Our Italian physicist friend, Dorigo, at A Quantum Diaries Survivor reports that an Italian court ruled against a newspaper that started a campaign to deny the history of the Ardeatine Massacre.
Good news today. The supreme court of Cassazione in Italy has ruled that the press campaign labeling “terrorists” the GAP partisans who organized the bombing of Via Rasella in nazi-occupied Rome in 1944, launched by the national newspaper “Il Giornale”, was a striking example of manipulation of historic truth for political means. The newspaper is owned by Paolo Berlusconi (brother of Silvio, formerly premier of Italy in 1994 and 2001-2006), and was directed by Vittorio Feltri . . . a journalist who never hid his sympathy for the extreme right.
What was the Ardeatine Massacre?
The massacre of Fosse Ardeatine (Italian: Eccidio delle Fosse Ardeatine) took place in Rome, Italy during World War II. On 23 March 1944, 2 German soldiers, 31 Italian soldiers of Battaglione Bozen and a few Italian civilians passing along the road, were killed when members of the Italian Resistance set off a bomb close to a column of German soldiers who were marching on via Rasella. This terrorist attack was led by the Gruppi di Azione Patriottica, of Rosario Bentivegna, Carla Capponi, Antonello Trombadori (Head of GAP in Roma) and the approval of Sandro Pertini (later President of Italian Republic), in order to provocate the reaction of SS troops.
Adolf Hitler is reported but never confirmed to have ordered that within 24 hours, one-hundred Italians were to be shot for each dead German. Commander Herbert Kappler in Rome concluded that ten Italians for each dead German would be sufficient and quickly compiled a list of 320 civilians who were to be killed. Kappler voluntarily added ten more names to the list when the 33rd German/Italian died after the Partisan attack. The total number of people murdered at the Fosse Ardeatine was 335, most Italians. The largest cohesive group among the murdered were the members of Bandiera Rossa, a Communist military Resistance group.
Why is there controversy 60 years later?
In 1996, Vittorio Feltri launched a press campaign from the newspaper “Il Giornale” which he then directed, against the partisans who participated in the bombing. The attempt at rewriting history in a way more favourable to fascists is not the first one in Italy, and indeed many others have succeeded and were part of the general assault of right-wingers to the general feeling of sympathy and gratitude of italian people toward those who fought the nazi occupants during the last years of WWII. The logic of calling “terrorists” the partisans who fought the nazis in Rome is clear: terrorists were the partisans, and criminals were also the nazis (a fact unfortunately hard to deny) so everybody erred, and nobody is responsible. Not the Pope, who did nothing to stop the slaying of civilians. Not those who sympathised with the nazis. Not the fascists.
European laws more strongly sanction attempts to rewrite history than would be possible in the U.S. under our press freedoms under the First Amendment. In this case, the Berlusconi company can well afford the fine. One advantage of the European laws is that a court may step in and settle a controversy. In court, the history revisionists were unable to support their claims that fascists were not responsible for the massacre. It would be interesting, if not an absolute good, to be able to settle some controversies in American history with such a decision.
Will history revisionists mend their ways? If history is any guide, no, they won’t.
Check out Dorigo’s account of the decision, and follow the links. This is a key event in World War II history. The brutality and repugnance of the massacre make it memorable for high school students; news accounts of the trial provide a look inside the work of historians, and suggest the importance of studying history to current political controversies.
Panoramic views of three places at the memorial, including from inside the cave, are available at Panoramas of World War II Landmarks, 1945-2007. Below, the tombs of the victims, in a photo from the Panorama site:
- Photo of the memorial to the 335 victims of the Ardeatine Massacre, in Rome, above. Photo in the public domain, available from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of the statue from Antmoose’s collection at Flickr, used here under Creative Commons license; Antmoose is the Flickr handle for a Canadian living in Rome; Antmoose’s collection of photos of Rome may be one of the most important collections of modern digital images of Rome, and I encourage you to visit Antmoose’s Flickr galleries.