September 8, 1943 for the inmates of Urbisaglia
September 8 commemorates the armistice and the surrender of Italy proclaimed on September 8, 1943, a surprise for all Italians, including those who militated in our army alongside the Germans of the Nazi third Reich north of the Gustav line, who at any moment the allies found themselves in the role of enemies.
The defensive line of the Germans, the Gustav line, which connected Montecassino with the mouth of the Garigliano river on the Tyrrhenian Sea and with the city of Ortona, just south of Pescara, was broken through by the allies on the Adriatic side at the end of 1943, while Ortona, despite the landing of Anzio in January 1944, it will be freed only in May, opening the door to the liberation of Rome which took place on June 4th.
Urbisaglia remained under the Nazi-Fascist domination of Central and Northern Italy, in the Social Republic of Salò, in which the Nazis had imposed a puppet government headed by Mussolini, after he was deposed on 25 July 1943 and then freed by the Germans in mid-September. Urbisaglia’s proximity to the front line made it more involved in the war of the regular armies and the partisan one.
The defeat of the German, Italian and Japanese armies was already an evident reality on all fronts, but the insane obstinacy of Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese Emperor led to prolong the war and to add destruction and death for millions more. people.
As for the inmates of the Urbisaglia camp, if from 25 July they had begun to hope for an upcoming liberation, in the days following 8 September 1943 they were tormented by the threat of German occupation. A letter from the Prefect of Macerata to the Ministry of the Interior, dated 18 September, testifies to the climate of terror that reigned in those days of uncertainty:
On the 16th current the stateless Jews remained interned in the concentration camp of Urbisaglia, 35 in number, having noticed the passage of German troops, and fearing that the camp would be occupied by them, as was that of the English prisoners of war, evading the security guards managed to climb over the boundary wall and escape. Some then returned spontaneously in the evening, while others were taken back to the camp by the CCs. RR. of the Urbisaglia station where they were refugees. By now the psychosis of the terror of falling into the hands of the Germans is such that it is very difficult to calm it down. The same terror has also invaded the service staff, so the functioning of the services relating to provisioning and whatever else is needed cannot be guaranteed. The Prefect.
The terror of being captured by the Germans, together with the lack of money, documents, knowledge of the places and of the Italian language, led many of the foreign inmates to return to the camp after a few days, also because the Commissioner of Macerata, who ordered the return , guaranteed that civilian inmates would have nothing to fear. The fortnightly report on the presence in the camp, dated 30 September 1943, counted the presence of fifty-eight inmates.
On the same day a truck driven by an Italian fascist officer and escorted by German soldiers entered the Urbisaglia Camp to transfer the internees to the Sforzacosta Camp from which, in the following months, they were transferred to the Fossoli concentration camp, in the province of Modena. and subsequently deported to the extermination camps.
In the Marche the partisan war lasted several months because the advance of the Allies got bogged down on the Gustav line. Throughout that period the resident population showed solidarity with the partisans by hiding and feeding them, knowing full well the risk of death they and their families ran. The inhabitants of entire mountain villages that hosted the fugitives had to all agree to protect these people from the German SS and the fascists, since the denunciation of a single resident would have been enough to send to the wall all those who hid or helped the “rebels”. I learned from my parents that even an allied aviator who was saved by parachute from the downing of his plane, African American and therefore easily distinguishable by the color of his skin, was hidden and protected by the residents.
This “daily heroism” I spoke of in January 2019, during the memory that the Municipal Administration wanted to dedicate to my father, Primo Ugo Hanau, interned in Urbisaglia, remains to the honor and pride of our populations who deserve to be remembered to the new generations. They have the task of learning from history to avoid falling back into the mistakes and horrors of the past.
Prof. Carlo Hanau
Former professor of Planning and Organization of Social and Health Services at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and at the University of Bologna