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If you look at their religion, for instance, the slaughter included one Catholic priest, many Catholics, but also Freemasons and atheists. It was probably the only mass murder in which Jews and non-Jews were killed together. Or politics: the victims range from people who were not political and were picked up at random to guerrilla fighters who had been active in the Resistance, and from conservatives to Communists, with everything in between.

They came from all neighborhoods, from all walks of life. And they were lawyers and waiters, Jewish peddlers and Piedmontese aristocrats, students and railroad workers, and carpenters and teachers. Also, because Rome was the capital, the victims came from throughout the nation. Thus, while most other massacres are primarily a local tragedy, the Fosse Ardeatine somehow gathers all of Italy into one shared act of violence. This demographic factor is reinforced, of course, by the fact that, as the capital, Rome represents the country as a whole also symbolically. Besides, Rome is also the capital of the Catholic Church, which enhances its symbolic meaning.

In fact, one of the huge questions—into which I will not go—is, what role did the Catholic Church play in that context? The Fosse Ardeatine is now one of the most beautiful, moving modern monuments in Rome. But if you go, you will see that the fosse—ditches—are in fact tunnels that were dug in order to extract the materials for the building boom of the s, when the new capital was expanding to accommodate the influx of people that were attracted there from all over Italy.

So, I think of those tunnels, those holes, as a funnel into which the whole history of the city was poured on that day in and out of which other stories radiated afterwards. Some examples. The name of the man who lit the fuse and started the battle at via Rasella is Rosario Bentivegna. Through him and other protagonists, then, the history of via Rasella and the Fosse Ardeatine links up with the whole of Italian history, beginning with the struggle for independence in the Risorgimento.

Another example: Righetto Ferola. He was a blacksmith in Trastevere, which, before it became so gentrified, was a popular neighborhood of artisans and workers. The partisans would strew them on the roads, and tear the tires of German convoys on their way to Anzio and Cassino, stopping supplies and reinforcements to the front and making the immobilized trucks an easy target for Allied planes.

Righetto Ferola was one of four children of Giovanni Ferola. Giovanni Ferola was a student in the Trastevere seminar in the s: that was the only way a young man from a poor family could get an education. Trastevere, his old neighbourhood, had a Republican tradition going back to the battles fought by Garibaldi in , in defense of the Roman Republic, on the Gianicolo hill.

Again, contemporary identities are rooted in a century-old history of the city. There are hundreds of such stories around the Fosse Ardeatine, so that if you take the stories of these families and these people, you have a cross-section of the history of Rome itself. This is one of the reasons why this massacre is so significant. Another reason why it is so meaningful is the way in which it was carried out. In fact, they were not barbarously murdered at all: it was a very civilized massacre. It could not have been carried out without the modern state, without the logistics, without the archives, without Western civilization.

They had to have places of detention, the central jail at Regina Coeli and the Nazi prison and torture chamber at via Tasso, from which they picked out the victims. They had to have an established procedure and chain of command in order to kill them all in an orderly manner. They took the victims in groups of five into the tunnels, forced them to kneel down, and shot them in the back of the head with a modern machine gun.

The tunnels were dark and narrow, and after a while, the incoming victims had to kneel on the bodies of those who had been killed before them. At one point some of the executioners became disturbed, many of them had never killed before, so they had to be given a sip of brandy. Someone had suggested calling in a priest to comfort them no one mentioned a rabbi , but they decided against it because, as Colonel Kappler said later in court, it would have been unkind to interrupt the victims as they were making their last confessions.

All in all, a very humanitarian massacre. Very civilized. This means that we, our culture, our Western tradition, are involved. It was not a savage act. The savages do it differently. This was us. And the question that the massacre generates is: Who are we? What kind of civilization is ours? Third, and perhaps the most important reason why this episode is charged with meaning, is the way it has been remembered.

In oral history, in fact, we do not simply reconstruct the history of an event but also the history of its memory, the ways in which it grows, changes, and operates in the time between then and now. At the center of this story lies a false memory. Let me illustrate it with a little anecdote. The fact is it did not happen that way. Now, the mechanics were just too easy, so easy that they would hardly justify the writing of an academic essay; and in fact there is no academic historiography of the Fosse Ardeatine. What is not easy is the memory—but until very recently, memory, and especially false memory, has been beneath the attention of historians.

