Rome is “more”

November 18, 2013 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio

Rome is “more”, spelt funny. Sometimes you have to look for it.

A less obvious, more recent past remains to be discovered. Look up! Look around! The city is peppered with signs, sculptures and wall plaques treating a living history that permeates the memories and lives of contemporary Romans. Some examples?

– On 16 October 1943 over 1000 Roman citizens were rounded up in the early morning from the now popular Ghetto area near the Tiber, just off Piazza della Torre Argentina. Their convoy left Stazione Tiburtina and stopped at Auschwitz. Nazis carried out one of their historic Jewish deportation atrocities. On the anniversary the tourist can meet a silent parade of remembrance.

– Six months later, in March 1944, a band of resident resistance fighters ambushed a platoon of German police. The ambush killed 33 Germans. Hitler was consulted and demanded immediate decimation. Ten Italian lives for each to be executed within 24 hours. The Ardeatine Cave memorial is located on the spot where 335 people were shot. Besides the memorial, the bomb damage and bullet holes from the ambush itself are still visible on Via Rasella to this day.

– SS Capt Erich Priebke took part in the executions. He was extradited from his hiding place in Argentina in 1994, fifty years later. On October 11, 2013, he died in Rome, at age 100, a prisoner “unrepentant unto death”. Almost a week later no church nor synagogue discharged the corpse with a burial rite; the family remained indecisive. Rome tourists see strange headlines, they see street mobs following a hearse. Who will dispose of the body and where? That’s one more piece of recent Roman past that needs to be explored.

– The Italian Union of Workers has a thought-provoking plaque near its main entrance on Via Lucullo, 6– a side street not far from Bernini’s Triton fountain. It is of an executed dead worker; his hands are bound; his tools are scattered. The door is open. He might have been suspected of plotting in 1944.. It reads:

In questo edificio il tribunale di guerra nazista durante l’infausta occupazione vanamente tentò di soffocare nel sangue l’anelito di libertà del popolo romano.—-

(In this building the Nazi War Tribunal during their devastating occupation vainly tried to smother in blood the Roman people’s yearning for liberty.)

These are but some examples of ways in which Rome is “more”. Take a stroll. Its complicated history comes alive in many ways. No human emotion is left untouched.


– Contributed by Alexander L. Cicchinelli. Alex is a retired university administrator living in Abruzzo, Roma and Philadelphia, depending on the weather. Still an educator at heart, he has strong interest in improving learning in the Italian pre-university sphere. He has worked with the educational testing center of UNSW, Sydney and is currently collaborating with his associates of the Oxford University Testing Center. In odd moments he studies the 1950’s Muscle Rustle when post war young Italians were enticed to cut sugar cane in Australia. Participants in that scheme and their relatives are invited to make contact and share info. Contact him: alex (at) cicchinelli (dot) com

16 Responses to “Rome is “more””

  1. Thank you for sharing these more recent stories of Roman history. As the other commenter noted, we must learn from them so they will never be repeated.

  2. Lois Rooks

    This is an enlightening piece. I wonder if Simon Wiesenthal was the force behind the capture of SS Capt Erich Priebke in Argentina, where so many nazis hid out.

  3. Linda Boccia

    AS horrific as those events were you need to move forward in your life and savor the delights of being alive. We remember history, some learn from it and others not. Dwelling in the past changes nothing in the present. Be supportive and tolerant of everyone. The past has already occurred, the future has yet to unfold and we only have these present moments to fully live.

  4. Joan Schmelzle

    The last three times I have been to Rome I have not missed visiting the Ardeatine Cave memorial. It is striking, memorable and a place for contemplation for me. Last January it was a welcome place of peace after a visit to the Catacombs of St. Calixtus, which was crowded noisy and distracting.

  5. Joanne De Cecchis

    My husband grew up in Camarda, a comune of L’Aquila during WWII and he remembers that men were shot to death by the Nazis in the village of Filletto just across from Camarda, in relatiation to deaths by the resistance. I have not found any infomation on this. Would the writer know of this incident?

  6. Excellent article. Thank you so much for a history lesson about how wonderfully the past and present dance together. Rome is the eternal city is it not… embodying past, present and future.

  7. Enzo Pollono

    Perhaps it should have been added that Priebke, the assassin, was helped to escape to South American by forged papers provided by the Vatican, just as it was for many other Nazi criminals. )(

  8. The word decimate comes from Latin, and when used by the Romans it was a
    punishment for Legions that didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Every 10th man was killed. 10 for 1t was not “decimation” it was just brutish
    maniac mental midgets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Eric Silenzi

    May be best to state that forged papers were provided by certain individuals within the Vatican as opposed to the “Vatican” as a whole. Would be similar to stating that all Germans were NAZI’s, when we know this is not true.

  10. harvey rabiner

    Don’t know why the Church didn’t want to bury the Nazi murderer, after all the Church helped him and his fellow butchers escape….or hide in monastaries.

  11. Having visited Rome and its wonders several times, we have also made it a point to see exactly the places you described — places and the history behind them not so wonderful. To see these places is a very sobering experience, but essential.

  12. Ken Borelli

    This year i visited the caves as a tribute to a friend who lived through the occupation. He recently died, but the occupation of Roma was never too far from his memories…it is a moving experience. The sad part of this experience is the Nazi who died under house arrest when i was there a month ago, was becoming a focal point of Italian Neo Nazi today… His body was sent back to Germany…….and at some point there needs to be an explanation as to why the Catholic Church helped so many Nazi’s exscape from Europe to Argentina and other parts of South American.

  13. David Bridgdes

    Thanks for the reminder of the vast recent history of Rome. My wife and I lived in Rome in 1973-74 and were able to learn some of the recent (past Empire!) history and see some of the sights associated with those times.


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