Penetola

THE MASSACRE OF PENETOLA  

 

We present here a reconstruction that the teacher and head teacher Paola Avorio has conducted over the years on one of the cruelest massacres that occurred with the passage of the front to Umbertide, precisely to the word Penetola di Niccone. Massacre that affected his family. His researches converged in the book "Tre Noci".  

 

He kindly grants us this long and accurate excerpt from his work.

 

 

 

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Photo: June 25, 2011. The presentation of the book "Tre Nuts" (Photo Fabio Mariotti).

THE MASSACRE OF PENETOLA

 

(edited by Paola Avorio)

 

 

In the night between 27 and 28 June 1944, in the Umbrian high Tiber, in a farmhouse called Penetola di Niccone, 6 kilometers north-east of Umbertide, twelve people were brutally killed by soldiers belonging to the 305th engineers battalion of the German army stationed in the Niccone valley.

 

The operational dynamics of the massacre are currently known to us, while strong doubts and perplexities remain about the causes and modalities of the massacre itself, in many respects atypical compared to the many others that the German army stained itself during the retreat towards the line. Gothic in the summer of 1944. 

One of the most atrocious episodes among those that occurred in Umbria during the Second World War took place in Penetola. As with many 'hidden' massacres (1) of the war on civilians (2) which broke out in Italy after 8 September 1943. 

[...] On the basis of the analysis of various experts consulted, that of Penetola appears what many have called a "retreat massacre", in which soldiers of the German regular army generally strike between 24/36 hours before the arrival of the allies and their consequent retreat towards the Gothic Line. Unfortunately, this rather usual dynamic is accompanied by completely anomalous behavior compared to the massacres carried out by the retreating German army.

 

Like most of the farms of the time, in 1944 the word Penetola was inhabited and managed by sharecroppers who, in this case, worked on behalf of the landowner Giovanni Battista Gnoni, tenant of Montalto di Niccone, Umbertide, Perugia. The family of sharecroppers residing in Penetola consisted of 12 people:

Mario Avorio, his wife Agata Orsini (called Dina), their five children Renato, Antonio, Carlo, Maria and Giuseppe, Mario Avorio's adoptive brother, Avellino Luchetti, his wife Rosalinda Caseti, their three children Guido, Remo and Vittorio .

 

During the passage of the front, in June 1944 the family of Mario and Avellino's sister, Speranza Luchetti, her husband Andrea Capecci and their son Giuseppe had been hosted.

 

The cottage is about 2 kilometers from the town of Niccone, which in June 1944 was occupied by German troops. The inhabitants of the Umbrian hamlet had taken refuge with relatives and friends in the farmhouses in the surrounding countryside, both to escape the Germans and to have food at hand. Having to leave their respective homes in Niccone, the Forni and Nencioni families, openly anti-fascists, had greater difficulties in finding shelter. They were hosted in the Penetola farmhouse by the Avorio and Luchetti families. 

The Nencioni family took refuge in Penetola: Ferruccio Nencioni, his wife Milena Ferrini, one of the two daughters, Giovanna (the other daughter, Gaetana, was with her maternal grandmother Settimia in another family), Ferruccio's mother, Erminia Renzini , Ferruccio's brother, Conforto Nencioni, Ferruccio's sister, Eufemia Nencioni, Conforto Nencioni, an employee of the APM of Milan, had been among the most active organizers of the Milanese tramway strike in March 1944. Denounced and sought after by the men of the fearful Muti, the Milanese fascist militia, escaped capture and took refuge in Niccone, at his birthplace.

The members of the Forni family who took refuge in Penetola were: Canzio Forni, two of his three sons Ezio and Edoardo, his wife Rosa and their eldest son Ugo, were displaced by another family.

 

On the night between 27 and 28 June 1944 these 24 people slept in Penetola, some in the rooms of the cottage, some in the nearby annex. Around one o'clock on June 28, 1944, armed German soldiers knocked on the door of the cottage and woke everyone up. Those who slept in the annex were awakened, their belongings robbed and brought into the house with the others. Everyone was locked up in the room facing the woods. 

