Penetola.

Not all the dead die.

by Giovanni Bottaccioli

Here we present the entire small research book that Giovanni Bottaccioli, recently passed away, several years ago,  he realized about the massacre of Penetola. Put  in writing the voices and memories of the unfortunate protagonists of the story, giving everyone the opportunity to know them. Thanks to the availability of her daughters, Elvira and Giovanna, we present her entire work, which can also be downloaded or browsed in .pdf  below, recommended for smartphones or for those who want to keep it (click from smartphone on the image below, scroll it on tablet and pc).

Photo by Fabio Mariotti.

PENETULA

NOT ALL DEAD DIE

by Giovanni Bottaccioli

 

AS FOREWORD

If on 27 April 1997 I had not gone, together with some companions and friends, to the ceremony for the deposition of a crown at the monument to the martyrs of "Penetola", I believe that I would never have written these few pages on that distant and tragic episode that occurred on June 28, 1944, a few days after the liberation of our municipal territory.

One of the many that took place in Italy in that period which, even if distant in time, should have remained well engraved in the memory of all, and especially in that of those who were direct or indirect witnesses.

The delegation, despite the public posters and the invitations made to the population by the Anti-Fascist Committee and the Municipal Administration, included the Mayor Celestino Sonaglia, the maestro Raffaele Mancini representing the  Anti-Fascist Committee, Alberto Mancini, partisan and silver medalist of the Resistance, Alfredo Ciarabelli of the PCI, Ferdinando Bruschi, President of the young volunteers from Umberto I joined the "Cremona" division, with some veterans of the Liberation War, I who write representing the Giunta Municipal and very few other citizens, no more than fifteen people in all, including Giuseppe Ivorio, one of the survivors of the massacre. You will wonder why a crown was placed in memory of the martyrs of "Penetola" on 21 April and not on 28 June, the anniversary of the massacre carried out by the Nazi-Fascists. The explanation is simple: a few days ago the Nazi war criminal Gen. Kappler, sentenced to life imprisonment, had escaped from the infirmary of the Regina Coeli prison in Rome, where he was hospitalized because of an incurable disease. massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine: where 335 "political prisoners" were brutally slaughtered, taken from the Roman prisons in retaliation for a partisan action against the Nazi occupation troops. That sensational escape, incredible for its daring aspects, had a great repercussion in the country, especially in the conscience of the citizens most sensitive to the defense of the democratic institutions born of the Resistance; with that "flight" was seriously offended, not only the memory of the fallen of the Resistance, but the conscience of all those who, with their tribute of struggles and blood, had contributed to the redemption of the Nation from the abyss of war, from the abyss of the barbarism into which Fascism had led it. This was the motivation that had led me together with the other citizens, representatives of the democratic and anti-fascist forces to lay the crowns at the memorial stone placed in memory of the martyrs of "Penetola". Cippo which is located about one kilometer from the hamlet of Niccone, on the left side of the road that leads to Lake Trasimeno and a few hundred meters from the house where the horrendous Nazi massacre was consummated; and erected a few years ago by the municipal administration on the proposal of the Anti-Fascist Committee of Umbertide. While I was witnessing the deposition of the crown, I wondered how it was possible that atrocious events like this and how those that occurred in so many other parts of Italy with thousands of innocent deaths could be forgotten in such a short time, when still many survivors carry them on. The tremendous signs are flesh and memory. From this bitter observation for those who believe that only from the knowledge and memory of our past can the awareness of the defense and development of the values of freedom and democracy arise, the decision to write to remind the forgetful , but above all to young people who do not know what the years of fascism were, and especially that them of the war and the Nazi occupation of our country. I will say, as far as it is possible to reconstruct what happened in those sad days of June 1944, in that small part of the territory that goes from Niccone  in Spedalicchio, with particular attention to the “Penetola” massacre in which twelve of our fellow citizens found the horrible death, guilty only of having been there. I will tell, albeit summarily, of other sad episodes that occurred a few days before that terrible 28 June. Episodes that I consider useful and necessary to tell to highlight a broader picture and highlight the climate of fear that we lived in that period, when for some days the shots of the cannons of the now nearby allied troops reached our ears.

For the drafting of these few pages I also used the testimonies of some protagonists; they are: Anna Nanni, Bruno Montanucci, Lenin Sonaglia known as Luigi or Nino and finally Mrs. Dina Orsini ved. Ivory, escaped the massacre.

THAT SPRING OF 1944

The Nazis, called after the armistice of 8 September 1943 by the fascists of the Italian Social Republic to keep up the shaky regime of terror they established in the country, occupy the national territory. war, the bombing actions by the allied aviation begin. Umbertide

was bombed on April 25, 1944 and 74 fellow citizens died under the rubble. Many victims could have been spared if the "republican" authorities of the time had given the air alarm signal through the sound of the sirens that had been set up and that that day did not I was living at that time in the hamlet of Niccone and I was able to see, so I can tell with certainty, that the allied planes, before dropping the deadly bombs, flew for a few minutes over the town and over the targets, which were the two bridges over the Tiber river, that of the road and that of the railway, which then connected Arezzo with Fossato di Vico. Numerous turns over the inhabited area were made by airplanes, perhaps precisely to give the inhabitants the opportunity to get away from the area. The alarm was not sounded, no one moved, so the massacre took place. In this regard, I remember, because we have always talked about it in the family, that that morning, despite my father's insistence, I refused to go to Umbertide by bicycle.

Only when the planes that had dropped their death bombs left, did I get on my bike and went to Umbertide. The sight that presented itself to the eyes was tremendous. At the end of via Cibo, the course, mountains of rubble, among these I recognized some willing people who lent help, Antonio Taticchi, a well-known anti-fascist who had a barber's workshop right on the corner of the Vibi palace and Romitelli, the tinsmith, and others who were looking for to extract the bodies of those who were trapped and begging for help. Other mountains of rubble were on via Petrogalli and even there the survivors were desperately looking for their loved ones. Through via Cibo I reached Piazza Matteotti and the spectacle seemed even more terrifying. Some unrecognizable bodies had been composed on the ground, others seriously injured were complaining. Frightened, I went in search of the families of my two aunts who lived there and when I knew for sure that they had not been aged, I took the road and returned to Niccone. In the afternoon there was a new bombardment again by allied aircraft, but this time it caused few victims, perhaps because, contrary to what happened previously, the planes dropped the bombs starting the dive from the Romeggio area and not from Civitella Ranieri as it had happened in the morning. Even the hamlet of Niccone, being at the crossroads between the state road and the road that, along the valley of the Niccone stream, leads towards Lake Trasimeno and from this into the Valdichiana, in Tuscany, could be included among the military objectives. for the two bridges over the river and therefore be subject to bombing actions that the Allies systematically operated, trying to hinder the retreat of the German troops. retreat that had begun after the allied landing in Anzio. The possibility of undergoing aerial bombardments and the fact that large groups of German soldiers had already taken possession of some houses in Niccone and the surrounding areas, advised most of the families of the small hamlet looking for a temporary and safer accommodation in the open countryside near the houses inhabited by the numerous sharecroppers scattered throughout the territory

