Moni Ovadia: Resistance, Workers’ Rights and Israeli Politics

Moni Ovadia proved to be most helpful and friendly; he agreed to let us interview him on two separate occasions, in between his other commitments. He actively participated in the discussion, becoming quite impassioned, and no topic was left unanswered.
This interview, unpublished until now, was collected between April 29th and May 3rd 2009; that is why some questions are about April 25th and May 1st.
Here we present the first part. The second will be published in the next issue of Inkroci.

I know you recently participated in a demonstration on the occasion of April 25th, in front of the Cervi brothers’ house…
Yes I did, outside the Cervi museum, indeed.

In an article published on the Internet by Caliceti, one of the few who mentioned the event, I read that you had made some very direct, very precise statements. In particular, you stressed the importance of knowing the origin of this particular commemoration.
Yes, of course.

But, if some interviews shown on the television news are to be believed, there are many people who don’t know what we are really celebrating.
That’s the problem with Italy. I said the same thing in an interview I gave to Micromega, as well. Berlusconi wouldn’t be at the head of our government if people were familiar with the Constitution and what the anti-fascist Resistance was. The assumption of the anti-fascist Resistance, according to Primo Levi, is that in a society where privileges exist, the root of Nazi-fascism is still present. Levi urges that privilege be fought, as it is one of the breeding grounds of fascism. We have a country in which privilege reigns supreme, in which justice – I use a term that might seem die-hard communist, but isn’t – is a class justice: the poor go to jail, the big criminals run free. There is impunity of the great evildoers; I don’t mean to deny that some mafia members are in jail, but this doesn’t prevent the mafia from taking control of a significant part of the country. So, the great lesson taught by the anti-fascist Resistance was that for the first time the poor, the classes that had been called subaltern workers, were the protagonists; the anti-fascist Resistance was also fought by intellectuals, people from the progressive or high-profile liberal bourgeoisie, but it was largely fought by workers, peasants, workmen, artisans.

It was a grassroots revolt…
These changes were brought about by a grassroots revolution. One effect was that of making Italians a single people for the first time, in the sense that only with the Resistance did citizens become equal. Previously, women were second-class citizens: they were actresses or prostitutes, or both at the same time, on occasion; the conception of the role of women during Fascism was extremely undemocratic and discriminatory. It was only with the anti-fascist Resistance that things changed, and this should be remembered by some centre-right pasionarias. They should remember that if they can now rouse Parliament with all their pathos, like Alessandra Mussolini does, they owe it to the partisans. And they owe it to the communist partisans as well. Indeed, especially to the communist partisans. These things must be known: if they were part of the collective consciousness, we would not have what we have today. Not only: the anti-fascist Resistance solemnly declares one thing, which is its own founding principle: there is no democracy or freedom without equality.

Among other things, in the Resistance war the contribution of women partisans was very important. Women did a lot in the Resistance, from being couriers to taking part in the fighting.
Exactly. They were even fighters. And they significantly contributed to the partisan struggle, because they knew that it was their dignity as human beings that was at stake, as well as the dignity of all women as human beings and citizens, which fascism had totally denied them, either because they were subordinated to the role of churning out children or because they were intended to play the sexual role of satisfying the warrior.

Or, in the best case scenario, to be the angel of the hearth…
Yes, in line with the most banal and hackneyed rhetoric.