The animals were brought out of the stables. The soldiers took the hay from the haystack and the lumber found on the spot, piled them on the walls of the room where the 24 people had been locked up and on the walls of the house and, using petrol, they set a devastating fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The fire broke out immediately. The room was soon filled with smoke and fire. The door to the room caught fire and many of the people tried to escape the flames by taking refuge in the farthest corners. They resisted the smoke fumes with the help of vinegar, contained in a small demijohn (caretello) that was in the kitchen. 

The eldest son of Mario and Dina Avorio, Renato,  just fourteen years old, he was hit almost immediately by a grenade as he tried to look out the window of the room, completely losing his left arm. He tried to persuade his desperate mother to stop thinking about him bleeding to death, then tried to escape through the main door: his body torn apart by gunfire was found on the landing at the top of the access staircase. His two brothers, Carlo and Antonio, escaped the control of their parents, committed to helping their eldest son, and tried in vain to escape from the flames that enveloped them. Their bodies were found embraced, mostly charred, inside the house, in a corner of the large kitchen.

The eighteen-year-old son of Avellino Luchetti, Guido, also tried to look out the window: he was hit by a rifle in the head and fell to the ground lifeless, one step away from his cousin Maria, whom he had protected until a moment before. to die holding her in his arms. 

Canzio, Edoardo and Ezio Forni alighted from a side window, inside the small pigsty, once on the ground they were all killed with close firearms. The body of Canzio was found on his back, the face partly consumed by the animals themselves, that of Edoardo sitting on the manger, Ezio not far away in the grass. 

The bodies of the spouses Milena Ferrini and Ferruccio Nencioni were found near the front door of the house, devastated by flames. Shortly before, Ferruccio had helped his brother Conforto to lower his family into the sheep shed through a hole in the floor that Conforto himself had managed to drill. Even today Giovanna Nencioni remembers perfectly the moment when her father lowered her from the hole, asking her to wait for him while he went back to pick up his mother and wife. Conforto, Erminia, Eufemia and Giovanna Nencioni, discovered by the soldiers in the sheep shed, were hit at close range with bursts of machine guns. The only survivor is little Giovanna who fell wounded to the ground and who later managed to escape to safety under a cart in the farmyard.

Towards dawn the soldiers left. Dina Orsini counted eighteen who go off in single file along the path that runs along the wood, backpacks on their shoulders full of stolen objects. Shortly after, leaning out of one of the side windows, he saw the owner of the farm, Giovanni Battista Gnoni, on the hill towards the Castle of Montalto. He tried in vain to be seen. 

The access stairway to the house had collapsed. The survivors were trapped in the house. In the absence of help, they alighted from one of the side windows using two knotted sheets. Those who were able to do so fled across the fields. Mario and Dina, seriously injured following the explosion of the bomb that mutilated their eldest son, hid in the nearby moat. They were pulled out only after a few hours and by some German soldiers who took them to the distant hospital of Città di Castello, traveling 20 kilometers under the danger of Allied bombing. 

Only twelve of the twenty-four people locked up in the cottage survived: 11 survivors belong to the families of the Ivorio and Luchetti sharecroppers, no survivors between the two families of the displaced Nencioni and Forni except little Giovanna.

 

 

 

​ The German soldiers stationed at the Castle of Montalto took Mario and Dina to the Seminary of Città di Castello, used as a hospital, where they arrived at 2.00 pm on June 28, 1944. The whole area was occupied by the troops of the German army, but the airspace above had long witnessed strong incursions by the allied air force, which hit relentlessly  everything on the ground even vaguely resembled a target to be shot down. In fact, the next day, June 29, 1944, the whole town of Niccone was bombed by the allies.

Inexplicable therefore, if you look at it with the eyes of those who study the Nazi massacres, the gesture of those two soldiers, clearly dictated by higher orders, who had to risk their lives to save that of Mario and Dina. 