There were thousands, perhaps millions of families in Italy who at that time found accommodation and food with our "peasants", even if this term was and still is used by many people in a derogatory sense. But I believe that their great willingness, costing great sacrifices, to host all those who from the centers, even minor ones, tried to escape the fury of the war, was the greatest demonstration of their generosity, their altruism and their goodness. And this negative attitude towards land workers has been persistent for a long time and perhaps still is. Their great availability was demonstrated, in fact, not only by housing entire families but also by giving them more than enough to feed themselves. who gave us concrete help. I want to thank once again, sure to interpret the desire of many other "citizens", all the farmers in the area and especially the family of Pio Fornaci, known as the "Fornacino", for the great and disinterested hospitality granted to my family. Sometimes I wonder how many of us would be available, should it become necessary for unfortunate necessity, to give to the few remaining farmers or to others in need, part of our houses, our beds, our tables. As I have already said, also my father, a craftsman, who practiced as a barber. he had started looking for an accommodation and found it just beyond the hamlet of Molino Vitelli, at the home of “Fornacino”. The farm was owned  of the Boncompagni family, owner of large agricultural estates. My father, my mother and my younger sister had moved into this new “home”, a single room of about twenty square meters which at the time represented a “palace”; I joined them later. At that time I was a soldier assigned to the infantry battalion at the "Biordo Michelotti" barracks in Perugia. I deserted by escaping from the military hospital of Santa Giuliana in Perugia, where I was hospitalized for tests after a 15-day convalescence leave; I did not intend for any reason to serve the Nazi-fascists of the RSI .. I was denounced for desertion. By bicycle I returned to Niccone, found the house empty and learned that my parents were displaced. I got back on my bicycle and looking from one side and the other of the road that crossed the whole hamlet, I noticed many German soldiers who had occupied some houses. Pedaling at a good pace, be careful not to run into some roadblock. I came near the house of the "Fornacino". I am not describing the joy of my parents in seeing me appear at the end of the road that leads from the main road to the farmhouse. This joy was partly mitigated by concern for what might have happened due to my desertion. It was known of the frequent roundups that fascists and Nazis undertook in search of those who either had not presented themselves to the call of the RSI or had deserted the weapons. And it was precisely the constant concern for the roundups that had made me take the decision to build, in the middle of a forest,

not far from home, a "den", a refuge that could hardly be discovered, so much had been on my part, the care in camouflaging it with the surrounding environment. Fortunately, only once did I successfully use it to escape a roundup by the Republican National Guard. According to what I later learned, that roundup concerned precisely the search for deserters or reluctant to the continuous calls to arms that Nazis and Fascists posted on the walls and which now also concerned sixteen-year-olds!

 

DESPERATE CRYING OF A WOMAN

I remember perfectly that Sunday morning of June 26, 1944, when around ten I heard in the distance the cries of a woman coming from the fields that lead from the "Fornacino" house towards the Dogana, a place where she lived with other families, that of Trinari, on the right side of the large curve near Spedalicchio. They were the excruciating screams of a woman who, running through the fields of wheat already ripe enough and close to harvest, urged the men to immediately move away to the houses and flee to the woods to hide, because German soldiers in war gear were shooting all those who found. in the fields and in their homes. It was Ersilia Epi resident in Montecastelli, who had gone to visit her daughter displaced by the Trinari family or in the  vicinity and who claimed to have witnessed the capture, by German soldiers, of the men of the area then locked up in a tobacco dryer; he feared they might be shot. f The woman, no longer young, always ran past the house and, without stopping for a moment, repeated, as a kind of begging, that terrible warning: "'Flee men, flee men !!" I was speechless, looked my mother in the face, also terrified by those screams, and without a moment's hesitation walked away across the fields; I tried to take shelter behind the vegetation of the rows of vines already thick enough with the leaves of the new shoots. I had a goal in mind: to reach the home of the Sonaglia family, a sharecropper who lived above the hamlet of Niccone. Owner of the farm, voc. "S. Maria ”, was the IFI company of Montecorona. The two brothers Sonaglia, Eusebio and Dante, with their respective wives and children lived there together with their father Benedetto. It was one of the largest farms on the whole Montecorona farm. I remember that in threshing time, which lasted a few days, the siren, as well as sounding at the beginning and end of the threshing or when the meal was announced, also sounded when 100 quintals of wheat had been reached. For many years I remember that this siren sounded even three times, to the great joy of those who, after their efforts, saw their sweats partially rewarded. In fact, at the Sonaglia home, my father had for the convenience of displaced customers, moved the barber shop, or rather, he was a "walking" barber, so as to be able to maintain relationships with people now scattered a little everywhere and at the same time send on with his earnings, the "wheelbarrow" that was very hard to push. As I ran along the rows of fields in the shelter of the vegetation and quickly moved away from the area, I mulled over what could have happened to my mother and my sister, then 11, who I had left alone at home. With this thought fixed in my mind, every now and then I slowed down and thought if perhaps it was not the case to go back; but the warning of the woman "run away men" sounded insistently in the ears. Accompanied by these thoughts, I continued with an ever faster pace, to go towards the Sonaglia house; I wanted to reach my father as soon as possible. The journey that I knew well and that in other circumstances had seemed short to me, seemed to never end at this juncture. As soon as I reached the Sonaglia house I looked for my father and I immediately told him with my heart in my mouth what had happened, the reason why I had left my mother and my sister at home.

He was very shaken and worried and told me to stay around because he would find out as soon as possible what was really happening. We parted with the promise that in a few hours we would meet again to decide if and how to return to the “Fornacino's house”. As I walked away, I noticed my father's strong concern for what I had told him. He was also worried about my brother Attilio, who had fled from the barracks in Orvieto where he was in the military, who just that morning went to Romeggio to visit some friends. Being a deserter himself, he had to be warned of the imminent danger and not to return home. My father, during the great war of 1915/18, had been a prisoner of the Germans and knew, from direct experience, what degree of aberrant treatment the Germans were capable of inflicting on all those who tried to thwart their plans. I thought to myself of how much pain war brings and I was disgusted that I too was the cause, albeit involuntary, of the pains that tormented my parents in those days. My father's prudence was worth nothing: now we were all, and not just us, at the mercy of an enemy who had no scruples or pity. Speaking of my father, I like to remember that it was he, thanks to his experience as a prisoner of the Germans, who advised the Sonaglia family, since the winter of 1943, to dig a hole under the floor of the hut, a pit of about two meters of depth, adequately large, to hide, before the passage of the front, some food supplies and the little linen of the wedding trousseau, kept in the famous "trunk" which, at that time, almost all women, married or about to marry they had. I and my cousins Sonaglia did the excavation of that underground compartment: Elvio, Pietro and Luigi, known as Nino, whose real and first name is Lenin, a name that today, but above all then, in 1922, had an irresistible charm. When Eusebius, Lenin's father, went to the Civil State to "mark" him, register him, no one objected and in the birth register of the year 1922 the child was registered with the name of Lenin. On the other hand, those who objected and did not accept that the newborn was given this name, was the parish priest of the parish of Montemigiano, Don Pericle, despite the insistence and grievances of his father, refused to mark him with that name and entered him in the parish register with Luigi's name. The child thus had two names for several years, that of Lenin for the State and that of Louis for the Church. Later, when Eusebio went to the Civil Status of the Municipality to have the birth certificate of his son to enroll him in the vocational training school, the clerk, reading that "name" on the card, was stunned, but could not fail to issue the certificate. The headmaster of the school did not behave in this way, refusing to register him with that name. For this reason Lenin risked not being able to attend school. The father, who did not intend to have his son interrupt his studies, went to the Court of Perugia and asked to change his son's name.