So that, in the absence of competent, credible historical writing, the popular press and reactionary gossip have gone on unchecked, spreading the false narrative of partisan responsibility. Once again, it was not so. There had been plenty of partisan attacks, and German casualties in Rome, before via Rasella. However, the Nazis had chosen not to publicize the fact by carrying out public retaliations. Had they done so, they would have had to admit that they could be attacked and killed, whereas the myth of their invincibility and invulnerability was essential to keeping the city under control.

Via Rasella, however, could not be ignored: it was a pitched battle in the middle of the day, in the center of Rome, in which the Nazis were soundly defeated. They had to act quickly to restore their psychological domination over the city. What counted was terrorizing Rome with a swift and merciless retaliation to show that they could not be touched. Thus, while popular memory images an automatic, undivided sequence of cause and effect, the attack and the retaliation were in fact two distinct events.

There was no such thing as the ten-to-one law. The Nazi officials on the scene concluded that a ten-to-one ratio was logistically feasible and it was the first time that it was formally applied in Italy. Thus, in the interval between the partisan attack and the Nazi reprisal there was a debate, a negotiation, and a political and military decision. There was nothing automatic about the massacre. However, claiming that the sequence was automatic is functional to blaming the partisans, claiming not only that they should have known that this was the inevitable consequence of their action, and even that they did it on purpose to provoke the massacre, so that the city would rebel or, alternatively, so that the Germans would execute non-Communist prisoners and thus clear the way for Communist hegemony over the Resistance and postwar Italy.

Incidentally, there were over eighty Communists among those killed at the Fosse Ardeatine. This ideological construct is sustained by an imagined politics of time. In fact, it was only twenty-two hours between the partisan attack shortly before p. This is necessary so that one can imagine that the Nazis had time either to ask the partisans to deliver themselves or to seek them out—and to imagine that the partisans had the time and the opportunity to save the hostages by delivering themselves.

The fascinating thing about mythic imagination is that it cannot be influenced by information. Let me reconstruct an imaginary but typical conversation. The person says that the partisans were warned that they should turn themselves in to avoid the massacre. I inform him that they were never warned, that there was no precedent, that there was no time, that the Nazis only released the news of the attack after the massacre had been carried out.

And then he says, all right, but they should have turned themselves in anyway, even if they had not been asked. I object that this would be an odd, self-defeating way of waging a war; and besides, the orders were never to do so, even if requested, because under torture one might expose the whole Resistance underground. All right, says he—they should not have attacked the Germans in the first place. I object: how can you fight a war of liberation without attacking the occupying army?

And the final, if often unspoken answer is: the whole Resistance was a mistake and a crime. The memory of the Fosse Ardeatine as part of the birth of democracy is staged every year on the anniversary of the massacre, when the President, the Mayor, and all the authorities, attend the celebrations. However, the families of the survivors always come out of the ceremony upset. A commemoration is the search for a unitary meaning, but there is no way you can generate a unitary meaning that will recognize all the different identities and histories of these men: are they all patriots, all martyrs, all partisans, all heroes, all innocents or, as in some widespread false memories, all Communists, all Jews, all criminals out of jail?

Indeed, in the mids the families asked the authorities to stop making speeches, to stop trying to impose an interpretation or a meaning. What is at play here is the tension between private and public memory. The graves are there, in an enormous room, three hundred and thirty-five concrete graves beneath a dark concrete ceiling, a metaphor for the darkness in which they were killed, only relieved by a thin slice of daylight at the sides.

And the tension is not only between public and private memory but also about whose private memory. In fact, the only thing one could say that is shared by all the victims is that they were all men. But here, or in other cases like Civitella in Tuscany, they took time to organize the slaughter and generally chose to kill only men. Of course, the victims also had fathers, but the fathers were powerless. They felt that they had failed to protect their children, that they had lost the continuity of their lineage. Some cherished dreams of revenge, others were sunk into despair.

So it was women who were left to deal with reality. And on the bus you could hear mothers and wives arguing over whose loss was more painful. Children grew up playing on the space in front of the caves, while their mothers were inside putting flowers on the graves or trying to identify the bodies. These were low-paying jobs, and often they had to take two or three jobs to make ends meet for their big families. One woman, Gabriella Polli, recalled that her mother worked cleaning offices in the morning, as a phone operator at a hospital at night, and came home in the afternoon to take care of her four daughters.

For what? One day her grandmother went down to the grocery store to buy some bread—goods were still rationed, and there were long lines in the stores. But she came back in a few minutes, very pleased: the owner, she said, had kindly told her to step in front of the line and served her first. He wanted to get rid of you as soon as he could.