The rector Mons. Beniamino Schivo (3) was at the Seminary of Città di Castello. On the day of the Penetola massacre, he turned 34. Also for this reason the date of Mario Dina's arrival is well remembered, which the two soldiers unloaded in front of the seminary door calling them 'banditen', partisans, found with weapons but, despite this, rescued, and at what risk! Germans like those responsible for the massacre.

The nuns who ran the hospital drew up a timely register with the dates of admissions, treatments administered and discharge of the patients in which we find confirmation of the dates of entry and discharge of the two spouses.

 

A few days after the massacre, German soldiers, accompanied by an interpreter, arrived at the Seminary of Città di Castello and questioned Mario and Dina. The latter recounted the episode in a testimony:  “ The next day or a few days later, 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 on the part of any of us to unleash the violent reprisal. They listened to us and before leaving they said that the transport of the bodies to the cemetery had been authorized […]. We understood that the tragedy had not spared our creatures […]. A few days passed and the soldiers returned to question us again. 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 zone command ”(4).

The transport of Penetola's victims to the Montemigiano cemetery did not happen without difficulty. The rescuers were the peasants and displaced people from the nearby farmhouses, who found themselves faced with gruesome scenes and the objective difficulty of transporting so many corpses, some of them charred. They also had to resist the authorities' initial proposal to bury the bodies in a common grave. Eventually they managed to get the authorization to transport the bodies to the nearby cemetery of Montemigiano. Given the condition of the bodies, the acquaintances and family members who took part in their transport and burial could not fail to have psycho-physical repercussions of various kinds, some even permanent.

In the meantime, the other survivors were housed in the 'refuges' and in some farmhouses of friendly families. On 26 July Mario Avorio and Dina Orsini returned to Penetola. While waiting to rebuild the house, they were hosted in various places, including for a period in the gardener's house at the Montalto Castle.No report of damage to the Penetola cottage has ever been made by the owner, Giovanni Battista Gnoni or by his son, Antonio Gnoni, then in his twenties.  

Through the many direct testimonies, it was immediately ascertained that the group of German soldiers responsible for the massacre had left Casa Trinari, in La Dogana della Mita. Dino Trinari, then seventeen, has repeatedly stated that he had never been questioned about the incident either by the republican authorities or by the police.

In the historical archive of the Municipality of Umbertide it is possible to consult some documents written personally by some family members of the Forni and Nencioni families, as well as other families and business owners in the town of Niccone During the allied bombing of 29 June 1944, the following day at the Penetola massacre, many houses and the few businesses in the town of Niccone were damaged. These documents present in the Umbertide Historical Archive and drawn up in September 1944 concern the request for compensation for such damages (5). 

It was not possible to find any document or news, even indirect, on the massacre or on damage to property and people present in Penetola, despite the survivors of the families of the victims having repeatedly declared that they had filed complaints or given testimony, even at the municipal offices . Immediately after the war, the municipal archive was damaged by a fire. 

Mario and Dina Avorio, Avellino Luchetti and Ugo Forni went several times to the municipal offices and to the Carabinieri of Umbertide. Of all the accesses, only two are documented. In both Mario and Dina Avorio have always claimed not to have found written what they had declared to the competent authorities and have never agreed with the inaccuracies that had instead been reported. The documents are:

1) report drawn up by Mr. Agostino Bernacchi on behalf of the Mayor of Umbertide Giuseppe Migliorati, in turn appointed by the Royal Deputation of Homeland History, provincial seat of Perugia (where the document, not present in the municipal archives, was found), to report on the events that occurred from 8 September 1943 to April 25, 1945.

2) minutes drawn up by the Marshal of the Carabinieri of Umbertide with the declarations of Mario and Dina (Agata signed) Avorio and Ugo Forni, issued on 27 November 1944; minutes forming part of a report requested by the Central Command of the Province of Perugia aimed at ascertaining all the facts committed during the period of the passage of the front (Document found at the Central State Archives in Rome and not present in copy in any Umbrian archive). 

