25 Apr

This is the second April 25 or Liberation day in lockdown.. Last year I looked at 25 April 1945 in Milan,  maybe its worth reading this first to get a better understanding of more of the background to the German occupation of Northern and Central Italy and of the many different resistance groups and the various paramilitary units of the Italian Social Republic ( RSI)  

This article is largely based on two books, by Pietro Arienti " Monza ; Dall' Armistizio alla Liberazione, 1943-1945" and "La Resistenza in Brianza 1943-1945".and me walking around the city to get a feel for the locations that still exist. Pietro Arienti has done a fantastic job in researching the civic archives to unearth a huge amount of detail on the period between the signing of the Armistice between Italy and the Allies on 6 September 1943 and the uprisings of 25 April 1945, which preceded by a few days, the entry of Allied armies into Milan and Monza.

Monza is a medium sized industrial city, largely based on the textile industry and hats. Now these days more famous for its Formula 1 races than the hat industry. If you want to think of a British equivalent think of Stockport, also famous for hats and textiles. As Stockport is more or less joined to Manchester , so Monza is joined to Milan ( it used to be in the same province). Then think of being a local historian wandering around Stockport and finding plaques dotted around the city indicating where XYZ was executed, or a particular public building was actually a place of execution or torture. Even worse , the plaques don't just say that the people were executed by a foreign invader because in the case of Norther Italy not all the killings were done by the Germans, in fact a considerable number of crimes were committed by Italians against other Italians. It is a sensitive area and one that the British with no recent experience of invasion or occupation might sensibly refrain from commenting on. The Italians publish funeral notices in public and you can see that the current generation dying is somewhere between 80 and 90, those who would have been children during the war. Most partisans are now dead as are most of those who supported the Italian Social Republic, but their families are still here. There may be families of those who were executed or deported to Germany living near to families of those who were actively or passively involved in that happening. The partisans do not like referring to what  happened in Italy between September 1943 and April 1945 as a Civil War , the other side refer to the Italian Social Republic as the "Honourable Italy", that refused to renege on its alliance with Nazi Germany. As a Briton, one's sympathies are bund to lie with the Partisan side, they were our allies and fighting a common enemy; however, one has to be conscious that other see a different side to the story.

I always think you should get to know the place you live in. Reading Arienti's . books, I started to see a different city. The street names that are named after partisans  such as via Prina or piazza Citterio; the fact that children's elementary school was used by the Wehrmacht as a barracks; that the Carabinieri station where I was forever reporting lost documents or telephones was the scene of a daring weapons raid that led to the execution of its participants; that Binario 7 where my daughter used to give dance performances was the ex Casa di Ballia and used to be an interrogation or torture centre and that the town Centre building which houses the Tax Office , used to the Casa di Fascio and was used for similar purposes; and that a sports field I used to regularly walk past was named after a partisan killed at the German extermination camp of Castle Hartheim. So if you are from Stockport and reading this , be thankful that your local historians are not researching the use of your local Police Stations, schools and theatres as centres of torture and execution. 

If you ever visit Monza for the motor racing you will almost certainly walk past the Villa Reale and it surrounding streets. All quiet these days and the only German Vehicles are high specification Audi or BMW SUVs, but fir 18 months between September 1943 and April 1945, that whole area was one of the nerve centres of German power in NW Italy. 

If you can read Italian, the references to the books are in the article,

The photo is a mural at the Campo Sportivo Enrico Bracesco.

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