When I was 17 I remember to have heard by the mother of two of my best friends, the sad story of Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre. My friend’s mother name is Mita Piera in honor to the two siblings. Mita was the oldest sister of 17 yo, and Piero was her older brother of 12yo. They lost their life the morning of the 12th August 1944, a day that had disarranged the area, and passed into the annals of history as the massacre of Sant’Anna di Stazzema.
This horrible event inspired the book “Miracle at St. Anna” by James McBride, who collected different interpretations of the event before to write it. Moreover, Spike Lee used the book to direct his movie, which does not represents exactly the way the facts developed, as proved during a long and debated process that finally made emerge the truth.
Victims of the massacre until 16 years old
The story of Mita and Piero, two young innocent victims of Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre
Sant’Anna di Stazzema is a small village of Versilia in Tuscany, and in 1944 was the theater of one of the cruelest Nazi-Fascist war crime of the World War Two where about 560 people were murdered (about 130 were children between 2 months and 16 yo).
The story I will tell you is the testimony of Mita Piera. She was born after the war, by a couple that lost a daughter named Mita (17yo) and a son Piero (12yo), the wretched 12th August 1944.
Here is how things happened during the retirement of Nazis from their retirement during their Italy’s occupation.
During the Nazis’ bombardments many displaced people moved to the village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema to find refuge to their relatives. The little hamlet was considered “white zone” by the Nazis, and people were warned to leave the coastal area. Giovanni Aldemaro and his wife Elda were living in Capezzano Pianore, a hamlet along the Via Provinciale Sarzanese of Camaiore municipality.
They decided to move to some relatives in Sant’Anna di Stazzema because they were not feeling safe living in their home, while the Nazis’ troops with tanks were arriving along the main road. They have been hosted by the butcher of the village, in change of their helps on the management of the business. Here they enforced their relationship with their relatives, they made new friendship, and the evenings in the Piazza of the Church were always a good occasion to have fun with some music. Mita, their daughter loved dancing with her fiancé Carlo.
The life in Sant’Anna di Stazzema was not bad at all for the people living there. It was an excellent place to stay during that time for many reasons. First of all because it was far enough from the areas interested by the war, and then the village was prosperous of food, differently from other areas. The economy of the hamlet was based on agriculture and pastoralism. Moreover it was also an excellent place for the antifascist Italian partisans to refill themselves with food. They were hided in the forests during the day, but at the evening and night, they came out, attending to the dances in the Piazza, where the inhabitants offered them food in change of their protection.
One day a multitude of posters were affixed to the hamlet, by some fascist collaborators of the Nazis. The bill was warning every citizen of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, to evacuate the hamlet, because of the forthcoming arriving of the Nazis troops, that were hunting their enemies, the Italian antifascist partisans. Anyway, the inhabitants neglected the advice, or they did not know where to go, or maybe they were hoping into the partisans support. So, while the men decided to hide themselves inside the iron mines nearby the village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema to escape from the eventually capture by the Nazis, women and children remained inside the village thinking to be safe and free from any danger. In fact, the Nazis were interested only in capturing men. Giovanni Aldemaro and his family decided to move to Montebello, another hamlet of Camaiore, hosted by some acquaintances, just to escape from any further safety problems.
The 9th August, the young Mita decided to prepare some tordelli (a typical local food), in occasion of the celebration of the Assumption of Mary on the 15th of August. But having not enough flour and meat, she thought to organize an exchange with her relatives and friends in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, bringing them some soap and perfumes. She thought to go there with her fiancé Carlo, and for this reason her little brother, Piero, jealous of her, insisted to joining them. Mita thought that it was a good idea spends another night in Sant’Anna, also because it was far away to go and come back on the same day. The parents of the young couple disagreed. Giovanni Aldemaro was worried for the honor of her daughter, and the parents of Carlo were worried for an eventual capture of their son by the Nazis that were arriving.
Finally, Mita and Piero left to Sant’Anna di Stazzema on Friday 11th August, walking along the mule track for at least 2 hours and half. They probably were enjoying the idea to stay there for the night, and having fun with their relatives and friends. They were not afraid. Mita was friends of some partisans, and she felt protected by them. Moreover, she was happy to spend the evening dancing with her friends in the Piazza.
At the 2 am of 12 August, Giovanni Aldemaro awake his wife and the hosts of the house. He was screaming wild for a nightmare he had. He dreamt about his two children burning surrounded by flames. The family hosting Giovanni Aldemaro and his family, and his wife reassured him that it was just a nightmare, and they went back to sleep.