The signatures affixed to these minutes by the declarants Mario Avorio and Agata Orsini do not correspond to those with which they signed all the documents of their life. They have always stated that they refused to sign the document because many of their verbal statements had been omitted.

In an allied army document dated July 13, 1944 (6)  you can read these few lines: “In the village of Niccone 13 people were locked up in a house and burned alive by the Germans. Reason: some shots had been directed from the hills towards some German soldiers ”.

And this completes the inaccurate, approximate and often misleading Italian and allied documentation relating to the Penetola massacre.  

 

On the other hand, the annex to the war diary (KTB) of the General Command of the 76th Armored Corps of the German Army confirms  the numerous oral testimonies regarding the presence of German soldiers in La Dogana di Mita, known at the time as the Trinari house. The same document leaves no doubts as to whether those soldiers belonged to the 305th Engineers Battalion of the Wehrmacht: 

General command  of the LXXVI armored body  Allocation to  June 25, 1944

(Pages 65-67), point V:

Pi. Btl 305 (Engineers Battalion 305)

Use: Barrier in the sector of the main front line up to and including the Niccone valley

1. company: main front line up to Castel Rigone / San Giovanni

2. company: up to the Niccone valley included

3. company: retired, meets in the Niccone Valley to replace the blocking action of the 818 mountain engineers battalion

Place of settlement: 1.5 km NW Mita, in the Niccone Valley 

Forces: Actual Forces 10/86/567

Combat Forces 6/36/238 (7)

 

 

After September 8, 1943, the war was fought also for Italian civilians. To the bulletins from the front were added those from the Italian cities and countryside, a scenario of clashes between the different factions and violent aerial bombardments.

On April 25, 1944, the center of Umbertide was heavily bombed by the Allies during the demolition of the bridge over the River Tiber. Seventy-four people lost their lives as a result of this 'successful' military operation which aimed to prevent the retreat of the German army through the main road and rail links, the 'Stassenmeldungen', as they are defined in the German military reports of the epoch. 

The road that also currently connects the towns of Niccone belonged to this category  and Molino Vitelli at Lake Trasimeno and the retreating German army soldiers did not take long to arrive after the defeat of the Battle of Trasimeno, in the last days of June 1944.

The military maps show meticulously, with directional arrows, every minimum movement of the troops. Many were drawn up on transparent paper because they were superimposed on geographical maps of the same scale, so that, looking at them together, they provided a detailed picture of the movements of the troops on the territory. 

The front line, on which the X army of the German army was positioned, was codenamed the “Albert” line and ran from Castiglione della Pescaia, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the Adriatic Sea, passing through Mount Amiata and Lake Trasimeno. As for the German troops, the paratroopers of the 'Hermann Göring' battalion operated in the Chiusi area, the 1st paratroop division was positioned in the center of the front line, while the infantry divisions 305 and 334 occupied the eastern side. Opposite were the allied troops of the 6th South African Division, the 4th British Infantry Division, the Canadian and New Zealand 1st Armored Brigade and a Moroccan Infantry Division.  

 

 

 

 

The preceding and following maps (8) show the position of the various divisions on June 26, 1944. In the top one, the demarcation and front line known as the “Albert line” is clearly visible. The positions of the allied troops are also reported in detail. Starting from the east we find the Indian, British, Canadian and New Zealand, South African and Moroccan troops.

The card below focuses the same allocation of the German troops in the north-eastern area of the Albert Line, with the relative commands of the army and division corps represented respectively by the square and triangular flags

In both cards and especially in the following detail, extracted from the second, it is clearly visible how the Niccone valley (highlighted by the arrowhead) is entirely occupied by the 305th Infantry Division.