But these women in black, in the streets, in the stores, in the offices, were a reminder of death to a city that was anxiously trying to go back to life after years of death and oppression. So they were pitied but were not always welcome. It was a grief that was washed, ironed, folded, and put away in a drawer. The Allies entered Rome on June 6, and immediately, the very next day, thousands of people flocked to the Fosse Ardeatine. So in order to bury these people they had to unbury them first.

This was one of the most excruciating moments in the whole story. These bodies had been piled on top of one another under the ground for months, and when pathologist Attilio Ascarelli and his team began to exhume them, in the middle of the hot Roman summer, the condition in which they were found was indescribable. Finally, some thoughts on what oral history does in these contexts.

In oral history, however, the narrator is the protagonist, the center of the tale. The reason I got involved in this project was that in one of the perpetrators of the massacre was found in Argentina, extradited to Italy, and put on trial. And the press talked about the survivors in patronizing terms: these poor suffering people, after all these years, still fainting, still crying, still acting as if it had just happened. So the question I asked was, how did these people survive, how did they lead a normal life, how were they able to act as citizens, as working people, all these years, with this open wound inside them?

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While history was interested in the dramatic events of March , I was interested in the stories that radiated out of them; I was interested in the dead, but also in the lives of the survivors, in the stories that radiated out of the funnel of the Ardeatine Caves. Some of them had testified in court or had been interviewed before. But they were always asked to give testimony about the historic event, to talk about what happened to their fathers or their husbands or their sons on March 24, The courts and the media were not interested in them, but in those historic events.

However, you cannot do oral history unless your interest is focused on the person with whom you are talking. What I wanted to know was not just what they had seen in but what their lives had been like since then—because oral history always leads us from the past to the present. So one of the things I often did was, when I had asked all the questions I could think of, and the interviewee had told all the stories she thought were worth telling, I would always let the tape run on and just chat.

So, I was talking to Ada Pignotti, one of the great storytellers in the group, who had told the story of the Fosse Ardeatine countless times, in schools or in media interviews. She had been married six months when her husband was killed. You need confirmation from other sources, from other people. She was not aware that there were now such things as gender history, social history, the history of sexuality— indeed oral history—and that what she went through had historical significance in itself.

This, after all, is another function of oral history: to bring into the vision of history aspects of experience that have been ignored and left out, and at the same time to challenge and stimulate the historical self-awareness of the people we interview. Roosevelt to the White House in and contributed to creating the Democratic majority that dominated U. Eisenhower in The timing in the shift of the political allegiance of Italian Americans from the GOP to the Democratic Party during the interwar years is well known and has been largely documented by analyses of election returns.

Broadly speaking, voters of Italian ancestry began to desert the Republican Party between and , consolidated their new Democratic allegiance in , and went back, in part, to the GOP in Drawing upon published and unpublished interviews and oral narratives, this chapter intends to go beyond a mere examination of voting statistics in order to give a few examples of how the Italian American experience affected the partisan choices of members of the Little Italies at the polls. Most Italians who arrived in the United States between the late nineteenth century and the end of mass immigration in the s were unskilled laborers who were barely literate and could hardly make ends meet in their adoptive land.

Newcomers with little knowledge of both electoral democracy and the English language fell easy prey to urban political machines Nelli ; Martellone ; Garroni Like other immigrants from eastern and southern European nations, many Italians, too, were willing to barter their votes in exchange for patronage jobs and other services— spanning from leniency in party-controlled local courts to free clothing, coal, and food baskets—that political machines were ready to provide Merton , 71—81; Cornwell ; McCaffery , —23, — There are ten thousand of them at the disposal of the Organization.

The Poles, Hungarians, Italians, and the other foreigners who come here vote with us because we control the offices. Similarly, in the words of Arturo Cortese, on election days in the s, Philadelphians of Italian descent could see Republican boss Charles C. Conversely, cities like Boston, where the Democratic party controlled most positions under the spoils system in the municipal administrations, produced Democratic pluralities among Italian Americans in the s as well Gamm , On this occasion, many Italian Americans deserted the GOP because they easily identified themselves with the Democratic standard bearer, a Catholic politician who wanted to repeal Prohibition and was the first presidential candidate of either major party who did not belong to the WASP political establishment.

Street with a truck and amplifiers. No sooner we got there than stones and tomatoes came at us from every direction. The intimidation of voters was especially influential in company towns. In this latter milieu, the command of entrepreneurs over the lives of their employees was next to absolute and involved the domination of their voting behavior, too. The economic crisis of the s caused a major watershed in voting trends among Italian Americans. On the one hand, widespread unemployment freed workers from the control of their Republican employers.

