Posted on July 29, 2010 by Amanda Wilson
On Wednesday we visit Marzabotto, site of one of the most brutal massacres committed by SS forces in Italy during World War II. On our way out of Bologna and deeper into the hills of Emiglia Romagna, the peaceful landscape gives no hint of the terrible tragedy that occurred here, in the little village of Casaglia, on September 28, 1944 when Nazi forces brutally slaughter the priest at the altar of the Casaglia village church and some 80 more people in the cemetary. As we sit in the sun in the cemetary as puppies play in the grass, we hear the testimony from a first-person witness who lost his entire family, most of them on that 1 single, tragic day. His story is recounted calmly but in vivid detail.
Survivor Franceso Pirini tells his story. Only 4 people survived the Casaglia church massacre: his sister was one of them. At the age of 17, old enough to be a "partigiano" and therefor more vulnerable - they thought - Francesco was hiding in the hills.Casaglia church: Before
Decades later, in the year 2000, a German journalist based in Italy asked him, “If you could stand in front of the commanding SS officer and say one thing, what would it be?” Francesco, who lost his mother, father, 1 sister, and 4 cousins during the war, answers, “I would forgive him: lo perdonerei.” The journalists repeats his question. Again, Francesco gives the same answer: lo perdonerei. It is this forgiveness, he says, that has permitted him to make friends with people from all over the world, especially among the Germans who sometimes visit Marzabotto and Monte Sole.After the war, Francesco remains in his home village. He lives there till this day and has many children and grandchildren nearby. ”La vita riprende,” he says; “life goes on.” After retirement, it takes him another 10 years to be able to tell his story. Now he shares his testimony with many visitors who come from all over the world. “E’ un dovere che ho,” he tells us, smiling; “It is something I must do.”