 

 

  

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(With the lines, from top to bottom, the localities of Niccone, Montalto and the Dogana are highlighted)

 

The battle of Trasimeno was a typical example of a slowdown battle, already experienced by the German army on the Russian front, through what the military define "active defense", characterized by small but very bloody clashes along the entire 'front' line. The purpose of the German army was mainly to contain the timing of the allied advance, with an orderly retreat towards the northernmost line of defense that had yet to be completed: the Gothic line. 

In the area directly behind the fighting line, the German troops assigned to the operational management of the retreat were allocated: stabilization of bridges, demining or placement of mines, inspections and inspections aimed at discouraging or combating any partisan formations, displacement of the civilian population from the places of military interest, or from which it was possible to obtain easy supplies for the troops or shelters for the same.

In this sense, the whole Niccone valley became a settlement area for the German troops engaged in the battle of Trasimeno and, later, in the retreat to the north. There were various road bridges that were located on the main road that connects Lake Trasimeno to the state road towards Città di Castello. Absolutely a priority to protect them to allow the withdrawal of heavy vehicles and, subsequently, to undermine and destroy them, to prevent the advance of the allied troops.  

The map below is a section of a larger map (9) showing the situation as of July 1, 1944 of the communication routes and bridges mined or blown up. 

In the center of the map, with the number 133, the bridge near Penetola is clearly visible, on the provincial road that runs alongside the Niccone stream (the bridge and the town of Penetola are highlighted with arrows).  

  

 

 

 

Two German soldiers were constantly guarding this bridge. Dina  he went there every morning to bring milk to the two sentries. Often he sent little Antonio to bring the milk to the soldiers, so much confidence had become that he did not fear any risk for his son just eleven years old. Dina remembered them as very young and very thin. One of the two sentries, seeing her emerge from the road after the stream, always went to meet her and repeated continuously the word 'mutti', a confidential term which in German means mother. It was not clear whether he wanted to thank her for that gesture or tell her about his own mother, but it is certain that Dina had the faces of those soldiers well sculpted in her mind and that none of them was neither wounded nor killed in the days preceding the Penetola massacre, like someone. he wanted the men of Molino Vitelli to believe two days earlier. With this justification, on June 27, 1944, the German soldiers stationed nearby locked up all the men of the town of Molino Vitelli in the nearby drying room, threatening to kill them because of the wounding of the sentry guarding the bridge on the road to Mercatale.  

 

Molino Vitelli is a small village located along the main road, two kilometers west of Niccone. Shortly after the inhabited area there is a farm, known at the time as Casa Trinari, from the name of the sharecropper who lived there, also known as La Dogana, precisely because an ancient connection road passed and still passes through it. between Umbria and Tuscany, known as 'via di Sant'Anna', from the name of the place of passage. This road is important because it connects the two roads, parallel to each other, which connect the city of Cortona with the SS 3bis state road in the two crucial points close to the towns and the streams of Niccone and Nestore. Two battalions of engineers had been placed to defend and block these two routes, respectively the 305th (Pi. Btl. 305) and the 818th mountain engineers battalion (818 Geb. Pi. Btl).  

 

  

 

 

 

(The arrow indicates the La Dogana locality. In evidence the main roads connecting Cortona and the SS 3 bis that connects Città di Castello and Umbertide. Between the two highlighted streets it is possible to see dozens of cross streets, which can be traveled by the troops of German engineers who moved mainly on foot).

 

 

The Trinari farmhouse in La Dogana represented for the German military one of those strategic positions to control and garrison, while for the inhabitants it was an absolutely not very quiet area and therefore to be displaced. In fact it was one of the first houses to be occupied by the German troops who arrived in the valley. About twenty soldiers settled there.  

 

The names of these men and their commanders, material executors of the Penetola massacre and ferocious murderers of men, women and children, are written in the enrollment register of the second company of the 305th mountain engineers battalion of the German army stationed in central Italy. in the spring-summer of 1944.  