The Court issued a sentence, duly transcribed in the birth book of the Municipality of Umbertide, in which it is declared that from that day the name Lenin was "written and must be understood" as Luigi. Evidently the fascist power also considered an 11-year-old boy with the name Lenin, as an enemy, a "subversive". From the Sonaglia home I reached the one of the Pinzaglia family in a few minutes. It is the farmhouse that was then owned by the Boncompagni estate (Fontesegale) and which is located upstream of the Niccone school. In this farmhouse many young people who resisted the calls to arms of the Nazis and Fascists found hiding places. Being eighteen or twenty at the time and living with what little membership guaranteed was difficult. For what was given to us we thanked with the only coin we could dispose of: every now and then we lent a hand in the work in the fields. Another heartfelt thanks. In that house, also in consideration of the good relations existing for a long time, I had always found an excellent welcome. Since the winter of 1943/44, many of us young people from Niccone who had not responded to the enrollment ordered by the German and Fascist tenders, found great help and understanding with this family. often in the company of rats, in order to escape “possible roundups by the Nazi-fascists. Among those young people I remember with emotion Ezio Forni, a giant about two meters high, whom he will later find together with his brother Edoardo, called Piri, aged sixteen, and his father Canzio, one of the many and good stonecutters of Niccone, horrible death in the massacre of "Penetola". Those who know the peasant world, especially of that time, know that when there are certain jobs to be carried out such as harvesting, sowing, forage, tobacco, grapes, they cannot be postponed to the next day, risking, for a hailstorm or otherwise, of losing the harvest and that, Sunday or a holiday, it is necessary to work on time. For this reason, that Sunday in the fields they worked, where it was possible, to harvest the wheat; now near the end of June it was tradition that for the feast of St. Peter it had to be

the harvest completed. The Pinzaglia family had also started this work and I contributed by tying the "grigne" of wheat. When the sun went down I returned to the Sonaglia family, where my father was waiting for me, who in the meantime had inquired: according to what was said, it seemed that everything had returned to "normalcy". Together we resumed, very carefully, the way back from the “Fornacino”. Although my father had a bicycle at his disposal, we retraced together the same path that I had taken in the morning, through the farm roads, leaving the "main road" which could have reserved for us the meeting with some patrol of German soldiers or with the sentries who they had been placed to guard the various bridges and bridges that had been mined for some time by German soldiers close to retreat. Passing through the Arcaleni and Pinzagli houses, always part of the Boncompagni property, we came to the Sassetti family and here we found several people, especially young people, who like me had moved away from the "Trinari" area, and were afraid to make the decision whether to return or less with their families or maybe stay for just one night "out of the area threatened by German soldiers. My father decided to go home, also because my mother would have been alarmed if at nightfall she hadn't seen any of us return. A he told me to stay around and the next morning we would meet again to bring me new news. We were about to leave when two people arrived whose names I do not remember, who informed us about what had happened in the morning at the "Trinari" house. German soldiers, encamped in the area, began, under the threat of weapons, to kidnap all the men found nearby and, after having locked them up in the drying room of the abacco, kidnapped two young women who, always under the threat of weapons, were raped in turns. When Epi saw that the German soldiers were closing the men in the drying room, she thought that they wanted to take these men to Germany, or pass them by arms, and for this reason she immediately took care to go from house to house to warn of the danger. The story filled us with anguish and terror, I thought of my mother and my sister who were left alone at home; those soldiers could have used the same violence against them as well. I left my father telling him that if necessary, he would find me at the house of the Ormindo family, a dear and very good man who was a "cellarman" at the Boncompagni estate, in the large "farm" of Fontesegale, where I too had worked for some time as aide to the Mistruzzi factor. The farm is located between the hamlets of Cioccolanti and that of Montecastelli.

 

FROM NOW ANOTHER DAY

Rather short in stature, red hair and a friendly face full of freckles. He worked as a "cellarman" together with Lucchetti, and I must say with excellent results if the wine from that farm was considered one of the best in the area. I challenge many of the wines of

today in comparison with that wine from Fontesegale. I also had the opportunity to appreciate Ormindo for his high sense of attachment to work: in any weather, even in the coldest months, he never lacked despite the fact that he lived about three kilometers from the farm, a distance that he always covered astride the "pants'" . I spent the night sleeping in the hut near Ormindo's house and the house inhabited by the Biagini family, known as “Beppetto”, in the company of other young people whose names I don't remember all of. Among these certainly the Alboni brothers, Gianni and Vittorio. Bruno Montanucci and others. The following morning, Monday 27 June, the harvest was resumed from Pinzaglia and. I remember perfectly, it was harvested in the fields near the house inhabited by the Morelli family, known as “Bichio” owned by the parish of Montemigiano. Around 11 we noticed two armed German soldiers, one of them with a wicker basket; they walked towards Ormindo's house. The soldier with the basket also wore a cook's "zinarola". I remember his teeth that I could see between his lips and that about half was made of steel teeth. Certain details are never forgotten. The harvest continued and I helped to tie the "grigne" of wheat. Suddenly Vittorio, the brother of Giovanni Alboni, a brave fighter of the “Cremona” division, who lost a leg in a fight in the Alfonsine area (Ravenna), arrived running out of breath and bleached in the face. Vittorio at that time must have been fifteen, he begged us to immediately find a pump to inflate the tire of a bicycle taken by the two Germans we had seen shortly before. If I don't take the pump to the Germans immediately, he told us, Bruno runs the risk of being killed. He did not even finish uttering the sentence that a gunshot was heard, coming from the very area from which Vittorio had arrived. Immediately the thought went to Bruno and we all assumed that the Germans had killed him. In no time at all, some on one side, some on the other, we all ran off to hide. The fright and fear were so great that I entered the first door I found; led to the stable of "Beppetto", I lay down in the "crib" in the midst of the snouts of some oxen. trying to cover myself with straw and hay so that, in the event of a check by the two Germans, everything would be normal. After a few minutes, I heard in the distance voices of men and women interrupted every now and then by a few words of incomprehensible German. When these people got close, I plucked up my courage and went out of hiding. joining the group.

The two Germans, who were talking to each other, gave me the impression that they were half-smiling and this attitude made the situation less dramatic. What exactly happened? Why and by whom had the shot been fired? The two soldiers, arrived at Ormindo's house, asked his wife for a little fresh vegetables; the woman replied that she did not have any, neither in the house nor in the garden and to make sure she invited the two soldiers to follow her to the nearby garden. Once on the spot the two soldiers saw leaning against the hedge that delimited the perimeter of the garden,

a bicycle and took possession of it. One of them got on the bike, but got off immediately as the tires were completely flat. For this reason they asked Bruno, who was nearby, for a pump to inflate, threatening him, if he did not immediately proceed, to shoot him. This was the background that led Vittorio to look for a pump from us. When the two Germans returned to the garden, with the bike next to them, together with Ormindo's wife, the latter, to lower the tension that had been created, went into the house and went out with a flask of wine to offer it to the Germans. They, perhaps fearing a trap, before drinking it made everyone present taste a little and then gulped down all the contents.

 

BRUNO'S STORY

“I too, like many young people of 1925, was a“ deserter ”as I fled from the“ Biordo Michelotti ”barracks in Perugia, which at that time was in Corso Cavour. To "escape" I had jumped an outer wall of the barracks that overlooked a small ring road and which had a height of five to six meters, but at that moment it seemed much lower. After an infinity of adventures and fears from Perugia to Umbertide, I managed to get to my house which was located above the town of Niccone, owned by the Gnomi family.

