MY FATHER SURVIVOR IN KEFALONIA: TALKIN’ ABOUT WAR WITH STUDENTS…

  

On Wednesday June 8, at the Secondary School in Cisano Bergamasco (Bergamo, Italy), was promoted a conference with third classes students about my father, Battista Alborghetti and his dramatic story from the massacre of Kefalonia (1943).

The meeting took place a few days after the official communication by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, to confer to Battista Alborghetti the “Medal of honor” established for Italian citizens, civilian and military, deported and interned in nazi concentration camps; Baptist was imprisoned and segregated in Argostoli (Kefalonia, Greece).

The students were very interested about my father story. The conference has been organized by the School Institute and the local Kid’s Town Council. 

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MY FATHER IN THE HELL OF KEFALONIA:

WATCH THE TV DOCUMENTARY PRODUCED BY RAIUNO (ITALIAN TELEVISION CHANNEL)

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 A survivor memory, an unpunished massacre

and the State conspiracy of silence

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FROM THE BOOK BY ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

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My father Battista told me…  A nightmare. This is still for me, Kefalonia. I’m a survivor. I was in that hell from November 1942 to November 1944, along with other 11.600 Italians. After September 8, 1943 – as a result of our refusal to surrender to the German army – about 9-10.000 Italian soldiers were massacred. A terrible massacre, that still remains in my eyes and on my mind. There are so many images about those awful days of terror: stories of war and death, written in the blood of so many young people who pursued the dream of a better Italy. I was nineteen years old when I was assigned to the Divisione Acqui – at 33th Artillery, First group, Second battery – on the Greek-Albanian front, already controlled by German Army. The armistice proclaimed in Italy by general Badoglio (September 8, 1943) changes our destinies. Germans claim our surrender, but they do not offer enough guarantees about Italian troops repatriation. Italian officers called a consultation between the military departments: it’s an unprecedented event in the modern army history. We decide to refuse surrender and not to give our weapons to the germans. And after that, the Apocalypse…

An historical photo: Battista Alborghetti (first on the left) and five fellows in Cefalonia in 1943 before the massacre.

An historical photo: Battista Alborghetti (first on the left) and five fellows in Cefalonia in 1943 before the massacre.

In the early hours of the battle I see my three companions dying. They fall down close to me. Some minutes later, a splinter of a grenade explosion hits my left leg. The Acqui Division – poor in weapons – is destroyed. People who do not succumb in the fighting they become prey of the Wehrmacht. German soldiers rakes the island, inch by inch. I escaped from the capture in a couple of occasions; I hide myself between mules and I repaire inside water pipes in the undergrowth. They capture me on September 21.

About 300 Officers (captains, lieutenats and second lieutenants) were captured and transferred to the sadly known “Red House”, in San Teodoro. Against every principle of the international conventions, they were shot within 36 hours, four people at a time… The corpses, weighed down with rolls of barbed wire, they were then thrown into the sea, sprinkled with petrol and burned in bonfires, whose light illuminated the night, leaving a foul smell in the air.

My companions were loaded onto trucks and taken somewhere: I won’t see them anymore. My friend, the second lieutenant Giampietro Matteri – from Dongo (Como), twenty-two years old – is killed on September 24. The same destiny for another friend, the second lieutenant Pillepich, from Trieste: I still remember the terror in his eyes when, together with eleven companions, he was dragged from the group. Few minutes later we heard the shots of machine guns, followed by cries of pain, yells, invocations. And then other shots. The finishing strokes.

At the concentration camp we were treated worse than beasts. In the morning, Wehrmacht officers assembled us, offering – as they were saying – “the chance to return to Italy”. But I always said to myself: if they want to kill me, I prefer that they do it here. We now know: who accepted that proposals were shot. They were shipped on steamers, as easy targets for Stukas airplanes or for floating mines. It’s what that happened to my compatriot, Ferdinando Mangili. He climbed aboard of one of those ships that were full of soldiers who looked forward to reach home… But the ship was sunk off and the waves returned the corpses… The Germans forced me to bury the dead, all around the island. Chaplain father Luigi Ghilardini and I, we recomposed corpses or what was left of bodies mangled by bullets and then devoured by ravens and vultures…

One day the nazis picked up us suddenly and they brought us in the square of Lixouri, where they deployed 13 Greeks accused of being partisans. Those poor people were hunged under our eyes. It happened that one of them – because of a broken rope – fell to the ground. He was still alive. Nazis soldiers took him and hung him again… If at that moment I had been given a stab, I would release even a single drop of blood, so I was shocked.