It was early morning on the 12 August and the young Mita and her brother Piero were almost ready to leave Sant’Anna di Stazzema to come back to their family with all the supplies for tordelli. They were just outside their relative house while a young man who known Mita noticed her in the Piazza. He asked her if she was leaving Sant’Anna and she replied affirmatively. Then he told her to walk together the mule track, but she was waiting for her brother Piero tying his boots. The young man could not wait because he was afraid to meet the Nazis along the road to Forte dei Marmi, and left her saying that they could meet each other along the road. She understood and nodded in agreement. Then they noticed some Nazis troops marching on the top of the next hill, and he run away greeting Mita.
Around 7.00 am, the 16° SS Panzergrenadier-Division “Reichsfuhrer SS” led by Commander Max Simon and by some Italian collaborationists arrived in Sant’Anna di Stazzema. The fascist members of the 36ª “Mussolini” brigade were dressing Nazis uniform and the balaclava to cover their face. They had hostages with them, collected along the way to Sant’Anna di Stazzema. The SS troops surrounded the hamlet of Sant’Anna, using three different ways. Two were the roads that connected the village to the plain. The other way was an ancient pass, signed in their maps, and used since the time of the ancient Romans. This passage on Mount Gabberi, was not far from the place where the Italian partisan resistance of the group “I Cacciatori delle Apuane” (Apuans Hunters) fought against the Nazis and the fascist brigade X Mas, in the last days. At 10.00 am the massacre was already done. The soldiers burned the corpses of 130 people killed with the machine-gun in the square in front of the church.
That morning, Giovanni Alderano and his wife Elda looking out of the window of their house in Montebello in direction of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, noticed a smoke column. Wondering what was happening out there, they left immediately their place to reach Sant’Anna, worried for the life of their two children.
Once arrived in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, after the long walk from Montebello, they witnessed a horrible scene that remained sculpted on their mind forever. The air was stinking. The blood was flowing at the height of ankles. Hundreds of body were piled in the Piazza. The massacre was consumed. The partisans were burning the bodies of the corpses tortured by the Nazis with machine-guns and burnt by flamethrowers, to avoid infections.
Giovanni and Elda desperately searched for their children for days with no success. One day, a man who lost five of his children in the massacre told to Giovanni Alderano: “You can even stop to search your children, because they are together with mine”. This man was one of the many persons hided in the iron mine while the Nazis invaded Sant’Anna and started the slaughter. Unarmed,they heard the voices of their women and children screaming of pain and terror.
The children Ring a Round the Rosie, one of the symbols of the victims of Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre, which was found in the school after the massacre.
The National Park of the Peace of Sant’Anna di Stazzema
On 2000, the National Park of the Peace of Sant’Anna di Stazzema went established on the hilly area around the hamlet. The park represents an ideal union between environment, memory, and history combining a virgin nature, the hamlets strewed over the hillside and the places of the massacre.
The main goal of the park is keeping alive the historical memory of the tragedy, and educating the new generation to the respect of peace as values of cooperation, justice, and consideration between individuals and people.
Statue in the Church Square
Via Crucis Sculpture
Video interview of the survivors of Sant’Anna di Stazzema with their testaments
Inside the park, there is a Via Crucis, which lead to the Ossuary Monument in Col di Cava. It is a paved path through the forest adorned by bronze tiles made by some artists, which refer to the Jesus Christ Via Crucis, as an emblem of the martyr, of the violence and war in every time and any place. This is an ideal path to find calm and peace, to inspire reflection and concentration on the universal values, which are on at the basis of the birth of the Park.
The Via Crucis
As a sign of memory of the facts of that terrible 12 August 1944, the people of Sant’Anna di Stazzema decided to build an Ossuary Monument on the hill of Col di Cava. The building was finished on 1948 by the relatives of the victims and the survivors. The monument is a tower made of stone of 12 m / 39 ft. of height, with four arches where is located a sculpture representing a woman with a child, died of the Nazi-fascist attack. Under the basement are buried the relic of the victims, and a commemorating headstone brings the name of those people that was possible to identify.
The statue of a woman with a child
The Ossuary Monument
The Museum of Resistance
The Museum of Resistance of Sant’Anna di Stazzema collects several proofs of what happened on 12 August 1944, and hosts also a picture collection made by the famous photographer Oliviero Toscani, who shot pictures to the survivors to give testimony of their story.
The museum is open all year long.
Winter time: (1st October – 31th March)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9.00 am – 2.00 pm;
Friday and Saturday 9.00 am – 5.00 pm; Sunday 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm.
Summer Time: (1st April – 30th March)
Tuesday, Wednesday, 9.00 am – 2.00 pm;
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 9.00 am – 6.00 pm;
Sunday 10.30 pm – 6.30 pm.