Since the house, not far from the national road, was easy prey for the retreating German troops, protagonists of real cattle raids and anything else that happened to them, we decided in the family to remove the animals, in particular the oxen, in open countryside, as far as possible from the communication route. I moved with the cows near the Pinzaglia, Morelli and Biagini families, to the word "Simoncelli". I was guarding my livestock, or rather mine and that of the owner, who grazed near the houses, when two German soldiers, I learned later, who were staying in my house in Niccone, suddenly emerged from the vegetation, forced me, under the threat of weapons, to follow them. One of the soldiers had with him a bicycle that he leaned against a plant and, having removed the rifle from his shoulder, bullet in the barrel, with a very scrambled Italian, he asked me if I had a pump to inflate the tires that were on the ground. The other soldier had continued to walk and was no more than twenty meters ahead of us. To the strange request of the soldier I replied hoping to make him understand that I did not know anything, neither about the bicycle nor the pump. To my negative answer, the German raised his rifle and fired. The bullet passed within inches of my head. The other soldier, unaware of what had happened behind him, when he heard the blow he gave his legs up, stopping only when the "comrade" ', with words incomprehensible to me, managed to make him understand that the blow had started from his He went back and as soon as he reached us, he engaged the bayonet, put the bullet in the barrel, pointed the rifle at my body, telling me to keep my arms raised, and began to shout that there were partisans. "Be partisans" he kept saying , without the other soldier, the one who had shot, saying anything. I thought I was being killed. I was in that situation close to death, when Ida di Pinzaglia passed by, unseen by the Germans. glance, he accelerated his passing until he disappeared in the middle of the vegetation. I later learned that Ida, meeting some people, had already narrated my death and great was the surprise she felt when, a short time later, she saw me wandering around safe and sound in the vicinity of guard de "my" cattle. In fact, the two Germans, perhaps tired of threatening me, had let me go and headed towards the house of Biagini and “Ormindo”.

I would like to add another detail to Bruno's story. When the soldiers, even after Ormindo's wife had offered wine, kept repeating that the partisans had fired, I looked for the shell of the bullet near the area where the shot was fired; I found it and showed it to the soldier; he laughed and kept repeating "here partisans, we will return", "here partisans, we will return". All this happened around eleven in the morning. The two soldiers left, taking their bicycles with them, albeit with flat tires: they were always ready to raid anything, even of little value. So much so that a few days earlier, on a Sunday afternoon, always in pairs and armed to the teeth, they came to my house from the “Fornacino” and opened all drawers and small drawers in search of some valuable object. This time they were satisfied with a few bars of soap and a few handkerchiefs. Convinced that the threats pronounced in the morning would not be followed up, we remained to discuss for a few minutes and then, tired of the work of the harvest and still gripped by fear, some on one side, some on another we went to eat, making an appointment for the afternoon in a hut near the home of the Biagini family. I had lunch with the Pinzaglia family. Around two in the afternoon we found ourselves in the hut. There were many of us, all from seventeen to twenty-four, young men and women, who instead of taking a nap to rest preferred to spend a few hours together talking a bit of everything; the main topic was always war. We talked for some time and then some, overcome by fatigue, forgetting what had happened in the morning, fell soundly asleep. Two or three others and I stayed awake continuing to talk about our problems, in a low tone of voice, so as not to disturb the rest. About twenty minutes passed. our conversation and the sleep of the others were abruptly interrupted by the din of the door suddenly opened and slammed against the parapet. Not seeing anyone, we thought of a sudden gust of wind. Not even the time to assess whether it was really the wind that opened the door with such violence that we saw the barrels of two rifles held by the two Germans in the morning emerge. Suddenly the threats uttered by the two came to mind; fear and fright made us utterly mute. One of the soldiers, shouting like a maniac "raus-raus", with the barrel of his gun forced us to leave the hut. When we were all outside, still with their guns pointed at, they grouped us together. While one checked the group, the other put the rifle back on his shoulder and began questioning us one at a time. The first to be called and brought a few meters from the others was me. The German, with words pronounced in a crippled Italian, with the help of gestures, asked if I was the owner of the bicycle they had taken away in the morning; he called her "mascine"; she also asked why she had not been provided with the pump to inflate the tires.

I was desperately trying to make him understand that I didn't know anything about what had happened in the morning, that I wasn't the owner of the "mascine" and didn't even know who he was. As I tried to make myself understood, I pointed out my dirty and scratched arms and said that I was at the harvesting work and that I didn't know anything about that damned bicycle. I kept repeating over and over, “io arbait, io arbait”. But he didn't want to understand and angrily repeated that I was the master of the “mascine”; suddenly he took the rifle off his shoulder, and put the bullet in the barrel, pointed it in my stomach, continuing to scream. I believe that no pen can describe the terror that pervades a person threatened in that way. Feeling the gun barrel loaded and ready to shoot at you is hallucinating; it is no longer even possible to speak; incomprehensible words are pronounced, without any meaning, only stammering. I don't remember how many minutes, or maybe seconds, I remained in that situation, when the other soldier, with a slightly hinted smile of pity, turned towards the ward and shouted "kaput, kaput". Terrible word that millions of men, women and children, ordinary people and without guilt, millions of innocent people had heard before they died: "kaput - kaput". This horrible word had the effect that can give a resounding slap to the unconscious: that is, I bring myself back to the harsh reality. I regained my courage and went back to explaining to the "inquisitor" that, not being the owner of the bicycle, I could not have the pump and that they would let me go. The German insisted "kaput-kaput". I cannot say how long that strange and incomprehensible "interview" lasted. Finally the soldier, having removed the rifle from my belly, took a few steps towards his dormitory and approached the group of my companions who remained waiting for "their turn" who had followed the whole scene with fear. As soon as the soldier who had threatened me turned his back to go towards the others, with a sudden jerk I rolled down a steep "crag" and managed to disappear from his sight. For a few minutes I hid among the bushes at the bottom of the slope, my heart wanting to come out of my throat, straining my ear to try to hear a few words. After another few minutes, not hearing any noise, I went out of the hedge and in small steps, trying not to get noticed, I went away for the fields, hidden behind the rows of vines in the direction of the Sonaglia house. When I reached her, I told those who had seen me arrive overwhelmed by fear, what had happened. I was recounting the facts when we heard in the distance, again from the direction of the Biagini family, the terrible screams of a woman calling for help. From the tone of our voice we immediately realized that something serious was happening. A few minutes passed and everything seemed to calm down. Slowly I recovered from the fright at what had happened to me and walked back towards the Biagini house. I asked the people present what had happened. They told me that the two German soldiers, always the same, continued the interrogation of my other comrades.

Then they moved away in the direction of Montemigiano which is a couple of kilometers from the house. The two soldiers passed in front of a little hut. far from the farmhouse of "Beppetto". A family of Niccone, also displaced, had found hospitality in the hut. A girl who was fifteen at the time was part of this family. When the Germans saw her, perhaps believing her to be alone, they rushed on her trying to rape her. Of this disgusting episode, which fortunately ended without serious consequences, I bear the direct testimony of one of the women who lived the hallucinating experience and who still today, almost forty years after the event, finds in talking to me the same dismay, the same emotions. and the same terror. It is Mrs. Anna, who remembers as follows:

 

THE MEMORY OF ANNA

......... "I had been married for about four years and my husband had been brought by the Germans to Germany as a prisoner of war after the events of September 8. I lived in Montecastelli but, due to the war, I was displaced together with my family who lived in Niccone, in a farmhouse in the parish of Bastia Creti and precisely in the place called “Mansala” not far from the hamlet of Spedalicchio, in the valley of the Niccone stream.

