Ciao tutti! Today is the 14th of July and though in Italy that is not a big deal, it is in Arezzo and the surrounding towns. Let me give you some background.

During World War II, Italy was very messed up. We had the Germans occupying Italy, fascism getting its time in the spotlight, and concentration camps popping up like daises. It was not a good time.

It especially was not a good time for Arezzo. They were occupied by the Germans and under heavy fire from the bombs of the Allied troops, who were trying to liberate the city.

It was July of 1944, and the German troops were being slowly forced to withdraw towards the north. Many Aretini had gone into the surrounding villages to wait out the bombs and the troops and thought themselves safe. They were very wrong.

The German troops had been ordered to show no mercy and disregard the Geneva Convention and normal rules of war to brutalize the civilian population. In the darkness of the morning, on July 14th, the Germans went through the surrounding towns and forced civilians to march towards San Polo, killing any who resisted.

On the hill outside of San Polo, the soldiers separated the men from the women and children, taking the men down into the Villa Mancini, a house that was occupied by the Germans. They then proceeded to accuse the men of being partisans (Italian resistance fighters) and tortured them in an attempt to gain confessions from them.

Villa Mancini.

They were brutally beaten with rubber hoses and subjected to other forms of torture. In the end, the men were taken to a nearby field and forced to dig pit graves. They were put in three groups. One of the groups was lucky; they were shot in the head and then tossed in one of the three mass graves. The others were buried alive with explosives in their pockets, eventually dying from asphyxiation. They were then blown apart.

48 men were killed at the Villa Mancini and 17 people, some women and children, were killed on the march to San Polo. No one was allowed to bury the dead.

You can see why this is such an important event in the community. It is a tragedy that touched so many families, but it is not well known, even within the immediate community. It is just too painful for those affected by it to talk about.

But a man whose grandfather experienced this horror decided that he was going to tell the story again, getting it out to a larger audience. He directed a documentary movie about the event and we were lucky enough to see it. One of the OU students had actually been creating English subtitles for it during his internship, so we were able to comprehend the story and understand its meaning.

Waiting for the film to start.

A few words from the director.

After we watched the film, a group of us went up to the Villa Mancini, where they have a memorial service every year. There was an amazing trumpet player that performed a lovely piece and there were also soldiers and police there to honor the fallen. We then laid flowers on the monument that has been erected next to the field where the men were murdered and buried by the German soldiers.

Walking to the memorial.

The tomb that was erected in honor of the victims.

The field where the victims dug their own graves.

It was a very moving ceremony, even if it was pretty short. Afterwards, we shuttled back to Arezzo and I went home. At the very least, it was an exhausting day.

Interesting Stories of the Day:
  • The only people who came into my internship today were Americans. My supervisor was very happy because it meant that she didn’t have to try and speak English to them. She says it makes her nervous. Honey, I know exactly how you feel.
  • When I was going home, I stopped for gelato with Alex and Sean. Alex said something very true: “Gelato is the gateway drug to all Italian desserts.” Yes, Alex. Yes, it is.
A dopo!


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