy dog.”

Mussolini and Claretta Petacci were executed the following day.

 

The SS John Harvey disaster

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SS John Harvey was a U.S. World War II Liberty ship. This ship is most well known for carrying a secret cargo of mustard gas and whose sinking by German aircraft in December 1943 at the port of Bari in south Italy caused an unintentional release of chemical weapons.

The John Harvey was built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, and launched on 9 January 1943.

In August 1943, Roosevelt approved the shipment of chemical munitions containing mustard agent to the Mediterranean theater. On 18 November 1943 the John Harvey, commanded by Captain Elwin F. Knowles, sailed from Oran, Algeria, to Italy, carrying 2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs, each of which held 60–70 lb of sulfur mustard.

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After stopping for an inspection by an officer of the 7th Chemical Ordnance Company at Augusta, Sicily on 26 November, the John Harvey sailed through the Strait of Otranto to arrive at Bari.

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Bari was packed with ships waiting to be unloaded, and the John Harvey had to wait for several days. Captain Knowles wanted to tell the British port commander about his deadly cargo and request it be unloaded as soon as possible, but secrecy prevented him doing so.

On 2 December 1943 German aircraft attacked Bari, killing over 1,000 people, and sinking 17 ships,including the John Harvey, which was destroyed in a huge explosion, causing liquid sulfur mustard to spill into the water and a cloud of sulfur mustard vapor to blow over the city.

A total of 628 military victims were hospitalized with mustard gas symptoms, and by the end of the month, 83 of them had died. The number of civilian casualties, thought to have been even greater, could not be accurately gauged since most had left the city to seek shelter with relatives.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks

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Leonarda Cianciulli-Soap Maker and Serial Killer.

Next time you wash your hands or face with a bar of soap, or teacake you might just want to reconsider after reading this story.

Leonarda Cianciulli (14 April 1894 – 15 October 1970) was an Italian serial killer. Better known as the “Soap-Maker of Correggio”  she murdered three women in Correggio between 1939 and 1940, and turned their bodies into soap and teacakes.She butchered the women and then cooked the remains into soap and teacakes—all in the name of breaking a family curse.

The slayings are horrific enough. Yet it’s the rationale behind the crimes that still sends a shiver down one’s spine.

While still a young girl, Leonarda attempted suicide twice. In 1917 she married a registry office clerk, Raffaele Pansardi. Her parents did not approve of the marriage, as they had planned to marry her to another man. Leonarda claimed that on this occasion her mother cursed them. The couple moved to the man’s town, Lauria, in 1921 where Cianciulli was sentenced for fraud and imprisoned in 1927. When released, the couple moved to Lacedonia. Their home was destroyed by an earthquake in 1930, and they moved once more, this time to Correggio, where Leonarda opened a small shop and became very popular as a nice, gentle woman, a doting mother, and a good neighbour.

Cianciulli had seventeen pregnancies during her marriage, but lost three of the children to miscarriage. Ten more died in their youth. Consequently, she was heavily protective of the four surviving children. Her fears were fuelled by a warning she had received some time earlier from a fortune teller, who said that she would marry and have children, but that all of the children would die young. Reportedly, Cianciulli also visited another Romani who practiced palm reading, and who told her, “In your right hand I see prison, in your left a criminal asylum.” Cianciulli was a superstitious woman, and seems to have taken these warnings very much to heart.

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In 1939, Leonarda learned that her eldest son planned to fight with the Italian army in World War II. Terrified at the thought of losing yet another child, Leonarda resolved to protect him at any cost. Such a supernatural defense, she reasoned, would require sacrifice—human sacrifice. So the concerned mother set out to find her victims.She found her victims in three middle-aged women, all neighbours. Sources record that Cianciulli was something of a fortune teller herself, and that these women all visited her for help.

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The first of Cianciulli’s victims, Faustina Setti, was a lifelong spinster who had come to her for help in finding a husband. Cianciulli told her of a suitable partner in Pola, but asked her to tell no one of the news. She also persuaded Setti to write letters and postcards to relatives and friends. They were to be mailed when she reached Pola, to tell them that everything was fine.

Prior to her departure, Faustina Setti visited Leonarda one last time. The fortuneteller provided Faustina with a glass of wine—a toast, perhaps, to brighter days ahead. The wine was drugged. Soon after the sedatives took hold, Leonarda bludgeoned Faustina to death with an axe. Cianciulli described what happened next in her official statement:

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them”

The second victim, Francesca Soavi, met a similar end. Cianciulli claimed to have found her a job at a school for girls in Piacenza. Like Setti, Soavi was persuaded to write postcards to be sent to friends, this time from Correggio, detailing her plans. Also like Setti, Soavi came to visit with Cianciulli before her departure. She too was given drugged wine and then killed with an axe. The murder occurred on 5 September 1940. Soavi’s body was given the same treatment as Setti’s, and Cianciulli is said to have obtained 3,000 lire from her second victim.