In the news programme I mentioned before, a girl who was interviewed said, more or less: “I wasn’t there at that time, therefore it doesn’t concern me”. It’s a disconcerting statement, isn’t it?
Such a statement demonstrates the inadequacy of the education of the collective consciousness, the social conscience of our youths. This young lady does not realize that if that event she did not attend hadn’t taken place, her life would have been completely different. It’s as though she said, since I was not there, I consider my life as just a gift from someone, or an accident, I don’t care; therefore, if one day she were told that she were not free to vote, she would have no right to complain. But unfortunately this indifferent attitude, which is widespread among certain sectors of the population, among certain individuals, not only in Italy but overwhelmingly so in our country, is the result of a failed de-fascistisation of Italy, as well as of an operation aimed at making the hard- and bloodily-won collective consciousness innocuous. Because it was not of interest at the time. Let me explain… Today we have a Germany that is very different from the Germany of yesterday, because denazifizierung has been taken seriously. Consider that the German Constitution – I would like to fight to introduce the same into ours as well – established the constitutional right to rebel against unjust laws. That’s because they learned a lesson from that horrendous cultural attitude that had allowed the Nazi ringleaders to say “I was obeying orders”. What happened in our case? During the Cold War our government, in deference to the wishes of the government of the United States of America, expelled from our State bodies – mostly from the police, intelligence services and prefecture – all those who had been in the Resistance, and reinstated all the fascists who had got off scot free thanks to Minister of Justice Togliatti, who signed the amnesty. He wanted it, proposed it and signed it. On the one hand Togliatti did the right thing; I would have done just the same, because you cannot live in a permanent state of war. But I would have asked for one thing: that no-one who had been compromised by connection with the fascist Salò Republic regime or with the Nazis should be able to hold office in State institutions. At least I would have said: let them go free, pardoned, but they will never, during their lifetime, have access to the delicate and crucial structures of the constitutional institutions of the republic. But no, they did the exact opposite: they expelled the partisans.

Because they had a destabilising effect…
Because they were considered dangerous, subversive and sympathizers of the Soviet Union. We once had this situation. Then, once the situation was over, we didn’t bother to say “but now…” No, on the contrary, it continued with the fascists, the former fascists, becoming a centre-right political party. At that point, of course, those former fascists went about cleaning up their image. Today their current representative, our Speaker of the Lower House, Gianfranco Fini, does actually seem to have taken a deeper and maybe more honest path, perhaps due to his holding institutional office or perhaps because he has slowly become aware of what fascism was in practical terms. Sometimes this can happen: that someone, whose ideas have been obfuscated for a long time due to his belonging to a particular family or in order to continue a tradition, can, when solicited and  if endowed with human sensibility, truly understand the extent of a mistake, even one which has been perpetrated over time. But, in my opinion, some of the activists of Alleanza Nazionale1, especially those who come from the ranks of MSI2, still show strong longings and nostalgia for the idea of the established order; otherwise, they would be the first to repudiate certain laws. Like the idea of fingerprinting Roma children or having doctors report illegal immigrants, as proposed by the Northern League, a racist and xenophobic party. Nevertheless, I believe that their xenophobic and racist oriented choices are made more out of selfish interests than out of any real feeling: they have understood that by acting in this way they can sway a good deal of the electorate, the more fragile, the less cultured. However, having said that, a huge part of the Italian population, perhaps some 55%, do not know the Constitution of the Republic, do not know its true values, and regard the Resistance and the fight against fascism as an irritation, or are indifferent to it.

Can the Italian anomaly be due to the fact that in Italy we did not have the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials?
I agree with you. I often mention it too. Paradoxically – I’ll tell you one of the great Italian paradoxes – all this happened because of the prominence of the partisan and the anti-fascist Resistance: because the partisans, the anti-fascists had saved Italian honour, whereas a similar phenomenon did not happen, or only marginally happened, in Germany. There the Nazis, having been initially much tougher and more ruthless, had physically liquidated their opponents. In Italy, we are the ones that said “ok, here fascism lost the war, but there was April 25th, September 8th, the Resistance, therefore we are also a country that fought on the side of the Allies,” and so on. This, combined with the myth of “Italians, good people” allowed us to get away with it. There is a wonderful book of this title (Italians, Good People), by the historian Del Boca, the greatest specialist in East Africa and of all the crimes perpetrated there by the Italians, from Cyrenaica to Libya. Now I tell you: 720 Italian fascist war criminals were asked to be brought to judgment by the Greeks, Albanians, Slavs and Africans; not one was delivered to trial, not to mention sentencing.  This was yet another thing the Cold War was responsible for: Italy was not to be weakened. And today we have instituted Remembrance Day, which rightly recalls the victims of the Foibe and the pain of the Istrian exodus; but 80% of Italians are ignorant of the specific crimes of Italian fascism, of the frightening and horrific genocide. In fact, I think I’ll celebrate Remembrance Day next year, but in another way.