That morning of Monday 27 June I returned to the Montecastelli house to take some objects and also to realize how the situation was in that area. Through the paths of the fields and woods, trying to avoid running into German or fascist troops. I came near a group of houses called “Simoncelli”, where the Biagini, called “Beppetto” and Ormindo families lived, not far from the parish house of Montemigiano. I knew that there were displaced families of Niccone with whom I was a friend; I decided to pay a little visit to feel how they were doing. One of these two families with whom I was on excellent terms had found refuge in a hut attached to the house of the colonist Biagini. A girl who at that time was fifteen years old was part of this family and, finding her at home, she stopped me talking. She told me she was alone because her parents were working in the fields helping the farmers. We sat down and started to  tell about our life as displaced people. After a few minutes we heard noises around the hut. We got up to realize what was happening. We did not even get to the door when we saw the rifles held by the two German soldiers. Immediately one of them, pressing the rifle to my ribs. he threw me out of the hut and the other pounced on the girl, trying to throw her to the ground. The girl began to scream with all her breath in her throat, trying to defend herself with all her might from the German. Hearing cries for help coming from inside the hut, I too began to scream to get the attention of those who were in the neighboring houses; several came out and rushed towards me who was still screaming. When the soldiers realized that the situation was not turning, despite the weapons. in their favor, they fled in the direction of Montemigiano. thus leaving the girl free who, for the narrow escape, began to cry with joy. After some time, while we were still commenting on what had happened, we heard shots coming from Montemigiano. These shots alarmed us a lot because we feared that something serious might have happened. Then we learned that the shots were aimed at animals that the Germans wanted to kill to eat. I stayed for a few hours in the company of that girl and those who had helped us. I could not say exactly how much time passed, I only remember that someone again pointed out to us the two German soldiers who had passed a few hours earlier. At this sight I had a premonition: “just see what time he is going  they take with me that I called for help. As I ruminated these words in my mind, I saw the two soldiers approaching. Then with small steps, walking backwards so as to always look them in the face, in order to understand their intentions, I tried to reach the colonist's house in order to enter and then close the door. One of the soldiers stopped and, loading his rifle, suddenly turned to the others who in the meantime were watching the scene, threatening them to stay still otherwise he would have fired.

I remember well the one who had a "zinarola" over his trousers, perhaps he was a kitchen attendant, accelerated his pace and came even closer. When he was near he invited me to go with him into the garden. At my clear refusal he began to push me towards the cellar of the settler which was under the kitchen, in a basement. This too was used as a dormitory so as soon as the German saw a "net" he pushed me back badly and I could not help but fall on it. I started screaming for help, trying to free myself. Seeing my resistance and always holding my wrists, he began to violently stamp my feet with his boots, causing excruciating pain and small wounds that began to bleed. Nevertheless, I tried to resist with all my strength. Suddenly a woman appeared, no longer young, whom I immediately recognized as Angela Pinzaglia, the milkmaid who every day, morning and evening, brought milk to the inhabitants of the hamlet of Niccone. He was holding it in his hand

a large falcinello and, bringing it close to the German's throat, forced him to leave me. The German, taken aback by the threat of Angela, took the rifle off his shoulder, with a quick gesture put the bullet in the barrel and facing the woman threatened her with the terrible word "kaput". Hearing this word. now sadly known to all, I hugged Angela and shouted “mom, mom. save me, ”I fainted. Later when I came to my senses I learned that one of the two soldiers had fired a rifle shot in the direction of the people present and that the bullet had passed so close to Bruno Pacieri that it had taken his cap off his head. Then the two soldiers, given the situation that had arisen, in the meantime other people had gathered who under threat of making them pay dearly, they had not gone without first pronouncing threats in German against everyone. Every now and then I, upset, would start screaming and fainting again. They laid me down on the bed for a while and when the sun began to set some willing. Bruno Pacieri, Renato Romeggini, Luigi and Nino Sonaglia with others accompanied me to Montemigiano. When I arrived and passed in front of the parish church that was open, I went into crisis again and, with desperate tears, I entered, thanking Our Lady for the narrow escape. I was terribly frightened that the parish priest, Don Pericle Tirimagni, realizing my situation, did not allow me to take the road back to the house where I was displaced, five or six kilometers away from Montemigiano. and hosted me in the house until the following morning  parish church. "All these events took place on Monday 27 June 1944. In the evening, tired and exhausted from what had happened during the day, I went to sleep with many other friends and peers in the hut from which the German soldiers had forced us in the early afternoon, under the threat of weapons, to get out.

 

THAT JUNE 28 AT DAWN

It was not yet dawn when suddenly some of us were awakened by sharp shots from firearms, occasionally bursts and even louder detonations. The exhaustion was so great that not everyone who slept with us heard these shots. Instead Bruno Montanucci, probably more accustomed than others to fatigue and the loss of a few hours of sleep, got up immediately, went out of the hut to realize what on earth was happening trying to see where the shots were coming from. Almost immediately he went back into the hut and woke up those who slept; he said that the house of "Bendino" in the word "Penetola", where the Ivorio and Luchetti families lived, was in flames. We all got up and went to see. The scene that was not completely visible at the first light of dawn had a terrifying aspect. In the meantime we continued to hear the fire of the weapons incessantly and we, terrified, wondered

what on earth was happening; we tried not to think about the worst. From time to time we seemed to glimpse, through the smoke and the glare of the flames that flared up more and more, shadows walking around the house. As the daylight increased, the picture that appeared to our eyes took ever more precise contours, making the scene even more terrible. The fire was inside and outside the house. What happened? And why all those shots?

Of partisan and guerrilla actions, not even talking about it. No training, neither organized nor in embryo, was operating in that area. The closest partisan formations operated in the Pietralunga area and in the Trasimeno area, which is also very far from us. We noticed that the cattle were in the fields around the house. The sight of cows, sheep, pigs grazing freely in the fields, instead of reassuring me increased our worries. If those shots weren't aimed at cattle, who had the Germans fired?

And why had they set the house on fire? The idea that those shots, those volleys, could be aimed at men, did not even cross my mind.

Not only mine, but not even that of those who were with me. We all refused to think that this level of barbarism could be reached for no reason. Then there appeared on the path that from the colonist's house leads, over a small bridge over the Niccone stream, towards the road to Mercatale and Cortona, eighteen armed German soldiers with backpacks on their shoulders that appeared swollen. They walked in single file and sang. Suddenly an isolated allied aircraft appeared in the sky, coming from the south. It was one of those small reconnaissance planes called "storks" for their resemblance to the well-wishing birds. The soldiers crouched down the slope that skirted the path, resuming the march as soon as the plane got lost behind the hills that looked towards Lake Trasimeno. We began to move away from the area, always looking at the German soldiers that we will lose sight of when they entered the middle of the vegetation that is along the banks of the Niccone stream. We went up the hill slowly, before returning to our houses, looking back to try to know the truth about what happened. Speaking of free cattle we all made a consideration, which unfortunately proved to be wrong. If the cattle were. free, even the people could only be free! Proceeding with caution, we passed near some peasant houses and Some of my friends separated from the group. Four or five of us remained to reach the Mazzoli house, a farmhouse also owned by the Boncompagni family, where other Niccone families had found hospitality. From time to time we met someone who asked us for news. When we arrived not far from the Mazzoli house, someone, perhaps Mario Tacconi, I don't remember well, briefly informed us about what had really happened. Terrible news. The shooting had caused several deaths. They were certainly all members of the Forni and Nencioni families. The fate of the other members of the colonial families was unknown. I didn't stay even a second longer to get other details that, taken by fright, I started running towards the Fornacino house where my family were.