In October 1944, nazis abandoned Kefalonia: they were moving to other fronts. We remained on the island for nearly a month, as forgotten people. We scanned the horizon, waiting for a ship. We wanted to end this terrible experience. Finally on November 13, the Garibaldi and Artigliere ships landed to Argostoli ‘s port. We embarked to Taranto, but to be back home I will have to wait till June 5, in 1945. The war stole me everything but the joy to be back home, as well as the inability to forget Kefalonia, the dead, the extermination, the ferocity.

No medal, no bonuses, even no official apology from the German State – apology always denied, but never officially requested by Italy – can never compensate what was removed to thousands of young people, to thousands of families. Inside me, in addition to horror, remains the strength to repeat that all this cannot longer occurs. Never again. Never again. Never again.

© Copyright Roberto Alborghetti

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21 responses to “MY FATHER SURVIVOR IN KEFALONIA: TALKIN’ ABOUT WAR WITH STUDENTS…

  1. I walk the forests of Argostoli and you can see the bomb holes the germans left, tragic story and the island has known nothing but war for years…
    but with its tragic history comes a land of passion
    and i am glad to call Kefalonia my home.

    Good post .. great read, kudos

    • Dear fellow blogger,
      Thank you very much for your message and appreciation!
      Yes, my father was in the hell of Kefalonia.
      In that terrible tragedy, he received so much helps from local people, who were victims and martyrs, as well as the Italians: and my father, in the little book I wrote about his story, say it lot of times…
      I been in Kefalonia 3 years ago with my father, for a great ceremony, with Greek and Italian Republic Presidents. I hope to go there again.I thank you in name of my father, who next January 28, will be celebrated in his native village ( near Bergamo, Milan area). He’ll receive an Honour medal from Italian Government.
      It will be another occasion to talk about what kappened in 1943 in Kefalonia. And to make memory of 8.000 deads. For not forget.
      Your kind message is a great encouragement!

      My kindest regards
      Roberto Alborghetti

      • Roberto,

        My name is Andrea Riccio. My father Vincenzo too was a survivor of Kefalonia. He is now 92 years old and living in Canada. My father too was imprisoned in Kefalonia and returned home via Taranto.

        I was not aware that that a Medal of Honour was available to the survivors of this tragedy. I would be interested to know from you what information you needed to provide in order for your father to receive this honour.

        It would be a great occasion for young Italian-Canadians to learn about this important, but largely unknown, part of their Italian heritage.

        Best Regards,
        Andrea Riccio

  2. Your Italian government appears to have turned a blind eye and
    washed their hands off this atrocity. Why was there no public outcry,
    especially from the relatives of the victims ? And only one guy from
    that German 98th Gebirgsjager regiment was given a light 12-year
    sentence.

    That entire regiment and the rest of the Germans who took part in
    that massacre should have been deported back to Italy to be executed.

    • Thanks for your message. Yes, it’s a great question what you say. At the beginning the massacre of Kefalonia was put under silence by politicians and ministries in the name of the “peace process” (!) between European Countries and German State… But the deads were crying… The association of relatives of the victims reacted and did civil actions and campaign through media. Only in the last 25 years the situation has changed. People wanted and want to know more. The last Presidents of Italian Republic gave honour to the victims and to survivors. There were some enquiries and trials in Germany, but no one has been condammned. In the last proceeding (3-4 years ago) Italian soldiers were charged to be traitors! Yes, it’s scandalous…

  3. I was born in Kefalonia and my mom would tell me stories of those terrible times. She had only good words for the Italian soldiers. When speaking about the massacres, it was always with a tear in her eyes. Allow me to tell you about an incident that happened to her.