Obviously, prospective voters with no job could not be threatened with dismissal if they did not cast their ballots for the GOP. On the other hand, hard times were blamed on the Republican administration of President Hoover. He promised prosperity if he was elected, but most of us were out of work in a year. Because I used to see some little kids walking without shoes, in the streets. For instance, after losing to his Democratic challenger by Oral narratives suggest that the economic crisis made Italian Americans more dependent on the services of the Republican organization that operated relief kitchens to supply the needy with food and established welfare committees offering Republican stalwarts free health care, clothing, and coal, besides paying utility bills on their behalf Bauman , 54— Going along these lines, I was able to convince pretty nearly the whole division, and.

The latter helped mobilize voters of Italian ancestry to the benefit of the Democratic Party Kennedy , —88, —91, Lewis, and we got our union back. Italian Americans also profited from the relief measures of the Roosevelt administration. Roosevelt gave them that. The late Democratic Congressman from Philadelphia and U. Ambassador to Italy, Thomas M. We went around begging for food and canned stuff and prepared a basket for people on relief and welfare and saw that they had a good Christmas for their family.

So, if you wanted to stay in work, you changed your party. Appointments to highranking positions or nominations for elective offices contributed to luring Italian Americans into the Democratic camp out of ethnic solidarity. Filomena A. In the Immigration and Nationality Act abolished the Immigration Act of , and since , immigrants from the eastern hemisphere were allowed to immigrate annually. Post a new wave of Chinese immigrants began to settle in Chinatown.

The influx of Mandarin and Fujianese speakers helped Chinatown expand its boundaries from the historic seven-block area around Mott and Mulberry Streets to an estimated block area from the East River to City Hall and from St. New York City was home to at least six ethically Italian enclaves established during the massive Italian immigration from to During the s southern Italians arrived in New York City in great numbers, but it was in the s that the great mass of Italian immigration began Italian laborers, musicians, barbers and tradesmen were enumerated in the census.

By the s, the area was known for several food businesses—one Pina Alleva, recently arrived from Benevento, established her cheese shop at the corner of Grand and Mulberry The thriving markets of Mott and Elizabeth Streets provided Little Italy residents with fresh fish and seafood, meats, cheeses, and the fresh fruits and vegetables abundant in Italian cities. Michael at Baxter Street.

In , the church was purchased by the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception province, who were already engaged in building St. Sat the time, only the basement was constructed and roofed over, and masses had been celebrated in the in complete building. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Malpezzi, Frances M. Italian-American folklore. Little Rock: August House. Mathias, Elizabeth, and Richard Raspa.

Italian folktales in America. Perks, Robert, and Alistair Thomson, ed. The oral history reader. Portelli, Alessandro. The order has been carried out: History, memory and meaning of a Nazi massacre in Rome. New York: Palgrave. Rome: Donzelli, Ritchie, Donald. Doing oral history. New York: Twayne. Scherini, Rose. Una storia segreta: When Italian Americans were enemy aliens. Schrager, Samuel.

What is social in oral history? Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson. Southern, Eileen.

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Readings in Black American music. New York: Norton. Spence, Linda. Legacy: A step-by-step guide to writing personal history. Athens: Swallow. Taylor, David A. Old ties, new attachments: ItalianAmerican folklife in the West. Washington DC: Library of Congress. Trojani, Alessandro. Go west!

Looking for Italians in the American west. Florence: Nuova Toscana Editrice. Vansina, Jan. Oral tradition as history. Madison: University of Wisconsin. Wigginton, Eliot. Reaching across the generations: The Foxfire experience. Yow, Valerie Raleigh. Recording oral history: A practical guide for social scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Various publications have treated the topic of the Italian internment: Scherini ; Fox , ; Di Stasi This is not a nuanced definition of current folklore studies, since contemporary folklorists study many other forms of culture that are not strictly orally transmitted but rely on other forms of communication and function in diverse contexts.

Bibliographies on Italian American folklore, although few, are useful: Del Giudice ; Cicala That is, groups maintain their memory by telling stories about the past. A researcher, therefore, may not be getting a new story created in response to specific questions but rather a well-formed community narrative that has undergone a process of community interpretation and reworking. At the June meeting of the International Oral History Association, in Rome, a disproportionately high number of participants came from South America especially Brazil. Topics such as desparecidos, recovering memory and creating a historic record despite totalitarian efforts to silence this memory, were a lietmotif.