Cianciulli’s final victim was Virginia Cacioppo, a former soprano said to have sung at La Scala. For her, Cianciulli claimed to have found work as the secretary for a mysterious impresario in Florence. As with the other two women, she was instructed not to tell a single person where she was going. Virginia agreed, and on 30 September 1940, came for a last visit to Cianciulli. The pattern to the murder was the same as the first two. According to Cianciulli’s statement:

She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.[2]

From Cacioppo, Cianciulli reportedly received 50,000 lire and assorted jewels.

Cacioppo’s sister-in-law grew suspicious at her sudden disappearance, and had last seen her entering Cianciulli’s house. She reported her fears to the superintendent of police in Reggio Emilia, who opened an investigation and soon arrested Cianciulli. Cianciulli immediately confessed to the murders, providing detailed accounts of what she had done.

Cianciulli was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison and three years in a criminal asylum. She died of cerebral apoplexy in 1970. While she was behind bars, she wrote a memoir called An Embittered Soul’s Confessions, in which she coolly described her crimes. The murders have inspired a handful of plays and films, and several pieces of evidence from the case, including the pot in which the victims were boiled, remain on display in Rome’s Criminological Museum.

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Forgotten History-Rab Concentration camp

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It is a popular misconception that the concentration camps were a Nazi invention, but in fact the British had already established concentration camps in South Africa during the 2nd Boer war.

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It could be argued that the Indian reservations in the US were also concentration camps.

But of course the sort of camps which were established just before and during WWII were of a complete different level,than the South African camps and Native American reservations.

It seems that history has also forgotten about the concentration camps built by the Fascist regime of Italy. Although Il Duce, Mussolini is often seen as a farcical figure, he was nevertheless a very evil man following a very disturbed philosophy.

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Italy is often portrayed as having been a somewhat benign fascist power during World War II, a reluctant partner of the Nazi regime. The wartime Italian Army is remembered as hapless and inefficient compared to the ruthlessly brutal German war machine

One of the camps established by the Italians was the Rab Concentration camp.

The Rab concentration camp was one of the several Italian concentration camps and was established during World War II, in July 1942, on the Italian-occupied island of Rab (now in Croatia). According to historians James Walston and Carlo Spartaco Capogeco,at 18%, the annual mortality rate in the camp was higher than the average mortality rate in the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald (15%). According to a report by Monsignor Jože Srebrnič, Bishop of Krk (Veglia) on 5 August 1943 to Pope Pius XII:

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“witnesses, who took part in the burials, state unequivocally that the number of the dead totals at least 3500”.

In September 1943, after the armistice with Italy, the camp was closed, but some of remaining Jewish internees were deported by German forces to the extermination camp at Auschwitz.Yugoslavia, Greece and Ethiopia requested extradition of some 1,200 Italian war criminals, who, however, were never brought before an appropriate tribunal as the British government, at the beginning of the Cold War, saw in Pietro Badoglio a guarantor of an anti-communist post-war Italy.

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Under the Italian army commander Mario Roatta’s watch the ethnic cleansing and the violence against the Slovene civil population easily matched the German with the summary executions, hostage-taking and hostage killing, reprisals, internments into Rab and Gonars concentration camps, the burning of houses and villages. Additional special instructions that included instruction that the orders must be “carried out most energetically and without any false compassion” were issued by Roatta.:

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“if necessary don’t shy away from using cruelty. It must be a complete cleansing. We need to intern all the inhabitants and put Italian families in their place.”
Mario Roatta in his Circolare No.3 “issued orders to kill hostages, demolish houses and whole villages: his idea was to deport all inhabitants of Slovenia and replace them with Italian settlers” in Province of Ljubljana, in response to Slovene partisans resistance in the province.

Following Roatta’s orders, one of his soldiers in his July 1, 1942 letter wrote home:

“We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them.”

Roessmann Uroš, one of the Rab internees, a student at the time, remembers:

“There were frequent razzias when the train taking us to school in Ljubljana from our village of Polje pulled in to the main station. Italian soldiers picked us all up. Some were released, and others were sent to (Italian) concentration camps. Nobody knew who decided, or on what grounds.

Anton Vratusa, a former prisoner at Rab who went on to be Yugoslavia’s ambassador at the United Nations, 440px-Anton_vratusasaid that there were four distinct camps at Rab and a place that prisoners darkly referred to as the fifth camp, a cemetery where the hundreds who died of cold, starvation or illness were buried.

