I cried from the first to the last page reading the book written by my ex editor Giacomo Marinelli Andreoli: Nel segno dei padri by Gli Specchi Marsilio.
My dad in fact loved to tell me the story of the 40 martyrs of Gubbio, Italy a lot of times, since I was little.
The story of a bunch of disgraceful people in the wrong place at the wrong moment: the four men who, on June 20 1944 without a reason killed a German officer and injured a second one in a bar of Corso Garibaldi, in Gubbio, Umbria, while they were peacefully drinking a mug of chocolate hoping that this senseless war over as soon as possible because tired of all of it; the 80 people captured immediately after by Germans as act of reprisal and as a law of war.
If you killed a German officer 40 people had to be killed.
Our bishop Beniamino Ubaldi tried his best: "Please, kill me! Please don't kill these innocent people" said to the German soldiers Ubaldi.
The request couldn't be accepted because a law of war was a law of war.
Germans went everywhere picking up eighty people, men, women, old, young, you know there wasn't a great difference and just one was the purpose: killing forty of them.
These people helped to dig the graves where later Germans soldiers would have put the 40 people killed.
I lived a very vivid discussions with dad when I was 19 years about all this story: "So you think that we were wrong and they were right?"
"No Anna, I think that a law of war is serious and if someone senselessly caused a mess then the common laws suspended during a war. That's why they killed that poor innocents. It's this."
I thought a lot at this story and discussion days later I remember.I didn't live during the war and no, a part of me could judge just superficially.
At the same time I was deluded by the left I admired so badly and that I considered beautiful and without sin.
I remember that it was then that I understood. I understood that there is not just white and black.
That the complexity of reality is more difficult to decipher and yes that our actions are also our own responsibilities and that a cause will mean an effect immediately after.
It was what happened for the so-called 40 martyrs of Gubbio, although no one was a real martyr, because no one wanted to die for a cause. No one. They were just unlucky and in the wrong place in the wrong moment exactly like the German officers.
I am grateful to Giacomo Marinelli Andreoli because it's thanks to him that I moved the first steps in the journalism. Per years I collaborated with them at the free press Gubbio7 and it's thanks to TRG and him that I became a journalist and a reporter and it's thanks to him and his staff that my ideas could bloom producing according to my point of view various good fruits. My ideas taken in consideration and appreciated.
A joyous vivacious atmosphere we were a lot of young and joyous girls, all in our 20's at that time. Giacomo is editor of this reality from a long time.
The best moments of my existence.
Maybe because it was the beginning of everything, maybe because we didn't know where this adventure would have brought us all, I consider that years the most cheerful and smiling ones. Sometimes, when my soul is not too heavy I still can feel that old joy.
When we started our collaboration one day I went to his office. It was clear that my role in the free press the one of writing pieces of people taken prisoners during the last second world war. At first.
Great, but what other else? He asked me if I had other ideas. I was a real enthusiastic!
"What do you think if I prepare also a Spoon River of the 40 martyrs of Gubbio Giacomo? It will be great don't you think so?"
He replied me: "No, Anna sorry, no way. It doesn't exist..."
"Why is that?" I asked him surprised and without to understanding the reason of this answer.
To me it would have been fascinating and I saw myself running here and there interviewing relatives connected with the people killed by the Germans and at the same time writing down a portrait of all those people, innocents, killed just for a law of war. I think that most people would have been curious to discover who they were.
"There is still a lot of silence. It is no possible. It's...delicate."
Time passed by. This conversation in 2004.
More than two months ago I learned that Giacomo published this book and I thought: "Come on, don't tell me that Giacomo did it! Bloody hell, he broke the silence, he broke 70 years and more of mourning, of distance, of better-to-stay-silent-without-saying-what-we-feel."
I thought at my dad. He would have loved this book so badly because according to him like also to my granny Marietta also our enemy has a family somewhere and war are real injustices for everyone.
As said Peter Staudacher in a passage of this book very well: "No one won that war and we are all losers." Surely Germany and Italy didn't win that war, a horror after a horror and a real big immense shame for the world starting with camps like Auschwitz was.
Said this: mr Staudacher is the son of Kurt Staudacher, the German officer killed by the four young men of Gubbio. Three of them left forever the city because you can't think that people were just let's use an euphemism "upset" with Germans. The fourth one was killed and some people said that he was the responsible one, the one who materially killed Kurt Staudacher.
People were furious for the chaos created in a moment of peace. Of course they were our enemies officially but they were leaving, the allied were conquering Italy. War was ending.
At that time, when Kurt was killed on June 20 1944 and the Germans later killed 40 people on June 22 1944, little Peter was just one year old exactly like Guglielmina Roncigli, the daughter of Vittorio, 38 years taken prisoner from 40 hours by the Germans before to being killed with the other 39 martyrs.
The life of Peter and Guglielmina after the departure of their daddies not anymore the same one.
Peter lived in East Germany so in the communist part of Germany and couldn't develop all the talents he had. He fell sick with and his illness marked seriously his existence. Not only: the fact that his dad a German officer and soldier of the latest Second World War reason for discriminate him.
Guglielmina grew up with a mom constantly depressed. The oldest sister put in an orphanage. Not a great reality.
Silence about a story that didn't deserve silence but all the opposite: confrontation for setting free souls, hopes. But no: there was repression. Of feelings, sentiments, a lot of things unsaid.
Silence the best choice.
For obtaining help, for receiving some help.