Oral history, of course, has also been an extremely important methodology for studying elites e. Such sensitive political information is frequently locked in secrecy and kept out of view until decades after the fact. The earlier folk music revival as well as the more recent revival initiated in the mids in Italy offer further examples of the politically engaged tradition Del Giudice , Perks and Thomson , On the St. In an effort to return to public attention some of these out-of-circulation sounds, I provide a sampling of these sound recordings in Italian Traditional Song, along with an annotated and translated anthology of texts and an overview of traditional song genres.

Not only did Portelli knowledgeably address the topics of oral history and oral culture, given his scholarly experience in these fields, he was also able to beautifully practice what he preaches, that is, narrate orally in a storytelling mode that captivated the audience. B ack in —61, I was an American Field Service foreign exchange student at Westchester High School here in Los Angeles—which still exists, although it has been almost swallowed up by the airport.

And I had this wonderful experience of being an Italian in Los Angeles. Every Italian boy lives the day of Sunday in anxiety, waiting for the soccer results.

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The great privilege here was that, thanks to the time difference, by a. I also feel that somehow the historicity of contemporary Italy needs to be underlined at a conference like this. So what I would like to do is use these ideas as a template to talk about what is, by now, the center of my research, my thinking, and my feelings: the massacre at the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome. This act was ostensibly a reprisal for a partisan attack that had taken place the day before in a street in the center of Rome, via Rasella, when sixteen partisans attacked a unit of Nazi policemen attached to the SS.

The attack resulted in no partisan casualties and the death of thirty-three Nazi policemen. The retaliation was at the ratio of ten Italians for one German, and due to some confusion among the German police who were in charge of the action, the victims turned out to be If you mention the Fosse Ardeatine to anybody in Rome, especially if they or their family were there during the war, emotions will flare high. Why is this so? It has to do with meaning, with the construction of meaning.

One, of course, thinks of the Shoah, of the thirty thousand Jews killed in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, of the horrors of Nanking, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fifteen thousand civilians were slaughtered in over six hundred mass killings by the German occupying forces in Italy from to In Rome, almost two thousand Jews were deported and very few returned; but the highest number of casualties was caused by the Allied air raids: more than eighteen hundred people were killed on the first day of bombing alone, July 19, So, why is it that this memory is so poignant, so charged with meaning and emotion?

One of the things that make oral history different is that while more conventional history is primarily interested in what happened—why was the massacre carried out, in what way, whose responsibility is it, what was its place in the overall military scenario of the war and of the Resistance—oral history also asks another question: what does it mean? I will try to outline some of the factors that make this episode so charged with meaning. In the first place, it has to do with the place where it happened: this was the only major Nazi massacre that was perpetrated in the middle of a big western European metropolis.

Most Nazi mass killings took place in villages or rural areas, where the population and therefore the demography of the victims was relatively homogeneous. At the Fosse Ardeatine, the victims were a cross-section of the complex demography of a major Western city. If you look at their religion, for instance, the slaughter included one Catholic priest, many Catholics, but also Freemasons and atheists.

It was probably the only mass murder in which Jews and non-Jews were killed together. Or politics: the victims range from people who were not political and were picked up at random to guerrilla fighters who had been active in the Resistance, and from conservatives to Communists, with everything in between.

They came from all neighborhoods, from all walks of life. And they were lawyers and waiters, Jewish peddlers and Piedmontese aristocrats, students and railroad workers, and carpenters and teachers. Also, because Rome was the capital, the victims came from throughout the nation. Thus, while most other massacres are primarily a local tragedy, the Fosse Ardeatine somehow gathers all of Italy into one shared act of violence.

This demographic factor is reinforced, of course, by the fact that, as the capital, Rome represents the country as a whole also symbolically. Besides, Rome is also the capital of the Catholic Church, which enhances its symbolic meaning. In fact, one of the huge questions—into which I will not go—is, what role did the Catholic Church play in that context? The Fosse Ardeatine is now one of the most beautiful, moving modern monuments in Rome.

But if you go, you will see that the fosse—ditches—are in fact tunnels that were dug in order to extract the materials for the building boom of the s, when the new capital was expanding to accommodate the influx of people that were attracted there from all over Italy. So, I think of those tunnels, those holes, as a funnel into which the whole history of the city was poured on that day in and out of which other stories radiated afterwards. Some examples. The name of the man who lit the fuse and started the battle at via Rasella is Rosario Bentivegna. Through him and other protagonists, then, the history of via Rasella and the Fosse Ardeatine links up with the whole of Italian history, beginning with the struggle for independence in the Risorgimento.