The camp at Rab, built near the village of Kampor, was one of a number of such camps established along the Adriatic coast to accommodate Slovenian and Croatian prisoners. Opened in July 1942, it was officially termed “Camp for the concentration and internment of war civilians – Rab”

Slovenes and Croatians, many of whom were women and children, including pregnant women and newborns, suffered from cold and hunger in open-air tents, surrounded by barbed wire fence and guard towers. At its peak there were up to 15,000 internees.

Conditions at the camp were described as appalling: “filthy, muddy, overcrowded and swarming with insects”. The Slovene writer Metod Milač, an inmate at the camp, described in his memoirs how prisoners were quartered six to a tent and slowly starved to death on a daily diet of thin soup, a few grains of rice and small pieces of bread. Prisoners fought with each other for access to the camp’s meager water supply, a single barrel, while many became infested with lice and wracked with dysentery caused by the unhygienic conditions. Part of the encampment was washed away by flash flooding. Some of the Italian authorities eventually acknowledged that the treatment of the inmates was counterproductive; in January 1943, the commanding officer of the 14th Battalion of Carabinieri complained:”In the last few days some internees have returned from the concentration camp in such a state of physical emaciation, a few in an absolutely pitiful condition, that a terrible impression has been created in the general population. Treating the Slovene population like this palpably undermines our dignity and is contrary to the principles of justice and humanity to which we make constant reference in our propaganda”

By 1 July 1943, 2,118 Yugoslav Jews were recorded having been interned by the Italian army. Starting in June 1943, they were moved into a newly constructed section of the Rab concentration camp, alongside the Slovenian and Croatian section. Unlike the Slovene and Croatian prisoners, the Jewish ones were provided with proper accommodation, sanitation and services; they were provided with wooden and brick barracks and houses in contrast to the overcrowded tents sheltering the Slavic prisoners.

Historian Franc Potočnik, also an inmate in the Slavic section of the camp, described the much better conditions in the Jewish section:

“The [Slavic] internees in Camp I could watch through the double barriers of barbed wire what took place in the Jewish camp. The Jewish internees were living under conditions of true internment for their ‘protection’, whereas the Slovenes and Croatians were in a regime of ‘repression’. . . . They brought a lot of baggage with them. Italian soldiers carried their luggage into little houses of brick destined for them. Almost every family had its own little house…. They were reasonably well dressed; in comparison, of course, to other internees.”

The difference in treatment was the consequence of a conscious policy by the Italian military authorities. In July 1943, the Civil Affairs Office at the 2nd Army HQ issued a memorandum on “The Treatment of Jews in the Rab Camp”, which was enthusiastically approved by chief of the office and the 2nd Army’s chief of staff.

The memorandum’s author, a Major Prolo, urged that the infrastructure of the camp must be:

“…comfortable for all internees without risk to the maintenance of order and discipline. Inactivity and boredom are terrible evils which work silently on the individual and collectivity. It is prudent that in the great camp of Rab those concessions made to the Jews of Porto Re  to make their lives comfortable should not be neglected.”

He concluded with a clear reference to Italian awareness of the massacres of Jews that were ongoing elsewhere in German-occupied Europe:

“The Jews have the duties of all civilians interned for protective reasons, and a right to equivalent treatment, but for particular, exceptional political and contingent reasons , it seems opportune to concede, while maintaining discipline unimpaired, a treatment consciously felt to be ‘Italian’ which they are used to from our military authorities, and with a courtesy which is complete and never half-hearted.”

Some members of the Italian military also saw humane treatment of the Jews as a way of preserving Italy’s military and political honour in the face of German encroachments on Italian sovereignty; Steinberg describes this as “a kind of national conspiracy [among the Italian military] to frustrate the much greater and more systematic brutality of the Nazi state.” According to the Slovenian Rab survivor, Anton Vratuša,  “We were prisoners; they were protected people. We used their assistance”

By mid-1943 the camp’s population stood at about 7,400 people, of whom some 2,700 were Jews. The fall of Mussolini in late July 1943 increased the likelihood that the Jews on Rab would fall into German hands, prompting the Italian Foreign Ministry to repeatedly instruct the General Staff that the Jews should not be released unless they themselves requested it. The ministry also began to put in place a mass transfer of the Jews to the Italian mainland. However, on 16 August 1943 the Italian military authorities ordered that the Jews were to be released from the camp, although those that wished could stay.[14]

The island remained in Italian hands until after the Armistice with Italy was signed on 8 September 1943, when the Germans seized control. About 245 of the Jewish inmates of the camp joined the Rab Brigade of the 24th Division of the People’s Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, forming the Rab battalion, though they were eventually dispersed among other Partisan units.

Although most of the Jews from the camp were evacuated to Partisan-held territory,204 (7.5%) of them, the elderly or sick, were left behind and were sent to Auschwitz by the Germans for extermination.Ivan Vranetić was honored as one of the Croatian Righteous among the Nations for saving the Jews evacuated from Rab in September 1943.

 

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