Monte Sole Historical Park, thirty-five kilometers from the historic center of Bologna, is the site of a WWII massacre where Nazi and Fascist troops killed hundreds of defenseless elderly men, women, and children. Italy Center students, along with asylum seekers and operators from the Arca di Noè association of Bologna spent the day hiking in the park, listening to historical and political perspectives, and remembering the innocent lives that were lost in the fall of 1944. This visit was organized as an interdisciplinary lecture on site for the Political Science, History, and Italian Language courses.
A major theme of the day was the understanding and the remembrance of the events that occurred during this period in Emilia-Romagna’s history. “At the end of WWII Italy was going through its own civil war, especially in this region”, explains history professor Michele Marchi. “Partisans ‘partigiani’ allied with the Americans, who occupied southern Italy, carried out guerrilla warfare against Nazi and Fascist forces who occupied northern Italy. Emilia Romagna, which is in a central position, was caught in the middle. Sometimes, even families split, with brothers fighting on opposite sides of ideological lines. This particular massacre of innocent civilians was a war tactic used by Nazi troops to scare partisan forces into submission.”
“You can read about it in textbooks or attend a lecture, but there is no substitute for being here in these hills, feeling the grass, and seeing the land and the ruins where this important part of history took place” explains Italy Center Student Angelo Nickele. “There is a strange disconnect between the natural beauty of these hills, mountains, and flowers and the horror that took place here nearly 70 years ago”
The last stop on the short hike around the park is the town cemetery where on September 29th, 1944, Nazi troops rounded up 80 people, mostly women and children, and executed them by firing squad. Angela Foresta, an operator at the association Arca di Noè, remarks how difficult it must be to witness this site, especially for the asylum seekers in the group. For Usman, Shoaib, and Manoosh, this undoubtedly brings up memories of trauma in their own lives, escaping war zones and migrating to Europe. “It is important at historical sites like these to remember and celebrate the victims. But equally important is that these sites prompt us to think about the massacres and injustices happening in the world right now and to ask ourselves what we can do about it. Last week a boat of innocent men, woman, and children capsized in the Mediterranean killing everyone onboard while Europeans watched and did not seem to care. In this moment, we need to channel the spirit of the “partigiani”; resist evil, injustice, dehumanization, and fight against the same forces that allowed this event to occur in 1944”.