Can you tell us something in advance?
It is very simple: by using Remembrance Day to talk not only about the Foibe and refugees, but also about the crimes of Italian fascism. It is the very least we can do. It’s shameful that even one small part of the government opposition should demonstrate such great weakness and connivance with regard to this problem by going along with “What’s done is done”.

I think that left wing voters feel very poorly represented, at the moment.
Yes, unfortunately.

Among other things, we are in between two important dates, two important “celebrations”, because we are approaching May Day, which is considered Workers Day or Labor Day. Many people do not know its origin: what happened in Chicago is unknown, the reason we celebrate it is unknown.
There is no doubt that the discussion on this issue should be fully re-opened, because the first article of our republican Constitution states that “Italy is a republic founded on work”. But there is nothing more fraudulent than that. We could say that it is based on tax evasion, financial speculation, the media power of a single man, on cunning, on anything but work. This sector of the life of our country is the one which is most humiliated, the most battered by injustice: we have over a thousand deaths in the workplace, we have crowds of temporary workers, people who cannot rely on a job for the security on which to  build a life and to raise a family. Work is treated worse than a Cinderella; it is the son of a servant’s dog. So we are lied to, lied to. We repeatedly find ourselves with outlaw politicians and governments. The Constitution sets out labour rights; the introduction of the Workers’ Statute even achieved a very high standard of those rights, but now they want to abolish it. So once again, we return to the extraordinary teaching of our founding fathers in the slogan where Piero Calamandrei, in his famous “General Kesselring, if you want to come back you’ll find us here dead and alive…” ends with a warning: “Now and forever Resistance”. Now and forever! It is this second part we need to put in place. Resistance is a synthesis of the highest achievements in human history, but there cannot be a democracy based on the Resistance if the Resistance is not considered to be a  process of fighting to continue winning and reaffirming fundamental rights, fighting against privilege, inequality, injustice. Therefore, since inequality and injustice now reign sovereign, the most important part of the Resistance has yet to be implemented, and we are called on to fight even harder to reaffirm, now and forever, the principles of the Resistance handed down by our founding fathers.

What I think Italy lacks, more than other countries do, is memory, historical memory.
This is another matter. Today there is a lot of talk of memory related to the Shoah, where “Shoah” means the extermination of the Jews. As you know, I’m a Jew, but I find that the memory issue is much broader. Take work, for example. It would be important to make people understand how a country and its fortune are built on work. How many of our young people know that Prime Minister De Gasperi sold human flesh to Belgium, miners in exchange for coal? How many know that? Our workers’ pain, their efforts to give us prosperity and well-being should be part of our national consciousness; it should be well-known, learnt when we are infants, so that we can learn the value of work in the world. On the contrary, here we have frivolous TV programs with scantily dressed showgirls… Do you see a single programme on television dealing with the subject of work?

No, not one.
They are about gambling, crime, selling one’s own body, behaving like idiots…

Every so often, in shows such as “Report” or documentaries late at night, there is some mention.
Look, if I were, for example Mr. President of RAI or an important official, I would summon the most talented Italian or foreign filmmakers, and tell them to make TV fiction about work; and through fiction, a popular device, I would get people involved in the characters’ stories and make Italians understand what the world of work really is: its difficulties, layoffs, dramas. The other night I was at a meeting on “Holocaust and Memory” but I talked about work memory, about working class memory. With me there were some workers of an occupied factory, and they told me their harrowing stories: their employer, who had already brought about the bankruptcy of several other companies, while lining his own pockets, has laid them off, with the ultimate intention of firing them for good. Well, one of the workers, who is a member of the job defence Committee, told some tragic stories: of two suicide attempts, of workers reduced to living on the streets having been thrown out of their home as they were unable to pay their illegal  rents. Who knows these things? Ok, maybe they talk about it on “Anno Zero” (Year Zero) and on Gabanelli’s TV programme but, despite these shows having decent ratings, the vast majority of our country is ignorant of these things.

