Friday, 02 March 2018 00:00

A book about the Teresian Association during the Nazi occupation in Rome

ROME, Italy.

The presence of the Teresian Association (TA) in Rome during the months of Nazi occupation of the city during World War II was remembered in Rome, on January 13, at the headquarters of the TA. The occasion was the presentation of Anna Doria's book, "Oggi sono venuti i tedeschi, Vita quotidiana a Roma sollo I'occupazione nazista" (The Germans arrived today, daily life in Rome under the Nazi occupation) published by Gangemi International Publishing, Rome.

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The book sets in the historical context the notes written by members of the Teresian Association in the Diary of the House of Rome, located then in Gaeta Street, between the Termini Station and the University. The author comments on them, highlighting the courage and humanity of those women who lived moments that were highly dramatic and dangerous. On the one hand, the continuous bombing of the Allies (USA and England) attacked the Germans who had occupied the city, and on the other, the presence of the SS with controls, raids, and executions, sowed terror among the citizens. The drama of hunger is the underlying theme during the entire period of the occupation, which lasted from September 10, 1943 to June 4, 1944, the day of the liberation of Rome.

During that time, the Teresians, initially only four, and five since January 1944, Maria Luisa Gonzalez del Pino, Ana Maria Lopez, Milagro Nadal, Matilde Marín and Mariana Martin, welcomed, hid, and fed many strangers, sometimes whole families who came to them seeking a shelter to take refuge.

These people were mostly anti-fascist, many Hebrews. It is to be noted that on October 16, 1943 there was a dramatic raid on the "Ghetto", the old Jewish quarter, after which more than 1,000 Jews were captured and two days later sent to the extermination camp of Auschwitz; 800 of them were immediately sent to the gas chambers. These people had lost their homes, destroyed by bombs, or were fugitives from the southern front areas where Allies and Germans were fighting.

The notes in the diary allude to the difficulties faced to welcome such diverse people and to find the necessary food at a time when everything, including bread, was rationed. They report that they went to the countryside to pick wild vegetables, as did all the women of Rome, and even tried to obtain false documentation for the refugees. Their concern was never for themselves, but for the guests they had at home.

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At a certain moment, when the situation became more dangerous by the increase in bombings, the people of the Association had the opportunity of moving to a safer place. However, they did not do it, because they did not want to save only themselves: "either all are saved together, or none is saved." The author emphasizes this gesture to point out the feeling of solidarity and the responsibility assumed when opening the house to those who were in need and in danger.

The last part of the book includes two testimonies of people who found refuge in the house: a man who was then five years old and a Hebrew woman, whose mother delivered her at the end of May, a few days before the Liberation of Rome.

The book, although immersed in a dark and terrible atmosphere, because it is about war, offers a story of peace. It shows that evil - Nazism and war were absolute evil - does not destroy everything. It is possible to oppose to it by joining in small peace actions based on solidarity among and with the victims, actions that are in themselves small, but certainly effective.

The presentation of the book, in Rome, was presided by Paola Palagi, directress of the Teresian Association in Italy. Some participants were Professor Antonio Parisella, President of the Historical Museum of the Liberation - Museum located in the old prison of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation; and Professor Gemma Luzzi, Director of Education of the same Museum.

The presenters demonstrated the importance of "unarmed" civil resistance, as defined by the most recent historiography, a struggle also waged by those persons of the Teresian Association. They also highlighted the role of women in the struggle for liberation, conducted generally without the use of arms, but with their daily effort. This is described in the book. The author points out that this story recognizes "the threads of everyday life, which at that time were woven facing serious dangers, often without full awareness. Such actions make those women great protagonists of the struggle in favor of peace and against Nazi fascism. In that context, history led them to make choices, they did it, and therefore they showed the path to freedom."

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This first presentation, followed by a large and attentive audience, was followed two others: in Turin on January 27, the day of Remembrance, and a third one, again in Rome, in the conference room of the Publisher, also both of these very well attended.

Outside of Italy, the book can be purchased on the website of the Publisher or in commercial channels on the Internet.

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