It was a breathless race, with my heart in my throat, with tears in my eyes. To the fright, to the pain, to the effort, there was added the thought for the fate of my parents. I wondered if the German soldiers, who had certainly passed on the way back near the house where we were displaced, had repeated the monstrous crime. What would I find of my family? Would I have found them alive? This thought, with the passage of time, became a nightmare and caused me more harm than physical effort; I kept running home; when I got close and my father, who in the distance had noticed me running in an unusual way, came to meet me. Only when he saw me did he have the feeling that something terrible had happened. I hugged him and asked him how the others were doing. What I felt knowing everyone was fine, I can't describe. I burst into tears of joy at knowing them all alive, and of pain for what had happened to Penetola. I told in a few words, stammering and crying what had happened. They too, although further away, had seen columns of smoke coming from that direction. They had not been able to explain why. They were thinking of a fire in the forest or other brushwood. Now he knew. He tried to cheer me up, but could hardly find words. Knowing the brutality of war and knowing what the Germans were made of, it was now necessary to be constantly on the alert and with eyes wide open to prevent, if possible, other episodes. Now another reason anguished us. In the house where we were displaced, Nello Migliorati's family had also found hospitality; whose wife Annetta was the sister of Erminia, one of the women murdered together with their daughters. How were we going to do it, where were we going to get the courage to tell her what had happened? I was certainly not in a position to tell him. It was my father's turn; with a half lie he said that there had been a shooting and that there had been very serious injuries. Nello had to immediately reach the locality "Penetola" where his relatives were displaced. I later learned that the sight that appeared in the eyes of the first who came was terrible. Women, men and children, even at an early age, lay on the ground, scattered all over the place. Some were even burned in different parts of the body so much so that the willing rescuers, to take them to the cemetery, had problems loading them into the farm cart. In truth of what I affirm, I say that Guido Medici, a fighter in the great war. several times sent to the assault with the bayonet and accustomed to the brutality of war, he kept a handkerchief over his eyes for several days. Like an automaton he wandered around the house where he was evacuated, with his head in his hands trying to forget the terrifying scene that had impressed itself in his eyes and mind. Also on this episode I have collected the testimony of Bruno who, contrary to what I had done, had always remained in the area to guard "his" cattle.

.......... "A few hours after the shooting - so Bruno says - when the Germans had resumed their way back to Spedalicchio for a few minutes, from where the soldiers responsible for the massacre had arrived, continuously following looking at the surrounding area, I saw a man, who I later learned was Domenico, known as Menco, a relative of many murdered, running away from the house holding his hands on his face and shouting in despair. With the other locals, I Marcucci. the Sassofrasso, known as the "Mosconi". and the Angeloni, called the "Bistoni", went to meet him. In the midst of the cries of pain he told us what he had seen and begged us to take a chariot to take the dead to the cemetery. Some went to Penetola's house, I with the others went back to take the cart. I did not go to load the dead and awaited the return of the sad load together with the custodian of the cemetery who was the “Vecchio del Moro”, Giorgi. They arrived with the tragic load which consisted of six bodies. They were those of Forni Canzio with their sons Ezio and Edoardo and of Nenciohi, Ferruccio with his wife Milena, and Eugenia, Ferruccio's sister. Describing the scene is difficult. Even today, after almost forty years, it is not "possible" for me to speak without a magone who takes me by the throat. Eugenia and Milena's mother-in-law, Conforto, known as "Sostegno", another son of Erminia and brother of Ferruccio and Eugenia and the four teenagers of the Ivorio and Luchetti families. relatives and acquaintances ..... With my memories and testimonies told, could I consider the chapter of the "Penetola" massacre closed? Or was it necessary to also have the testimony of some survivor of the massacre? eyewitnesses what happened in that distant 1944? What right did I have to ask for the umpteenth time to tell that tragedy? Was it right to renew the pain and despair of the victims' families? or reflected on these questions. If these pages were to be the testimony of those tragic events, it was also not only right but essential that they be described and told by those who had been direct witnesses and victims of them. So I asked the person who suffered more than the others if he was willing to recall the terrible story. This person is Mrs. Dina Avorio, one of the few survivors still alive, who lost three children in the tragedy and who still bears the irreversible signs of that terrible tragedy in her flesh and spirit.

 

THE STORY OF DINA

“At that time we were sharecroppers of the Montalto estate owned by the Gnoni family and we lived in the farmhouse called the word“ Penetola ”. We too, like thousands of other peasant families, did not shirk the moral duty of giving help to their fellow man and therefore, despite being a fairly large family, twelve people, we agreed to give a roof to those who asked for it: war and the front began to be felt very close. The families that we welcomed and to which we willingly gave a "accommodation" were that of my brother-in-law Capecci with his wife and a six-year-old son, that of Nencioni, made up of Ferruccio, his wife Milena, his daughter Giovanna, his mother Erminia; that of Fomi Canzio with his wife Rosa and children Ugo, Ezio, Edoardo known as “Piri”. Our family was made up of twelve people and precisely: me, my husband Mario and the children Renato of 14, Antonio of 11, Carlo of 8, Maria of 6 and Giuseppe of 4, my brother-in-law Luchetti Avellino with his wife Rosalinda and children Remo, Guido and Vittorio; another brother-in-law, Fernando, was in the military and therefore did not have our terrible experience. We had settled down like this: we, the Capecci family and Ferruccio with their wife and one of their daughters, Giovanna, were settled in the house as best they could. The Forni family and the remaining members of the Nencioni family, Erminia, Eufemia and Conforto were housed in the tobacco drying room, about thirty meters from home. Life went by in a "normal" way and we were all waiting for the allied troops, whose artillery shots we could distinctly hear over the hill towards Perugia, would arrive to take us away from the nightmare of Nazi-Fascist domination and war on the front line. A few days before that terrible 28th June 1944, Canzio's wife, Rosa and his son Ugo, left “Penetola” and found accommodation with the Domenichini family (known as Giancamillo), towards the locality of S. Anna. This was because Rosa had been seized by a strong fright due to the bombing actions of the allied aviation which gave no respite to the German troops now retreating towards the north. Our house was located about three hundred meters from the "Niccone road" which leads to Lake Trasimeno.

At the point where you leave the road to reach our house, there is a small bridge that had been mined by the German troops. A few soldiers were employed as sentry on the bridge to whom one of my sons, Antonio, brought fresh milk from our cows every morning. The relations of all of us with the soldiers on guard at the bridge had always been very good, if not downright cordial to the point that one of these soldiers used to deal with me. when he called me and when I met him, the nickname "mami". In short, not a disagreement, never a gesture of intolerance, nothing that could arouse suspicion or anything else. At one o'clock on June 28th we were immersed in sleep, when we heard loud knocks on the door of the house on an external balcony which was accessed by a flight of steps. Not even the time to go and open it when a violent push opened it all wide with great noise. My husband Mario, who in the meantime had got out of bed, found himself in front of four soldiers in "German uniform" and with the insignia of the "SS" units. To my husband's question

about what they wanted and the reason for that sudden visit, one of the four, "in perfect Italian", told him that outside the house there were other soldiers who wanted fresh water to drink. My husband went down the stairs, accompanied the soldiers who were out to the well not far from the house and after a while he returned. In the meantime, almost all those who slept in the house had gathered around the four soldiers, who were talking among themselves, without deigning us to look or to say a sentence. We asked the reason for that "visit" late at night, but no one answered.