It's 2003 when Peter Staudacher in pension, think that it is arrived the moment to close the circle about the story of his father and Gubbio.
In vacation with his wife in our city, he said that he didn't know what happened after that his dad, Kurt Staudacher was killed.
He asked at the guardian of the cemetery to see where his dad was buried. He understood that his dad wasn't anymore there and asked for the gravestone of his dad, donated by the guardian without problems and later he stopped by at the Mausoleo created for remembering the 40 people killed by the nazists.
It was touching to him. He left a note in the guest book...
At the same time Guglielmina, President of the association of the 40 martyrs, created only 50 years after this immense tragedy, was searching for some answers and when she discovered that the son of Kurt Staudacher visited their places she thought that it was a sign.
A sign of reconciliation. A sign that she couldn't ignore.
A sign of hope. A sign of understanding. Maybe the city and the community could start to heal. Starting from her and Peter. Why not?
Through the Vatican she obtained the address of mr Staudacher and a long and felt correspondence between the two of them started to born becoming each year more solid. For eight long years.
A correspondence made of memories, old stories of their respective dads, one a soldiers but also a doctor, in love for our city, our countryside and tired of this war, just with the desire to return home as soon as possible. Defeated by what you see, what you live, what you feel, distant from your house, your loved ones, your baby that you can't hug while he is growing up because of a senseless condition like war is, keeping you distant from your loved ones.
The other one a respectable man of Gubbio, with a family and two children. Vittorio was a beautiful man with black hair, a face with romantic treats, sweet, I imagine him as an adorable husband and a wonderful dad, a sweet, peaceful look in his eyes, he gives me the idea of a man in peace with himself and the world. He wasn't fascist and he didn't support the rebels. He was a man of peace.
I visited the Mausoleo last days.
The book by Marinelli Andreoli was arrived and I was reading it. It was good to pay another homage to these ladies and men. Beautiful. There is our history in that place. Clean faces, good people, hard workers. Our history and many broken dreams, many families devastated, a lot of horror.
I touched the entire wall where these men and women killed and it was strong. It is strong all the times.
This one was war, I thought. This one was horror.
In the book, the two protagonists together only once, when Peter visited the grave of his dad at Pomezia in 2004, became great, good friends although Guglielmina decided to keep a low profile. Reading her enthusiastic letters to Peter I could understand that yes, she found peace through him. And answers. To her most profound pains. And joy and enthusiasm.
Guglielmina and Peter are also the vehicle through Giacomo Marinelli Andreoli for something bigger: a pacification because no one won everything as you will read and their existence pretty difficult as well.
Guglielmina and Peter through this book will permit to break the silence, to obtain a different peace, more complete, more real.
Please read all these letters. They're fresh and wise.
To me the best words were said by Gugliemina. When Marinelli Andreoli asked her once if she hated, Guglielmina said yes.
"Yes I hated. I hated war, its uniforms. The dead ones, the crosses, our tears. The cold of the absence. The color of emptiness.
I hated German soldiers although later I discovered that they were also husbands, fathers, children of someone in their land. Then I understood that another kid like me grew up fatherless, without a reason and accepting this condition...
I hated the world around me because no one understood what I was proving and I was passing. A world divided in factions too busy to re-construct a reality and a truth to comfy for the various ideologies.
I hated the silence..."
Giacomo Marinelli Andreoli was the reporter Guglielmina Roncigli knew better and the one she trusted the most.
A week before she passed away, it was a Sunday morning, understanding the importance of the correspondence started with the son of Kurt Staudacher called him, with a strong decision: to leave him a copy of all her correspondence with Peter. "I don't have too much time anymore but I would want that this story wouldn't end here."
Giacomo was surely inspired by a wonderful soul when he wrote this book.
I just hope that this first book will open a sunny dialogue in the city of Gubbio, because a lot of people for too many decades suffered repressing their feelings, hating.
Many losers in this story.
I guess that the same killers of Staudacher have lived their existence everyday without peace, constricted to abandon Gubbio.
I don't think that they have lived one day in peace from that time on. The family of the german officer killed without reason, Staudacher lived a hard life.
The forty families of the martyrs because losing a person is not a joke in normal conditions, let's imagine during a war and in this shocking way.
Wars are senseless.
Do you know what?
There is a vein of great longevity in the Staudacher family, protestant and very religious. Some days before to being killed Kurt sent to his wife with his latest letter a thorn of cactus for being planted.
I know: you can think that Kurt didn't use the biggest romantic gesture of this world but he couldn't do differently and mainly he wanted to send to his beloved wife something solid, tender and at the same time resistant.
This cactus is never-never dead from that 1944. Can you imagine it?
The widow continued to cultivate this plant forever and ever, the latest gift of his husband donating it to all his relatives and friends and perpetuating its strength.
And: can you believe it? Now this special cactus has been donated also at the family Roncigli.
It's in our city.
This is a lesson of great civility, love, friendship, appreciation and open mind but more, a lesson of peace, real peace.
Truly touching and moving. I suggest this book to everyone. If you want to understand war, if you want to understand the horror of a war, the senseless of some actions and what they can cause for decades and decades to entire families. The city must still heal from that horrible wound.
Now I have a certainty: that thanks to Peter and Guglielmina this process will be possible.
I thank Giacomo Marinelli Andreoli because he wanted a review from me, thanks for the trust editor, it's a honor, and to Marsilio Publishing House for the book review copy.
Anna Maria Polidori