VERONA : THE “STATELY SADNESS” OF THE MONUMENT DEVOTED TO KEFALONIA MASSACRE

Created by Mario Salazzari – tortured by nazis after being arrested and imprisoned – this monument can be considered one of the masterpieces of Twentieth century Italian sculpture.

 

 Yes, dr. Srini Pillay is right when he says that art “encouraging us not to lose ourselves in remembering the tragedy but also seeing the beauty in our resilience as a nation as well as the possibilities for recovery.” (read his article on “The Huffington Post”:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/srinivasan-pillay/911-art_b_953397.html ).

I had the way, in these last days, to be in Verona – the historical and celebrated Verona – and to admire the terrific National monument dedicated to the victims of the massacre perpetrated by the nazis in the greek island of Kefalonia, in September 1943 (my father Battista is one of the few survivors). You find this monument in the Park devoted to the Divisione Acqui (close to Porta Nuova). It was inaugurated on October 23, 1966 by the Prime Minister Aldo Moro and it has been created by Mario Salazzari, from Verona, one of the greatest artists of the Twentieth century.

 Apart from the historical meaning, this monument can be considered the most beautiful contemporary sculptural work in Verona and one of the masterpieces of Twentieth century Italian sculpture. It is a work of considerable majesty, seven and a half meters high. You may see male figures in movement, joined by ropes that look like snakes. In the foreground there is a figure while the other three are in the background. These characters are modeled according to anatomical forms with the best sculptural accuracy. Its aim is that to honor and remember the victims of those terrible events happened in Kefalonia.

Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Alessandro Canestrari, it was commissioned by the Italian Government to Salazzari, an artist who fought for freedom during Italian Resistance against fascism and nazism. This work in bronze shows a marble target with the words “Italy to the martyrs of Divisione Acqui, Kefalonia, Corfu. September 1943” and also “9.000 men of the Division Acqui in the islands of Kefalonia and Corfu suffered the bloody sacrifice to give honor and pledgeresistance to their distant homeland”. Of the 9,000 killed soldiers, 1,200 came from Verona. The “Arena’s City” is today the national headquarter of the Divisione Acqui, founded in 1945, which represents the survivors of the massacre of Kefalonia and Corfu in September 1943.

The horror of the event, symbolized by the bronze snake that pierces the bodies, has been expressed with great cleverness by Mario Salazzari. The artist was born in Lugagnano (November 16, 1904) and died in Verona on June 6, 1993. Nobody better than Salazzari was able to represent that horror, since the sculptor was tortured by nazis after being arrested and imprisoned as a partisan (he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment) in Padua where – a few days before April 25, 1945, and the arrival of Usa allied Army – he managed to escape from.

Horror, despair and deep pity: these are the feelings flowing from this monument. It bring us that sense of “stately sadness” – “the basis of tragedy”, as Jean Racine says – that help us today to remember the Kefalonia events.

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VERONA: LA “MAESTOSA TRISTEZZA” DEL MONUMENTO DEDICATO ALL’ECCIDIO DI CEFALONIA

 Si, il dr. Srini Pillay ha ragione quando dice che l’arte “ci incoraggia a non smarrire il ricordo della tragedia, ma anche a vedere la bellezza delle nostre risorse, come nazione e come possibilità di recupero” (leggi l’articolo pubblicato su “The Huffington Post” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/srinivasan-pillay/911-art_b_953397.html )

Ho avuto modo, in questi ultimi giorni di ammirare, a Verona, il meraviglioso monumento nazionale alle vittime dell’eccidio perpetrato dai nazisti nell’Isola di Cefalonia nel settembre 1943 (mio padre Battista è uno degli ormai pochi superstiti del massacro). Il monumento si trova nel Parco proprio dedicato alla Divisione Acqui, in circonvallazione Oriani, vicino a Porta Nuova. E’ considerato uno dei capolavori della scultura veronese del secolo XX. Venne inaugurato il 23 ottobre 1966 dall’allora presidente del Consiglio, Aldo Moro, ed è opera di Mario Salazzari, uno dei grandi artisti veronesi del Novecento.

Al di là del significato storico, il monumento è considerata la più bella opera scultorea contemporanea della città. E’ un’opera imponente, alta sette metri e mezzo. È composta da figure maschili in movimento, legate da corde che sembrano serpenti. In primo piano c’è una figura giacente, mentre altre tre sono dietro, tutte modellate con una precisa accuratezza.

Il monumento – che ha la finalità di onorare e ricordare le vittime dei tragici eventi di Cefalonia – fu commissionato dal governo italiano all’artista veronese Salezzari, combattente per la libertà durante la Resistenza al fascismo ed al nazismo. Venne portato a termine grazie all’impegno dell’onorevole Alessandro Canestrari. È un’opera in bronzo che reca una targa in marmo con queste parole: “L’Italia ai martiri della divisione Acqui, Cefalonia, Corfù. Settembre 1943. È anche scritto 9000 uomini della Divisione Acqui nelle isole di Cefalonia e Corfù vollero il sacrificio cruento per dare alla patria lontana onore e pegno di resistenza.” Dei 9.000 soldati italiani uccisi a Cefalonia e Corfù, 1.200 erano veronesi. La città dell’Arena è oggi la sede dell’Associazione Nazionale Divisione Acqui, fondata nel 1945, per riunire i superstiti dell’eccidio di Cefalonia e Corfù del settembre 1943.

L’orrore della vicenda – rappresentato nel simbolico biscione bronzo che trapassa i corpi – è stato espresso con grande forza artistica da Mario Salazzari, nato a Lugagnano (16 novembre 1904) e morto a Verona (6 giugno 1993). Nessuno meglio di Salazzari era nella condizione di raccontare quell’orrore. L’artista fu egli stesso vittima delle torture naziste: arrestato, imprigionato e condannato a 30 anni di carcere, come partigiano, nel carcere di Padova, riuscì a fuggire qualche giorno prima della Liberazione del 25 aprile 1945.

Orrore e pietà sono i sentimenti e gli stati d’animo che fluiscono da questo monumento veronese, che racconta tutta quella “maestosa tristezza, fondamento della tragedia” (Jean Racine) che ci aiuta ad avvicinare e conoscere i terribili eventi di Cefalonia.

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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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