Tuesday, 25 April 2017

April 25th 1945, a day of liberation and now a national holiday


I am looking at a picture posted by an Italian friend on facebook of a man in a train compartment in the rush hour.

Nothing you might think odd about that except that he has a machine gun slung over his shoulder.  I missed it when I first came across the image and was drawn back by her comment and the date.

She wrote that she found “it fitting, [and] particularly laden with meaning,” because April 25th is a national holiday in Italy and marks both the end of what was left of Mussolini’s fascist state but also the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy on that day in 1945.

Senor Prigile, August 14th 1944
And so I guess the picture was a posed comment on the events of that day sixty-eight years ago.

I would like to have used it but in the absence of copyright details for the present it will just have to sit on facebook and what ever Italian news agency issued it.

In its place there is this picture of Senor Prigile, an Italian partisan in Florence taken on August 14th 1944.

British troops had been ordered to avoid fighting the Germans in the precincts of the city of Florence but Italian Partisans, occupying the Fortress Di Basso exchanged fire with the German snipers that remained after the German forces evacuated Florence.

Now like many of my generation I was brought up on a diet of national stereo types and given the close proximity of the war the crude picture of Italians was that all they ate was  pasta and were all to ready to surrender.

It was an image much hyped by the propaganda of the war years and ignored the many brave Italians who opposed the Fascists both before and after they came to power in 1922.

It also ignored those that against their will were conscripted into the armed forces, to fight first in Abyssinia and Greece and later in North Africa and on the Eastern Front.  Nor is much said about  those who were held in Soviet prisons long after the war and those who never returned.

This I hasten to add is in no way a defence of the fascist regime which so brutally eliminated parliamentary democracy in Italy and did nothing to prevent the exploitation of working people.

Rather it is recognition that there were many Italians who opposed Mussolini and resisted as best they could.  And some who risked their lives to protect allied prisoners of war who had escaped and were  on the run from the German Army.

Corso Giacomo Matteotti on an April afternoon
And I often think of that opposition when we are in the Corso Giacomo Matteotti which is one of my favourite parts of Varese.

Here you can find posh clothes outlets, elegant cafes and wonderful food shops ranging from the expensive bakery to ordinary fruit and veg shops a fishmonger and a butcher.

It is named after the socialist MP who denounced the fascists in the Italian Parliament for election bribery in 1924 and was murdered by them just 11 days later

So I shall be talking to our Italian family later this evening and asking them how the holiday has gone.

Location; Italy

Pictures; Corso Giacomo Matteotti from the collection of Andrew SimpsonSenor Prigile, August 14th, 1944. “This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken, or artworks created, by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation and is in the public domain, Wikipedia Commons."

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