But … why do you think so many people are scared of culture?
Culture is the means of questioning politics, society, and civic life. Culture is an eminently critical tool. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be authentic culture. And, of course, thinking is unsettling. It is unsettling. In a civilized country, culture should be one of the top three or four points on the political agenda of any serious party; instead it is at the very bottom. Most of the Italian political class ignores cultural values, uses them only as a showpiece. They think that culture is something that is shown off by people with an education, or I don’t know what, but not the very founding value of a civilization: if they thought differently, investment in culture would be very different. As it is,  spending on culture is the first thing to be cut. Culture forms the dignity of a country. If Italy didn’t have its culture what would it be? Remove the Baroque, the Renaissance, and so on from Italy, then remove Dante, Ariosto, Petrarch, all the great art, remove everything: what remains of Italy? Rows of drab little factories or vast shopping centres erected to consumerism. Do you call this a country? It is a place where nobody would like to live.

I read a speech you wrote for the l’Unità3 of April 3rd, in which you lambasted Israel’s response to Hamas attacks in the Gaza Strip.
It is clear that Hamas’ illegal operation of firing rockets on civilians is totally unacceptable. But Israel’s reaction, purportedly motivated by these launches, did not have the desired result of defeating Hamas, but only created more pain and despair for the Palestinian people. Besides, it would seem that war crimes have been committed in the Gaza Strip. Hamas controls Gaza, Gaza is besieged, an open-air prison. However, after the latest launch, the Israelis sealed it off, closed it. It is an open-air cage. I believe that Israel’s policy towards Gaza is utterly deplorable and unfair: it is the worst lack of foresight I have ever seen in recent years. Israel’s attitude is therefore surreptitious and captious… There isn’t a single reason to occupy a land and its people, and reduce it to despair, not one. The only reasons they have are wicked, unfair and detrimental.

Have you happened to read any of Ibrahim Souss’s work?
Yes, I have read some of it. There is one thing we should know: we must overcome the logic of factions in order to find a solution to the problems there, because the two peoples either get out of that situation together, or they do not get out at all. But Israel’s policy of maintaining the status quo, acting as if nothing has happened, is simply nonsensical, and is the cause of permanent atrocity and injustice. It’s not pleasant for a people to police another people. It’s not pleasant, it is dishonourable, it is despicable. This occupation harms the Israelis themselves in a different way but just as much as it does the Palestinians.

Indeed, in an interview some years ago, you said that in Israel there is a kind of self-glorification.
Their fear is justified by objective facts, because no one can deny that Israel has had its dead. However, it is largely specious and surreptitious: now its aim is to dispossess the Palestinians of their resources and at the same time to expropriate their lives, their topographies of life. That is something truly shameful. Besides, the Israeli establishment is behaving unacceptably in thinking that it is  above international law, despite two binding UN resolutions, 338 and 242, voted by the whole Security Council, including the United States. To the extent that today in certain quarters it is  already maintained that Barak Obama is not good for Israel because, in the opinion of the conservative if not reactionary establishment – which now has a racist foreign minister, Lieberman – Obama is not reliable. The Israelis do not think of themselves as racist, but that they are just reacting against the malice of Israel’s enemies. I believe that the time has come to stop this manipulation of the situation. Let me be clear, anti-Semitism is a despicable, disgusting crime, and it must be fought in the strongest terms. However, having said that, we cannot shriek “anti-Semitism!” every time someone criticizes Israel. We have had enough of this vile blackmail. We are fed up. I intend to be very firm about this, and begin to say: enough is enough. Anti-Semitism must be distinguished from a fully legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. And if the Israeli government commits illegal acts and acts in violation of international laws, it must be condemned with the greatest firmness, like everyone else. We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed by this; indeed, we must develop a political culture, as Avraham Burg magnificently did. I wonder whether you know Avraham Burg’s book…

