The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome

Alessandro Portelli, Author Palgrave MacMillan $75 (329p) ISBN 978-1-4039-6208-9
A valuable addition to the literature on the Ardeatine Caves Massacre, this dense oral history is definitely intended for the serious student of Italian affairs. On March 24, 1944, the Germans executed 335 Romans in retaliation for a Resistance attack that left 32 German military policemen and a few civilians dead. The executed Romans included Resistance fighters, prisoners already under sentence, Jews, civil servants, managers, students, scholars, workers and men scooped up off the street. For this volume, Portelli, a teacher of American literature at the University of Rome, has compiled dozens of recollections of the massacre, and of the war and post-war years, from a myriad of survivors. Gabriella Polli, for example, describes how many of the war widows were suddenly forced to go to work to support their families; Piero Terracina recounts how he was expelled from school for being Jewish. The personal testimonials argue strongly against many of the contemporary accusations against the Resistance (e.g., that their leaders failed to turn themselves in, which some believe might have prevented brutal German reprisal). Readers who don't already know some Italian history may find the postwar sections difficult to follow, and the author acknowledges that his own politics are Leftist. Nonetheless, this volume is a useful piece of both history and historiography.
Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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