After some time one of them, not the one who had asked for water, told us that we were "partisans". It said: “banditen. banditen ". Then he added that they had been ordered to shoot us.

Shoot us! For what reason? What had we done?

To our protests of innocence they responded with mockery and kept repeating "all die, all die," banditen, banditen. "In the meantime, accompanied by the German soldiers who had remained outside, all the other people who slept in the tobacco drying that, under the threat of weapons, they had been forced to follow them. Terror was painted on everyone's faces. We kept asking for explanations, asking why we were sentenced to death, begging us not to do it because we were all innocent. Nothing we had committed. not a gesture, not a word that could have "offended the Germanic honor", but they continued with the usual phrase "all die, banditen." We again begged for our salvation or at least that of the children. charge small creatures because they deserved death? Nothing to do: not even the children were to be spared. We ALL had to die !!! we could no longer communicate even with each other! A "German" soldier arrived, one of those who had remained outside and forced us all to enter a single environment. Occasionally some other family members who had remained in other rooms would arrive.

In the end we counted: we were 24 people. Before locking ourselves in this unique environment, we were literally stripped of all our possessions, even the most insignificant. Those who slept outside had suffered the same fate. They had been plundered of all their belongings before being led into the house. Once again, before all the soldiers left, we begged for safety. at least for children. Nothing, they didn't even answer. where some soldiers were on guard, we saw other soldiers accumulating hay in the adjoining rooms. The soldiers were constantly going outside and returning with large armfuls of hay which they systematically deposited in the rooms. Why did the soldiers pile up all that hay? Did they intend to use it as bedding to spend the night and maybe shoot them in the morning? We pondered this fact when acrid smoke

and dense began to invade our room. The smoky air was unbreathable. We tried to escape in other environments, but the fire had already flared up and we were pushed back by the flames and the smoke.No one will ever understand what we felt in those moments, not even I would know exactly what happened.In that atmosphere of terror, I remember that one of the first to find death was my son Renato, who, wanting to understand what was happening outside, cautiously approached the window and, always staying behind the glass, looked out.

A flash, an immense flame and a tremendous roar hit us. When I recovered from my daze, I looked towards the window and saw my son lying on the ground with a horribly mutilated arm and other wounds to his face. I approached to bring him help but he, perhaps aware of his imminent death, said to me “Mom, it's over, don't think about me anymore, think about my brothers. Try to escape from this hell ”. These were his last words. Death had come through a bomb that one of the soldiers stationed outside the house, had thrown against the window after having glimpsed the face of my poor boy. Those who had saved themselves from the explosion of the first bomb, left the room trying to take shelter in other rooms not yet reached by the flames. My husband and I were petrified by pain, close to our Renato, when another flash and another detonation tore through the room still saturated with the acrid smoke of the previous explosion. The "beast" had thrown another deadly device through the window, now torn up by the first bomb. I felt terrible wounds all over my body. I began to bleed in several parts, but I always remained conscious. I approached my husband looking for help, but he too was injured by the shrapnel of the deadly device, in the side and in the leg. Despite the injuries and the pain that was beginning to be felt, I tried desperately to be useful to my children. I had one, the youngest, 4-year-old Giuseppe who with his 6-year-old sister had escaped the massacre. Because of the smoke that impregnated the environment, Giuseppe fainted from time to time and I had to shake him so that he could resume "living". Always in the grip of terror we continued desperately to seek refuge in the environments still spared by the fire. I remember that in order to remove the flames we used vinegar that was in a "keg". We soaked the clothes in vinegar and then threw it against the door and the walls of the room that had overheated. We were thus able to extinguish some tongues of fire that licked the doors, opening a passage for us. The shots and volleys of automatic weapons continued to come from outside. I still have before my eyes the figure of Conforto who, with a knife in his hand, wandered from one environment to another trying to do something to get out of that pit of hell. In fact, with the strength of desperation, he had managed to break some tiles on the floor of a room that was above the sheep shed. Little by little he had managed to make a hole in the floor such as to allow, always with difficulty, the passage of a person. From this hole he had his sister Eufemia descend first, then his niece Giovanna. He then returned to our room and begged his mother, who was close to me, to go downstairs too. Erminia was reluctant to go down, but when Conforto told her that Eufemia and Giovanna had already got out, she followed her son and went down to the stable too. Comfort came down last. Later, when the tragedy was over; Erminia, Conforto and her mother, all three were found murdered by bursts of machine guns. Giovanna, on the other hand, was found with a slight wound in the shoulder, at the height of the neck, hidden under a cart in the farmyard. At one point I realized that three of my children, the older ones, were no longer in the room with us. I immediately went in search of them in those environments where it was possible to go. Nothing. Had they tried to escape the tragedy? But where had they gone from to go outside, if the main door that led to the stairs leading out was still burning? They had alighted from some window "? No one had seen them! Outside, there were still shots at times, albeit with less intensity. It was becoming more and more day and from the window we could see the surrounding hills and woods. Where were my three children? What were they? Had it happened? For some minutes we had not heard the gunshots anymore. I remained in the room for a few more minutes: the silence had become total. The soldiers had gone away? Not hearing any noise, I took myself to the window that faced the house of "Bendinello", a neighboring settler, who lived with the Bendini and Bioli families. Slowly I opened the window, but without looking around. a hill, four people looking towards our house. In one of these I recognized the owner of the farm, Gnoni Gio Batta. Always hidden inside, I tried with desperate feats of the hand to recall their and let him know we needed help. But they didn't see me, also because of the smoke still rising from the house. A few more minutes passed; we stayed in the house, we didn't risk going out. Besides, where could we get out if the front door was still burning? After a while my sister-in-law's husband, Capecci, managed to enter our room and took us to another room facing south. From the window of this room, with some sheets tied like a rope, he had made his wife, son and other people come out into the open. But of my children, nothing. Slowly I, my husband and others were lowered too. As soon as we hit the ground, without even standing up, we rolled up the slope like so many "empty cans". The terror, the pain of the wounds were nothing compared to the anguish of not knowing where my children had gone. Slowly, still on all fours, we entered the surrounding vegetation. The Ovens tried to escape from a window that was to the east of the house. Under the window was the enclosure attached to the pig barn. And it is precisely inside the “bregno” of the pigs that the lifeless body of Edoardo (known as Piri) was found, almost as if he were sitting on the ground.

Those of the father Canzio and of the other son Ezio were a few meters away from the pig stall, slaughtered with machine gun shots. Ferruccio and his wife Milena were found near the main door of the house, almost on the balcony overlooking the outside. They had tried to escape the tragedy on that side but, seen, they too had been prey to the "beasts" lurking and shot down with machine guns. I don't know how long we spent in this situation. After a while we saw some German soldiers, accompanied by people in civilian clothes, coming towards us. What to do? Run away again? To go where?