Unfortunately, I don’t.
It is a book that takes an extremely tough stance on the current Israeli establishment and the militarism that, from a certain point of view, permeates most of the Israeli political establishment in power. Avraham Burg was Chairman of the Israeli Parliament, but of course he too is now considered an anti-Semite and an enemy of the Jewish people! In Italy, I and others signed a document with Rashid Ali, secretary of the Palestinian delegation in Italy and, as a Jew, I feel a very strong obligation to counteract this ambiguity: the Israeli State seems to expect absolute impunity, whatever it does. This is altogether intolerable, because it damages, first of all, Israel itself. Those who call themselves Israel’s friends are its worst enemies. I would say “God protect me from my friends, I can deal with my enemies myself.” They have truly become deluded.

You have done extensive research into the roots of the Jewish tradition.
Always as a man of the theatre, and rhapsodically, because I am not a scholar. I am not a scholar of anything. I do not have time to be.

However, you often cite some texts during your shows.
Well, yes, I have studied and I quote what I’ve read. I tried to do this research convinced– with reference to what I said earlier – that Judaism, without universalism and the criticism of man, without the centrality of man, is just the idea of a tribe; if this becomes the central idea of Jewishness, if we go back to the phase before Abraham, then that is all it is. Abraham seeks a Universalist blessing: “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, love the stranger as yourself” is the most repeated commandment in the Old Testament. In the Torah. If we lose this, if we lose the idea that the delirium on earth is a grave act of idolatry, then Judaism regresses to a tribal way of thinking.

And here we come to your book “Contro l’idolatria” (“Against idolatry“)…
That’s what I have tried to express in my small book: Judaism is the anti-idolatrous thought. If we replace the Torah with the idolatry of the State of Israel, we are thinking tribally. I think that the State of Israel is fully entitled to be safe, to live in peace and tranquillity, within the boundaries of international laws: because the Torah itself states, “there is a border”. So Israel would be fully legitimated even if it wanted to build a wall within the Green Line. That is its boundary; it is recognized by 99% of the countries in the world, including the United States. Israel says: security. Fine, Israel is fully entitled to defend itself, but within its own borders. Moreover, even Abd Allah, former Prince of Saudi Arabia, and now King, made his famous proposal in 2002, and renewed it in 2007, that Israel withdraw to the borders of the Green Line and that Israel be fully recognized by all Islamic and Arab countries. Israel avoided responding, because it doesn’t have the slightest intention of doing so. I’m talking about the current government, of course. To me, within the present political establishment, Tzipi Livni seems to be the best there is at the moment. She was very wise not take part in Netanyahu’s government, because Netanyahu said explicitly that there was no question of a Palestinian state. But the tragic thing is that the Jewish community didn’t rise up and say: “What? Netanyahu does not want a Palestinian state? We want international legality”. But no, his statement was accepted as normal. A democratic country does not take over another people. It just does not; it is not an acceptable policy. Meanwhile, there are no proposals coming from Israel: have you ever heard one? They say, “We will make great sacrifices.” All vague. But they have never said, for example: “We solemnly declare that the lands taken in 1967 are not ours. We do not want them. To us, it’s enough that the Palestinians stop hostile acts and we give them all back, down to the last centimetre”. No. They have set up colonies here and there in every corner of the Palestinian territories. Once they withdrew from Gaza, they made it into a prison. That was an act of hostility; a siege is an act of hostility. Everything is built on a heap of propaganda and ideology; what the Jews have suffered in the past is used in a totally shamefully specious and manipulative way. What about the fact that they didn’t attend the Geneva conference on racism: why did they leave the stage to Ahmadinejad? I don’t understand. Ahmadinejad is a dictator; he does not even know what democracy is, so he is hardly entitled to speak. Honestly, let him remove the plank from his own eye first! Let him tell us how women are treated in Iran! But go there in person and say that to him. Go there, show yourself and say: “we do not recognize President Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy. President Ahmadinejad has not been elected by anyone, he represents only himself”. You address the people, you go there and heckle him, you destroy him. Of course, not going there is just a way of avoiding embarrassing questions. If I were invited, I would go to President Ahmadinejad and tell him: “Mr President, you are proposing that a Jewish state be created in Carinthia, Poland and Germany. I agree. Please, convince the Germans, the Poles and the Austrians, then we’ll talk about it. But, until you have convinced them, spare us your bullshit, because we have more serious things to deal with”. I’d know what to say to Ahmadinejad. It is obvious: those kinds of men must be demolished by making them look ridiculous. Because Ahmadinejad’s position is clearly ridiculous. Why doesn’t he propose that all the United States be returned to the Native Americans? But history is transformation: we have to find a fair solution for the Palestinians, that at the same time safeguards the Israelis, who have been such for four generations now. Even in South Africa, where there had been a true colonial occupation, Nelson Mandela was careful not to say things like that. White South African citizens are citizens just like the blacks. There is an attempt to restore a proper balance, with great effort and difficulty, anything that is needed, but … Don’t you think so?