Another example: Righetto Ferola. He was a blacksmith in Trastevere, which, before it became so gentrified, was a popular neighborhood of artisans and workers. The partisans would strew them on the roads, and tear the tires of German convoys on their way to Anzio and Cassino, stopping supplies and reinforcements to the front and making the immobilized trucks an easy target for Allied planes.

Righetto Ferola was one of four children of Giovanni Ferola. Giovanni Ferola was a student in the Trastevere seminar in the s: that was the only way a young man from a poor family could get an education. Trastevere, his old neighbourhood, had a Republican tradition going back to the battles fought by Garibaldi in , in defense of the Roman Republic, on the Gianicolo hill. Again, contemporary identities are rooted in a century-old history of the city. There are hundreds of such stories around the Fosse Ardeatine, so that if you take the stories of these families and these people, you have a cross-section of the history of Rome itself.

This is one of the reasons why this massacre is so significant. Another reason why it is so meaningful is the way in which it was carried out. In fact, they were not barbarously murdered at all: it was a very civilized massacre. It could not have been carried out without the modern state, without the logistics, without the archives, without Western civilization. They had to have places of detention, the central jail at Regina Coeli and the Nazi prison and torture chamber at via Tasso, from which they picked out the victims. They had to have an established procedure and chain of command in order to kill them all in an orderly manner.

They took the victims in groups of five into the tunnels, forced them to kneel down, and shot them in the back of the head with a modern machine gun. The tunnels were dark and narrow, and after a while, the incoming victims had to kneel on the bodies of those who had been killed before them. At one point some of the executioners became disturbed, many of them had never killed before, so they had to be given a sip of brandy. Someone had suggested calling in a priest to comfort them no one mentioned a rabbi , but they decided against it because, as Colonel Kappler said later in court, it would have been unkind to interrupt the victims as they were making their last confessions.

All in all, a very humanitarian massacre. Very civilized. This means that we, our culture, our Western tradition, are involved. It was not a savage act. The savages do it differently. This was us. And the question that the massacre generates is: Who are we? What kind of civilization is ours?

Third, and perhaps the most important reason why this episode is charged with meaning, is the way it has been remembered. In oral history, in fact, we do not simply reconstruct the history of an event but also the history of its memory, the ways in which it grows, changes, and operates in the time between then and now.

At the center of this story lies a false memory. Let me illustrate it with a little anecdote. The fact is it did not happen that way. Now, the mechanics were just too easy, so easy that they would hardly justify the writing of an academic essay; and in fact there is no academic historiography of the Fosse Ardeatine.

What is not easy is the memory—but until very recently, memory, and especially false memory, has been beneath the attention of historians. So that, in the absence of competent, credible historical writing, the popular press and reactionary gossip have gone on unchecked, spreading the false narrative of partisan responsibility.

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Once again, it was not so. There had been plenty of partisan attacks, and German casualties in Rome, before via Rasella. However, the Nazis had chosen not to publicize the fact by carrying out public retaliations. Had they done so, they would have had to admit that they could be attacked and killed, whereas the myth of their invincibility and invulnerability was essential to keeping the city under control. Via Rasella, however, could not be ignored: it was a pitched battle in the middle of the day, in the center of Rome, in which the Nazis were soundly defeated.

They had to act quickly to restore their psychological domination over the city. What counted was terrorizing Rome with a swift and merciless retaliation to show that they could not be touched. Thus, while popular memory images an automatic, undivided sequence of cause and effect, the attack and the retaliation were in fact two distinct events. There was no such thing as the ten-to-one law. The Nazi officials on the scene concluded that a ten-to-one ratio was logistically feasible and it was the first time that it was formally applied in Italy.

Thus, in the interval between the partisan attack and the Nazi reprisal there was a debate, a negotiation, and a political and military decision. There was nothing automatic about the massacre. However, claiming that the sequence was automatic is functional to blaming the partisans, claiming not only that they should have known that this was the inevitable consequence of their action, and even that they did it on purpose to provoke the massacre, so that the city would rebel or, alternatively, so that the Germans would execute non-Communist prisoners and thus clear the way for Communist hegemony over the Resistance and postwar Italy.

Incidentally, there were over eighty Communists among those killed at the Fosse Ardeatine. This ideological construct is sustained by an imagined politics of time. In fact, it was only twenty-two hours between the partisan attack shortly before p. This is necessary so that one can imagine that the Nazis had time either to ask the partisans to deliver themselves or to seek them out—and to imagine that the partisans had the time and the opportunity to save the hostages by delivering themselves.