 

In a statement dated 26 June 1944 from the General Command of the LXXVI Armored Army Corps (10) it is established that the 305th Infantry Division will assume command of operations east of the Tiber starting at 12.00 on 27 June 1944. Al command of the 305th division is General Hauck.

The most significant document regarding the ascertainment of the responsibilities of the 305th Engineers Battalion for the Penetola massacre dates back to the previous day, to 25 June 1944, and has already been reported at the end of the second chapter. In it, the exact reference to the location of the second company of the 305th Engineers Battalion is fundamental: 1.5 kilometers northwest of Mita, which corresponds exactly to the La Dogana locality, known at the time as 'Casa Trinari' and from where the soldiers responsible for the massacre left.

 

Dino Trinari, then seventeen, had stayed with his father and uncle at La Dogana, because the fields and cattle could not be abandoned. The German soldiers occupied the habitable floor of the house and housed Dino and his family in the stables, calling them whenever they needed food or other things. 

Among the twenty or so soldiers present in the house, Dino remembers two in a particular way. A boy originally from Trieste, with whom he exchanged a few sentences from time to time, given his excellent knowledge of the Italian language, and another soldier, who also used to take care of the provision of the group, whose teeth could not be overlooked. metal teeth (11).

The commanding officers were lodged not far away, at the Castle of Montalto, from where they gave the various orders going downhill from time to time by the troops. 

On June 26, 1944, Dino Trinari saw some officers arrive at the Customs in a car and talk to the soldiers. One of these told him that the officers came from the command of Montalto.

On the morning of June 27, the soldiers stationed at the Trinari house locked up all the men they managed to capture in the area inside a tobacco dryer in Molino Vitelli. They claimed that one of the sentries guarding the bridge on the road to Mercatale had been injured and that people would be executed (12). 

The soldiers ordered Dino Trinari, his father and his uncle to be locked up in the stable, reassuring them that nothing would happen to them. 

Once all the men rounded up were locked up, Dino saw the officers from the day before arrive again, still aboard the same car. He saw them go up to the habitable floor of his house, followed by some local women, led by force under the threat of weapons. 

Later he learned that those women had been raped by the officers, while the soldiers kept their men locked up in the school of Molino Vitelli, unaware of everything and with the anguish of being executed for something they had not committed. 

The officers left the Trinari house around noon. Soon after the soldiers released the men locked up in the school claiming that the sentry was not in danger of death and that therefore no one would be killed in retaliation. 

No sentry appeared to have been injured or even killed. However, according to the measures of revenge established by Kesserling, the dreaded Sussmassnahmen contained in the infamous ordinance of June 16, 1944,  even in the event of the wounding of soldiers, not only for their death, executions had to be carried out and therefore the 'lightning kidnapping' and the release of all the men in the area by the soldiers, without any reprisals, cannot be explained at all, despite the alleged wounding of the bridge sentry.

The kidnapping, on the other hand, can be understood very well if it is placed in relation to the violence against women by the command officers.

The same rape could have been an occasional event, unfortunately very frequent in the behavior of the soldiers of that period, since the visit of the officers was actually due to the need to give orders to the soldiers for the massacre of the following night.

In fact, as soon as the officers were gone, one of the soldiers approached Dino Trinari holding a card with the farmhouses in the area listed on it. The soldier asked Dino to show him where the house already marked among others on the map was: it was the Penetola cottage and Dino unwittingly indicated the way to reach it to the soldier who, evidently, had already received very specific orders on what to do.

 

That evening the soldiers dined outside in front of the Trinari house: they ate and drank heavily. The one who served as cook in the afternoon had been seen wandering around armed together  to a fellow soldier, in the vicinity of the farmhouses in the area to collect, by removing it from the mouths of the peasants, all that could be used at the soldiers' banquet. The two had also fired several rifle shots aimed at threatening some peasants. They had also tried to rape women (13). 