I think so, indeed.
You also got workers around the world to laugh, speaking of Stalinism, but also of anti-communism…
Look, with this we open another chapter. Since I always work to a programme, this is like a re-approach to that story, to that extraordinary and tragic epic that was the Bolshevik revolution, that ended in Stalinism and then in the Soviet Union. I look on it with a human eye, against the revisionists i.e., the TV salon revisionists that deal with that time as though in the Soviet Union there was just Stalin and a mass of desperate people in prison pyjamas. The Soviet Union was also something else. The Soviet Union was a great dream that had its outcome in a nightmare during the Stalin phase, then a failed attempt to build an alternative to capitalism based on ideological premises. But it was also made up of many women and men who believed in a great ideal, who asked some questions that have not yet been answered: “When will the exploitation end? When there will be social justice? When will every man have the same dignity?” Then I re-opened the discussion about the 27 million Soviets who gave their lives to stop the Nazi barbarism, and about the siege of Leningrad, which is one of the most shocking examples of human Resistance against ferocity and barbarism in all of history. The Soviet Union was many things. And it also belonged to a lot of men and women who loved, lived, and existed and who also believed they were putting in place a plan for the redemption of all humanity. They deserve dignity and respect. Recounting Stalin’s crimes must not and cannot make us forget everything else.

But it is exploited in that way…
Since the television salon revisionists don’t really mean to talk about that time, but to scrape together votes from their political and economic sponsors, I thought that a look, especially through the great stinging grid of Jewish humour, could restore some things. We talked about Israel: today a courageous book has been brought out by the publishers Teti, written by a Russian historian and journalist named Leonid Mlecin, entitled “Why Stalin created Israel”. Without Stalin, without his political action and his military support, the State of Israel would never have existed. Stalin subsequently backtracked in his trademark style and unleashed an out-and-out anti-Semitic campaign in Soviet Russia; but nobody could deny that Stalin was the main international architect of the existence of the State of Israel and of its defence in difficult times. In fact, at the time, British imperialism was arming Jordanians and Egyptians, and the United States was spiralling into McCarthyism, which was not only a communist witch hunt but also an orchestrated and well-conducted anti-Semitic campaign. Think that Stalin’s victims were 70-75% Jews and half-Jews, and the United States and England in 1947 decreed to block the supply of arms to Jewish fighters in Palestine. If the United States had had its way, Jordan and Egypt would have killed the embryo State of Israel, which would have been wiped out. But no-one remembers these things. Stalin was the first to give his political support to Jewish fighters in Palestine in 1944; and his support was total until 1948, 1949. When he bypassed the British and American embargo by going through Czechoslovakia and gave arms to Jewish fighters in Palestine, Abba Eban said: “The Soviet Union was the only power who supported our cause”; and Golda Meir said: “we don’t know if we could have held out without their weapons”. Stalin sent not only light arms, but also heavy weapons and aviation: he sent the Israeli units the deadly Messerschmitt fighters that he had confiscated from the Nazis. Even symbolically, he gave those arms to the Jewish fighters in Palestine. It doesn’t suit us to remember all this. It should instead be said: it is true that Stalin unleashed an anti-Semitic campaign in the years between 1949 and his death, but it is also true that previously he had been the main architect of the existence of the state of Israel. A symptom of that time was the fact that, at the end of films shown in Tel Aviv cinemas, firstly the Ha-Tikvah – The Hope of Israelis – used to be sung, immediately followed by the Internationale and then, lastly, the Soviet national anthem. Mlecin’s book is worth reading: it is a wonderful book, written in an agile journalistic style, and superbly documented, because Mlecin had access to the most recent  Soviet papers and archives released fifty years after Stalin’s death. They were opened in 2003. Leonid Mlecin, “Why Stalin created Israel” published by Teti. It is a book that should be widely circulated and widely known.