The fascinating thing about mythic imagination is that it cannot be influenced by information. Let me reconstruct an imaginary but typical conversation. The person says that the partisans were warned that they should turn themselves in to avoid the massacre. I inform him that they were never warned, that there was no precedent, that there was no time, that the Nazis only released the news of the attack after the massacre had been carried out. And then he says, all right, but they should have turned themselves in anyway, even if they had not been asked.

I object that this would be an odd, self-defeating way of waging a war; and besides, the orders were never to do so, even if requested, because under torture one might expose the whole Resistance underground. All right, says he—they should not have attacked the Germans in the first place. I object: how can you fight a war of liberation without attacking the occupying army? And the final, if often unspoken answer is: the whole Resistance was a mistake and a crime.

The memory of the Fosse Ardeatine as part of the birth of democracy is staged every year on the anniversary of the massacre, when the President, the Mayor, and all the authorities, attend the celebrations. However, the families of the survivors always come out of the ceremony upset. A commemoration is the search for a unitary meaning, but there is no way you can generate a unitary meaning that will recognize all the different identities and histories of these men: are they all patriots, all martyrs, all partisans, all heroes, all innocents or, as in some widespread false memories, all Communists, all Jews, all criminals out of jail?

Indeed, in the mids the families asked the authorities to stop making speeches, to stop trying to impose an interpretation or a meaning. What is at play here is the tension between private and public memory. The graves are there, in an enormous room, three hundred and thirty-five concrete graves beneath a dark concrete ceiling, a metaphor for the darkness in which they were killed, only relieved by a thin slice of daylight at the sides.

And the tension is not only between public and private memory but also about whose private memory. In fact, the only thing one could say that is shared by all the victims is that they were all men. But here, or in other cases like Civitella in Tuscany, they took time to organize the slaughter and generally chose to kill only men.

Of course, the victims also had fathers, but the fathers were powerless. They felt that they had failed to protect their children, that they had lost the continuity of their lineage. Some cherished dreams of revenge, others were sunk into despair. So it was women who were left to deal with reality.

And on the bus you could hear mothers and wives arguing over whose loss was more painful. Children grew up playing on the space in front of the caves, while their mothers were inside putting flowers on the graves or trying to identify the bodies. These were low-paying jobs, and often they had to take two or three jobs to make ends meet for their big families.

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One woman, Gabriella Polli, recalled that her mother worked cleaning offices in the morning, as a phone operator at a hospital at night, and came home in the afternoon to take care of her four daughters. For what? One day her grandmother went down to the grocery store to buy some bread—goods were still rationed, and there were long lines in the stores. But she came back in a few minutes, very pleased: the owner, she said, had kindly told her to step in front of the line and served her first.

He wanted to get rid of you as soon as he could. But these women in black, in the streets, in the stores, in the offices, were a reminder of death to a city that was anxiously trying to go back to life after years of death and oppression. So they were pitied but were not always welcome. It was a grief that was washed, ironed, folded, and put away in a drawer.

The Allies entered Rome on June 6, and immediately, the very next day, thousands of people flocked to the Fosse Ardeatine. So in order to bury these people they had to unbury them first. This was one of the most excruciating moments in the whole story. These bodies had been piled on top of one another under the ground for months, and when pathologist Attilio Ascarelli and his team began to exhume them, in the middle of the hot Roman summer, the condition in which they were found was indescribable. Finally, some thoughts on what oral history does in these contexts.

In oral history, however, the narrator is the protagonist, the center of the tale.

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The reason I got involved in this project was that in one of the perpetrators of the massacre was found in Argentina, extradited to Italy, and put on trial. And the press talked about the survivors in patronizing terms: these poor suffering people, after all these years, still fainting, still crying, still acting as if it had just happened. So the question I asked was, how did these people survive, how did they lead a normal life, how were they able to act as citizens, as working people, all these years, with this open wound inside them?

While history was interested in the dramatic events of March , I was interested in the stories that radiated out of them; I was interested in the dead, but also in the lives of the survivors, in the stories that radiated out of the funnel of the Ardeatine Caves. Some of them had testified in court or had been interviewed before. But they were always asked to give testimony about the historic event, to talk about what happened to their fathers or their husbands or their sons on March 24, The courts and the media were not interested in them, but in those historic events.

However, you cannot do oral history unless your interest is focused on the person with whom you are talking. What I wanted to know was not just what they had seen in but what their lives had been like since then—because oral history always leads us from the past to the present. So one of the things I often did was, when I had asked all the questions I could think of, and the interviewee had told all the stories she thought were worth telling, I would always let the tape run on and just chat. So, I was talking to Ada Pignotti, one of the great storytellers in the group, who had told the story of the Fosse Ardeatine countless times, in schools or in media interviews.