From their gestures it seemed to us that they wanted to tell us not to fear. But despite this, my brother-in-law Avellino didn't want to wait and in no time at all, he started running and disappearing into the thicket of the nearby wood. As the soldiers approached, they tried to make us understand that they had come to help the wounded and, if necessary, take us to the hospital. In fact, my husband and I, who had more need and urgency to be treated, were loaded onto a military van. They would take us to the Città di Castello hospital. During the journey, about 20 kilometers, we heard the soldiers talking among themselves and every now and then they uttered the words "partisans" "banditen". When we arrived near Città di Castello, through the provincial road of Trestina and we were over the bridge over the Tiber, we seemed to understand that the soldiers were willing to throw us down. In fact they stopped. Then they left again and  they crossed the bridge. After crossing the bridge, finding no indications from the hospital, they took us back with the vehicle that was moving at a walking pace. And they always repeating “partisans, banditen”. An old woman appeared to whom the soldiers asked for information from the hospital, which because of the war had been transferred to the seminary in the center of the city. The old woman understood the word hospital and perhaps thinking she could not sufficiently explain the path and also given our condition, the wounds were bleeding profusely, she got on the vehicle and accompanied us to the hospital. The soldiers unloaded us badly by handing us over to the first service person they encountered. In handing over to us they repeated the usual words "partisans, banditen". Hearing these words, even the stretcher bearers who had arrived in the meantime remained undecided on what to do and almost did not intend to hospitalize us. After some explanations they understood the situation and gave us the first attention. On the other hand, the attitude of the hospital staff was also understandable as there was the death penalty for those who had assisted the partisans. During this whole ordeal my mind was always turned to my children. What happened to them? Had they managed to escape the tragedy? So why was no one giving me news? It was a constant torture. The next day or after “a few days, I don't remember, we received a visit from some German soldiers, including some officers. They wanted information and clarification on what had happened and if there had been any serious actions by any of us

unleash violent retaliation. They listened to us and before leaving they said that the transport of the bodies to the cemetery had been authorized.

I looked at my husband and we immediately understood that the tragedy had not spared our creatures. In fact, Renato, Antonio and Carlo had not escaped.

A few days passed and the German soldiers returned to question us again, and again they made us tell the facts of that terrible night. We understood that there was no trace of those who had somehow received "offense" or of those who had authorized the retaliation in the German area command. Mystery. Our hospital stay lasted for about a month and when the wounds "of the flesh" began to heal, we were discharged and brought back to our remaining loved ones who, in the meantime, had moved to a farmhouse further upstream than ours, which had been destroyed. from the fire and the wickedness of "men".

 

THE OTHER VICTIMS

For many years I lived with those poor victims in the same hamlet; I lived in the same building with the Forni family and therefore, knowing them well enough, I would like ... for what emerges from distant memories, to talk about them recalling some facts. Of the Forni family, who was closest to me, Canzio was the head of the family, Rosa his second wife and their children Ugo. Ezio and Edoardo (called Piri). As I have already mentioned, Canzio was part of that large group of Niccone stonecutters, for whom it is necessary to say a few words as their work was required and very important. In fact, most of the stonecutters of the municipality and neighboring municipalities were concentrated in the hamlet of Niccone. I list them according to my memories: Giuseppe Medici and his son Orlando (Guido), Menotti Nencioni, the Testerini brothers (Dante, Primo, Secondo), Canzio Fomi and Ferruccio Nencioni (victims of Penetola), Magino Faloci, Antonio Nanni, Carlo Mattioni , According to Magrini and, the only living ones, Marino Baccellini and Duilio Truffelli; the latter is the rebuilder of the Rocca fountain, which was rebuilt in 1978 by the municipal administration. Their specialty was the processing of “sandstone” or serena stone which they extracted mainly from the “Giappichini” quarries near Molino Vitelli, “Fariale”, near Mita and from Monte Acuto. This type of stone was used for pavement of sidewalks, for gutters, fireplaces, columns and doorposts, stairs, window sills. Some important works of these stonecutters are the facade of the parish church of Niccone, the external columns of the Collegiate church, the door of the town hall and some chapels of the various cemeteries scattered throughout the territory. The martyrdom of Canzio and his sons Ezio and Edoardo, according to reliable rumors of those who were in the house of "Penetola", can thus be reconstructed.

Despite the guard that some soldiers kept at the windows, it seems that Ezio found a way to throw himself outdoors, followed by his father Canzio and his brother Edoardo. From the way the corpses of Ezio and his father were found, it seems that Ezio had managed to throw himself out of that hell and take a few steps in the direction of "life". Knowing that his father had jumped out shortly after, not seeing him, he turned back. Instead his father, seen by the Germans, had been mowed down by a burst of machine guns. Ezio saw him and stooped to help him; at that moment the Germans came out and he too was killed and fell face down on his father's body. From Ezio's position, the conviction arises that the facts have had this development. Edoardo was found by the rescuers, sitting on the ground with his back leaning against the wall surrounding the pig barn, as if he were sleeping. Perhaps he too had managed to climb out of the window, but not to escape the lurking "criminals". Ferruccio was also a stone worker and a passionate hunter; who does not remember his hunting tales? They were so precise in all the smallest details that when he told them he made us relive the scenes, the sensations, as if we had been present on the hunt. Ferruccio's mother, Erminia », his wife Milena, his sister Eufemia and his brother Conforto (called Sostegno), all met a horrible death in the tragic night. I have a vivid memory of Conforto (known as Sostegno), as together, he as a private owner, I as an intern, we met at the middle school license exam (Avviamento) and together we prepared for the exams. He worked in Milan at the tram company of the Lombard metropolis and since he wanted to progress in his career, he had returned to his native country to take his secondary school diploma. In Milan he would then undertake evening courses for working students and would have liked to graduate from high school. He was thirty-six at the time of his death, not married not because he lacked opportunities, but he said that before getting married he wanted to secure a better position. Eufemia, she too was not married, had always dedicated herself together with her mother Erminia and her sister Virginia (the only survivor of the tragedy because she was displaced elsewhere with her family) to manage Niccone's grocery store. Milena, Ferruccio's wife, was a talented and sought-after dressmaker for women. The two daughters, Gaetana and Giovanna, who were 13 and 5 years old respectively, were saved from the tragedy that struck the Nencioni family. Gaetana was displaced elsewhere with her maternal grandmother Settimia; Giovanna, finding herself in the place of the massacre, luckily managed to take refuge under a farm cart. The soldiers raged against her too, firing a few rifle shots that luckily failed.

All this happened on June 28, 1944.

After a few days, while I was walking through the surrounding countryside and precisely near the house of the colonist Ciubini, a sharecropper of the Boncompagni, I saw a black soldier approaching, holding a can, which looked like a mess tin; with a crippled Italian, with the help of his hand, he asked for fresh milk to drink. It was the clear sign that the nightmare was about to end and, now free from the fear of being "taken" by the fascists and the Germans, I ran like a colt not yet tamed, towards the house of "Fornacino" bringing the news to everyone. The next morning the bulk of the allied troops had already established, a few hundred meters south of the “Fornacino” house, a line of fire, which for a few days shelled northwards where the German troops had withdrawn.

 

THE VICTIMS

Penetola di Niccone (Umbertide), June 28, 1944

 

IVORY Antonio - 11 years


IVORY Carlo - 8 years


IVORY Renato - 14 years

FERRINI Milena in Nencioni - 41 years

 

OVENS Canzio - 58 years


FORNI Ezio - 21 years


OVENS Edoardo - 16 years

LUCHETTI Guido - 18 years

 

NENCIONI Conforto - 36 years

 

NENCIONI Eufemia - 44 years

 

NENCIONI Ferruccio - 46 years

 

RENZINI Erminia in Nencioni - 68 years

 
Giovanni Bottaccioli.png

Photo: Giovanni, known as Gianni Bottaccioli. Photos, like the whole work,  granted by the daughters Elvira and Giovanna.

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