1 the Italian right-wing party National Alliance
2 the Italian right-wing party Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement)
3 Italian left-wing newspaper

Compendium – Calamandrei’s plaque

Tried in 1947 for war crimes (Ardeatine, Marzabotto and other horrific slaughters of innocents), Albert Kesselring, commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the German occupation in Italy, was sentenced to death. The sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment. But already in 1952, in view of his “serious” health conditions, he was set free. When he returned home, he was greeted triumphantly as a hero in Bavarian neo-Nazi circles, which he actively supported for another 8 years. A few days after his return home, Kesselring had the impudence to declare publicly that he had nothing to reproach himself for but that, on the contrary, Italians should be grateful to him for his behavior during the 18 months of occupation, so grateful in fact that they could well erect a monument to him.
Piero Calamandrei replied to this statement with a famous epigraph (dated 04/12/1952, the eighth anniversary of Duccio Galimberti’s sacrifice), inscribed on a plaque “to shame”, erected in the entrance of Cuneo Town Hall as a sign of everlasting protest against the release of the Nazi criminal. The inscription reads:

You’ll have it
comrade Kesselring
the monument that you expect from us Italians
but with what stone it will be built
is up to us to decide.
Not with the smoky stones
of unarmed villages ravaged by your extermination
not with the earth of cemeteries
where our young fellows
rest in peace
not with the untouched snow of the mountains
that for two winters challenged you
not with the springtime of these valleys
that saw you flee.
But only with the silence of the tortured,
Harder than any boulder
only with the rock of this agreement
sworn between free men
who gathered voluntarily
for dignity and not for hate
determined to redeem
the shame and terror of the world.
On these streets if you want to come back
you will find us at our places
the dead and the living with the same commitment
a people closely gathered around the monument
which is called
now and forever

Translation by Anna Anzani  (edited by Roma O’Flaherty)

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Heiko H. Caimi
Heiko H. Caimi, born in 1968, is a writer, screenwriter, poet and teacher of fiction writing. He has collaborated as an author with publishers Mondadori, Tranchida, Abrigliasciolta and others. He has taught at the Egea bookshop of Bocconi University in Milan and several other schools, libraries and associations in Italy and Switzerland. Since 2013 he has been editorial director of the literature magazine Inkroci. He is one of the founders and organizers of the traveling literary festival Libri in Movimento. He collaborates with the news magazine "InPrimis" keeping the column "Pages in a minute" and with the blog of the writer Barbara Garlaschelli "Sdiario". He published the novel "I predestinati" (The Predestined, Prospero, 2019) and edited the anthology of short stories "Oltre il confine. Storie di migrazione" (Over the border. Migration stories, Prospero, 2019).