  4. I was born in Kefalonia and my mom would tell me stories of those terrible times. She had only good words for the Italian soldiers. When speaking about the massacres, it was always with a tear in her eyes. Allow me to tell you about an incident that happened to her. One day , walking down a road she encounters a group of young greek resistance fighters. When she asks them where they are going, they reply, we are going to ambush some germans. She says, I saw them and they know of your plans and will ambush you instead. Follow me and I will show you how to get around them. She led the way, they ended up behind the germans and several of them were killed. But there was a greek traitor who heard of my moms involvement. Word got to the german in charge and he was going to hold a quick trial and execution by firing squad. But he needed the traitor to testify against my mom. The problem was that the traitor was marked for assassination by the germans. A sniper was waiting for him in the outskirts of town. A messanger was sent to halt the assassination of the traitor so he can testify against my mom. The messenger does not make it in time, the traitor is killed. My mom survives, she was a teenager at the time. Later in life she has to deal with the earthquake and ten years after we moved to the US, my dad is shot and killed. So now she has to raise 4 teenage boys in 1970’s New York. She did it and we all turned out fine. They don’t make them like that anymore. Thank you for allowing me to share this story. I wish there was some way of confirming and getting more details to her experience during the war. Her name was Theoni.

    • Thank you very much Greg for your message and the incredible news which come out
      from those terrible days! Your story is so moving, as well as all the other stories I’ve heard
      from my dad about the massacre which took place 70 years ago, but it’s still in our minds.
      I’ll show and read to my father the story about your generous and courageous mother!
      And thank you so much for having shared this story with us!
      I think it’s important to make memory of this tragedy.

      As my father loves to repeat, italian soldiers received helps and support from greek people, who were victims and martyrs, as well as the Italians: and my father, in the little book I wrote about his story, say it so lot of times… And he’ll never end to thank greek people.
      Please, bring to your mom Theoni our greetings and best wishes!
      And thank you so much for your message!
      Roberto

  5. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was good. I do not know who you are but certainly
    you are going to a famous blogger if you are
    not already ;) Cheers!

  6. Caro Roberto,
    Vorrei augurare a tuo padre la mia graditude più profondo per essere
    un soldato italiano e vorrei augurare a lui tutti i migliori auguri e complimenti a ricevere la Medaglia d’Onore da Italia,
    Italiani e il suo governo hanno preferito mettere la guerra in un passato
    e andare avanti, che è in un certo senso la cosa giusta da fare, ma in alcuni casi come Cepholania è difficile da dimenticare, ma lo sono anche i nostri altri racconti di guerra Etiopia, Libia,
    Grecia, Russia, ecc
    Dare il tuo padre, un grande abbraccio e un bacio per me.

    inoltre, Roberto è il tuo libro disponibile e se sì, come posso ottenere una copia,
    e sareste interessati ad avere il tuo libro pubblicato in inglese?
    se è così mi piacerebbe pubblicarlo in inglese.
    Per favore fatemi sapere.
    Tutto il meglio per il vostro padre, tu e la tua famiglia.

    Petti Ercole [Ercole Petti]
    PS, dal ’70 al ’90 ho vissuto e lavorato a Zingonia / Bergamo.

      • My name is Paris Livadas. I was in Kefalonia in 1943 and I saw the Germans killing Italian soldiers. How can I get a copy on the book in English or Greek and also is there a movie of the war between the Italians and Germans.

      • Thanks for the message, Paris. Your story is surely very important to remember that horrible massacre. At this moment the book about my father in Cefalonia is available only in Italian. I hope to have an English version very soon. They did some movies about Cefalonia, as Captain Corelli’s Mandolyn. Italian Television produced a Tv movie too. Let me know. I can send you the book in Italian, if you want. Thanks for your kind attention.

  7. Dear Roberto, I have today read this post of yours dedicated to your father and his tragic time at Kefalonia – it was painful to read and also from all those who responded here…these memories are now thankfully recorded in your book and it is wonderful that your father is able to talk to our young generation about his experiences so they will never forget…my own father’s war-time experiences and during the Stalin/Iron Curtain period are vividly remembered by me…my father took me round Auschwitz when I was 7 yrs old (much against my mother’s pleading) and I still remember every single vision I had – he was resolute in saying that we, as children, must remember and not forget…

    • Thank you so much Marysia for your moving thoughts. Yes, we have to keep alive these memories. They are the Story and the History of the singles persons and of the Nations. In this little book I tried to tell something about a terrible tragedy which involved thousands of people. Victims of brutaly and now symbols of the need of Peace.

  8. Soon the living memory as in our Mothers Fathers and relatives of that time come to pass.
    My Grandmother and Father a young boy at the time were left to pick up the pieces of his two brothers after stepping on a land mine.
    These sad but historic events shall not be forgoton thanks to publications like these.

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