Dino's uncle and father were seated at the table and forced to drink for the amusement of their guests. After having eaten and above all drunk in large quantities, the soldiers began to confuse inside and outside the house, throwing water, objects, destroying everything they could find at hand. As soon as midnight passed, they put their backpacks on their shoulders and walked towards Niccone, avoiding the main road, following the more hidden path at the edge of the wood that runs along the stream. Path that leads to the Penetola farmyard.

 

It was about one o'clock when they reached the house. They woke the inhabitants, robbed them of all their belongings and locked them in a single room: 24 people including men, women and children.

 

Dino Trinari, who just got ready to go to the fields, saw the 18 soldiers return along the stream and across the fields, their backpacks much more swollen than when they had left, some half-open they were so full of things stolen from the families of the settlers and of the evacuees of Penetola. One of them told him: "We burned three houses and killed 30 partisans". 

They went upstairs to sleep. 

At dusk on June 28, in total tranquility, they left telling Dino that they had to reach Florence. They took the direction towards S. Anna, crossing the hills, away from the main road. As proof of the veracity of this testimony, it is enough to observe the paper attached to the German document of 25 June 1944 previously cited: the soldiers stationed at La Dogana set out on the evening of 28 June 1944 towards the north through the road that from La Dogana, leads on the connecting road between Cortona and Città di Castello. The direction of travel and the date of the move are clearly evident on the map: bis 28. 6. (until June 28, ed).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

(the line indicates the locality La Dogana)

 

In the night between 28 and 29 June 1944 the HuD division, already stationed at Umbertide, took the place of the 305th Infantry Division and related control of the area (14). The command of the HuD division takes office at the castle of Montalto in the late afternoon of June 30, 1944, as is clear from a document of the division itself (15).

 

It was probably some officers of this division, already in place on the morning of June 28, who gave the order to take the wounded Mario and Dina Avorio to the Seminary of Città di Castello and to question them in the following days. The fact that during the interrogation the officers had declared to Mario and Dina that they had not heard of any retaliatory orders, reinforces the conviction that the soldiers responsible for the massacre did not respond to their division, but to the 305th Infantry Division, which had already evacuated the area.  

 

In the case of Penetola, two loud 'screeches' cannot be ignored with respect to the dynamics that precede and follow a Nazi massacre.

The aid given by German soldiers to the victims of a massacre carried out by the German troops themselves is singular; aid given at the risk of one's life, covering a long journey and presenting the victims as 'banditen' (partisans) to the caregivers. Behavior that, as examined in many other massacres committed by the Germans, does not seem to have ever occurred as a result of a massacre order. 

Even more unusual was the double interrogation of Mario Avorio and Dina Orsini, hospitalized at the Seminary of Città di Castello, by German soldiers, who sought the reasons for it from the survivors of the Nazi massacre.  

 

Just 6 days after the Penetola massacre, on 6 July 1944, at 3.45 pm, the headquarters of the  allied tactical command arrives at the Castle of Montalto, where on 9 July at 7.30 pm, the parish priest Don Ettore celebrates a mass together with the officers of the allied command (16). From the castle the latter certainly could not avoid observing the devastation of Penetola, nor did they miss the opportunity to inquire about the events, since they were in the house of the owner of the cottage, but everything was liquidated with a lapidary and imprecise account of three stripes. And for years everyone wanted to believe that in Penetola he had killed himself because "some shots had been directed from the hills towards some German soldiers", as the only mention of the story in the allied documents states (17).  

 

On June 28, 1974, thirty years after the massacre, a plaque and a monumental stone were placed respectively on the wall of the Penetola farmhouse and on the provincial road, near the path to reach it.

 

I don't hate we ask who stays,

only memory,

so that others do not have to die

by the murderous hand.

 

  The memorial stone in memory of the victims of Penetola on which these words are reported is placed on the side of the road, clearly visible even to the fast motorist. With its few but incisive verses it reminds all passers-by of the events narrated up to now and hands the memory over to future generations. The monuments in honor of victims and fallen are a bit like road signs of danger: they prevent those who are not aware or have no memory of the abyss from ending up in it. 