She had been married six months when her husband was killed. You need confirmation from other sources, from other people. She was not aware that there were now such things as gender history, social history, the history of sexuality— indeed oral history—and that what she went through had historical significance in itself.

This, after all, is another function of oral history: to bring into the vision of history aspects of experience that have been ignored and left out, and at the same time to challenge and stimulate the historical self-awareness of the people we interview. Roosevelt to the White House in and contributed to creating the Democratic majority that dominated U. Eisenhower in The timing in the shift of the political allegiance of Italian Americans from the GOP to the Democratic Party during the interwar years is well known and has been largely documented by analyses of election returns. Broadly speaking, voters of Italian ancestry began to desert the Republican Party between and , consolidated their new Democratic allegiance in , and went back, in part, to the GOP in Drawing upon published and unpublished interviews and oral narratives, this chapter intends to go beyond a mere examination of voting statistics in order to give a few examples of how the Italian American experience affected the partisan choices of members of the Little Italies at the polls.

Most Italians who arrived in the United States between the late nineteenth century and the end of mass immigration in the s were unskilled laborers who were barely literate and could hardly make ends meet in their adoptive land. Newcomers with little knowledge of both electoral democracy and the English language fell easy prey to urban political machines Nelli ; Martellone ; Garroni Like other immigrants from eastern and southern European nations, many Italians, too, were willing to barter their votes in exchange for patronage jobs and other services— spanning from leniency in party-controlled local courts to free clothing, coal, and food baskets—that political machines were ready to provide Merton , 71—81; Cornwell ; McCaffery , —23, — There are ten thousand of them at the disposal of the Organization.

The Poles, Hungarians, Italians, and the other foreigners who come here vote with us because we control the offices. Similarly, in the words of Arturo Cortese, on election days in the s, Philadelphians of Italian descent could see Republican boss Charles C. Conversely, cities like Boston, where the Democratic party controlled most positions under the spoils system in the municipal administrations, produced Democratic pluralities among Italian Americans in the s as well Gamm , On this occasion, many Italian Americans deserted the GOP because they easily identified themselves with the Democratic standard bearer, a Catholic politician who wanted to repeal Prohibition and was the first presidential candidate of either major party who did not belong to the WASP political establishment.

Street with a truck and amplifiers. No sooner we got there than stones and tomatoes came at us from every direction. The intimidation of voters was especially influential in company towns. In this latter milieu, the command of entrepreneurs over the lives of their employees was next to absolute and involved the domination of their voting behavior, too.

The economic crisis of the s caused a major watershed in voting trends among Italian Americans. On the one hand, widespread unemployment freed workers from the control of their Republican employers. Obviously, prospective voters with no job could not be threatened with dismissal if they did not cast their ballots for the GOP. On the other hand, hard times were blamed on the Republican administration of President Hoover. He promised prosperity if he was elected, but most of us were out of work in a year.

Because I used to see some little kids walking without shoes, in the streets. For instance, after losing to his Democratic challenger by Oral narratives suggest that the economic crisis made Italian Americans more dependent on the services of the Republican organization that operated relief kitchens to supply the needy with food and established welfare committees offering Republican stalwarts free health care, clothing, and coal, besides paying utility bills on their behalf Bauman , 54— Going along these lines, I was able to convince pretty nearly the whole division, and.

The latter helped mobilize voters of Italian ancestry to the benefit of the Democratic Party Kennedy , —88, —91, Lewis, and we got our union back. Italian Americans also profited from the relief measures of the Roosevelt administration. Roosevelt gave them that. The late Democratic Congressman from Philadelphia and U. Ambassador to Italy, Thomas M. We went around begging for food and canned stuff and prepared a basket for people on relief and welfare and saw that they had a good Christmas for their family.

So, if you wanted to stay in work, you changed your party. Appointments to highranking positions or nominations for elective offices contributed to luring Italian Americans into the Democratic camp out of ethnic solidarity. Filomena A. In particular, studies have pointed out that people tend to recall that they voted for the winners of elections, even if they actually cast their ballots for the losers, or may report a different party choice than the real one, for personal expediency.

According to political scientists Richard G. Niemi, Richard S. Katz, and David Newman , the error rate can be as high as 25 to 30 percent of the sample. These arguments, however, do not necessarily mean that oral history is inconsistent with political and electoral analyses. A house for all peoples: Ethnic politics in Chicago, — Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Anderson, Kristi.


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