|The wasp - symbol of Quadraro/Graffiti by Luca Maleonte|
Contemporary Romans continue to wrestle with memories of World War II, particularly the 9-month occupation of Rome by the Nazis. We are currently in a period of the 70th anniversary of many of the atrocities that occurred during that occupation, which ended on June 4, 1944, when the Allies marched into Rome as the Germans, having declared Rome an "Open City" the day before, retreated.
Two weeks ago, RST participated in a short march and ceremony in the old Rome suburb of Quadraro, as part of that community's commemoration of the Nazi rastrellamento (round up) of all able-bodied men in the neighborhood. The round-up began at 4 a.m. on April 17, 1944, when the Germans sealed off the neighborhood. It ended with about 2,000 men being taken to nearby Cinecitta' (which served as barracks for various purposes during and after the war), winnowed, and over 1,000 sent to German labor camps. About half returned to Quadraro.
|Banner from the "Nido di Vespe" section of the national partisans'|
The community was targeted by the Germans because of its left-wing, anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist sympathies. The Germans referred to it as a nido di vespe - or "wasps' nest." And the community proudly carries that label today. (And, yes, americani, "Vespa" means "Wasp.")
Research into those missing began only about 30 years ago, 40 years after the war ended, and calls for the event to be included in history books continue to this day.
|Sculpture in the park: wife and child protecting man|
from German soldier (left)
The march, complete with military band, went from an older war monument to a sculpture in a park specifically dedicated to April 17, 1944. Representatives of the Mayor (who was billed as attending, but sent a representative) and other politicians and labor groups spoke. The prior mayor, Gianni Alemanno, certainly would not have been in attendance at an event celebrating leftists and with the participation of partisan organizations.
Bill thought the crowd, which he estimated at about 130 (excluding the band and police protection) to be substantial and heartening. I thought the number was closer to about 40 (excluding also the speakers and their entourages), and disappointingly small.
|Sisto Quaranta, 88, recalls being awakened by German soldiers|
on the morning of April 17, 1944 as he lay in bed -
when they pressed the handle of a
grenade launcher into his chest
In the crowd were some residents who were part of the rastrellamento and remember it well.
The tragedy of the Fosse Ardeatine took place only 3 weeks before this round-up, and 6 weeks later the Germans had left Rome.