Our civil and moral responsibility towards future generations is to continue to make these 'signals', the verses and events that they pass on significant, and, if possible, to broaden their echo, with truth and justice, through written and oral testimonies. .  

 

Paola Ivory

NOTE:

1. As regards the definition of 'hidden massacre', see the study by Mimmo Franzinelli, Le massacre hidden. The cabinet of shame: impunity and removal of Nazi-fascism war crimes 1943-2001, Mondatori, Le Scie, 2002.

 

2.  The term 'war on civilians' is coined and amply illustrated by Battini and Pezzino in War on civilians, Venice, Marsilio 1997.

 

3. Monsignor Beniamino Schivo was born in Gallio (Vicenza) on June 28, 1910. After completing his studies in the seminaries of Città di Castello and Assisi, he was ordained a priest on June 24, 1933. He has held numerous and prestigious positions in the diocese of City of Castello. On June 16, 1983, Pope John Paul II appointed him apostolic protonotary. During the passage of the front through the Upper Tiber Valley in the summer of 1944, he remained in Città di Castello,  helping wherever needed, including setting up a makeshift hospital on the premises of the Seminary. He managed to hide and save the family  German Korn, of Jewish origin, interned in Città di Castello. He was awarded the recognition of 'Righteous among the Nations' by the Yad Vashem foundation of Jerusalem and the gold medal for civil valor by the President of the Italian Republic, on January 24, 2008. The motivation for this last honor reads: " Priest of high human and civil qualities, during the last world war, racial persecutions underway, with heroic courage and commendable self-denial, helped a German family of Jewish origin to escape from Città di Castello, where she had been interned , subsequently providing her with hiding places, food and clothing. A wonderful example of consistency and moral rigor based on the highest Christian values and human solidarity ". 

On 28 June 2010, Monsignor Beniamino Schivo turned one hundred years old.

 

4. G. Bottaccioli, “ Penetola. Not all the dead die.  6/28-1944 ", p. 26, (from Dina's story).

 

  5. Historical Archive of Umbertide, Cat.2, Cl.4, Claims for damages following the aerial bombardment of the town of Niccone by the Allied Air Force on 29 June 1944, presented by Edgarda Forni, Aldo Forni, Medici Decio , Caprini Medici Adele, Pietro Giunti, and others, on 5 September 1944.

 

 

6.  Psychological Warfare Branch Report - Allied Political Information and Propaganda Service, in Public Record Office (PRO) War Office (WO) 204/11008 8 Army reports: No29, 13-07-44 in Roger Absalom, (ed.) ,

  Perugia freed. Anglo-American documents on the occupation of Perugia (1944-1945), Florence, Olschki editore, 2001

 

7.  Military Archive of Freiburg,  RH 24-76 / 13

Anlage zum KTB nr 2, rda

 

8.  Military Archive of Freiburg, in RH 24-51 / 85.

 

9.  Military Archive of Freiburg, in RH

 

10.  Military Archive of Freiburg, RH 24-76 / 13 Anlage zum KTB nr 2 s. 51

 

11.  Giovanni Bottaccioli is also well remembered of this soldier who in his writing "PENETOLA Not all the dead die" op. cit., which   so reports “ 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 were made of steel teeth. Certain details are never forgotten ".

 

12.  Giovanni Bottaccioli, op. cit. p.9.

 

13.  See G. Bottaccioli, op. cit ..

 

14.  Military Archive of Freiburg, RH 24.51 / 101 Anlage zum KTB nr 2.

 

15.  Military Archive of Freiburg RH 26-44-60, s. 131.

 

16.  The Allies in Umbria 1944-45, Proceedings of the Day of the Allies conference, Perugia, 12 January 1999, Uguccione Ranieri di Corbello Foundation, Perugia, 2000, p.71 et seq.

 

17.  See note 9 in Chapter One "Three Crosses" of   Paola Ivory.

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