Rome remembers fascism: the monument to the Fosse Ardeatine massacre as immersive historical experience

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One day in the early 2000s, while driving along Rome’s Via Ardeatina I saw a street sign: Largo Martiri delle Fosse Ardeatine. It piqued my curiosity so I parked the car to find out more about these martyrs and these fosse? About an hour later I was back in my car weeping. I had gone to an underworld and back again, through an idyllic park, that housed a site of shootings, burials, exhumations and re-burials. At the Monument to the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre (1949) I had retraced the steps of victims, perpetrators and mourning families through an immersive experience of place. As a person I would never be the same again. As a historian, I feel I can now write about it. Like many war memorials, this monument embodies shared narratives and memories about war and identity, resistance and cruelty. While it does not actually tell the big story, it has the power to spark multiple stories, memories, or emotional responses that are both individual and collective. The Fosse re-presents accounts of what happened in Italy under Nazi occupation, it harbours the histories of those who did not survive and keeps them as signposts for us, for those who did. It is a guardian of the many narratives of its daily visitors. It is a marker that divides Italy’s fascist and anti-fascist pasts, both historically and architecturally. Although the order from Hitler for the reprisal killing at the Fosse Ardeatine was carried out many years ago, the existence of the monument continues to mediate the past and anchor it in the present.

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Biennial Research Report 2018 by the Centre for Design Innovation, Swinburne University of Technology. 2017-2018
On March 24, 1944, Nazi occupation forces in Rome killed 335 unarmed civilians in retaliation for a partisan attack the day before. Portelli has crafted an eloquent, multi-voiced oral history of the massacre, of its background and its aftermath. The moving stories of the victims, the women and children who survived and carried on, the partisans who fought the Nazis, and the common people who lived through the tragedies of the war together paint a many-hued portrait of one of the world's most richly historical cities. The Order Has Been Carried Out powerfully relates the struggles for freedom under Fascism and Nazism, the battles for memory in post-war democracy, and the meanings of death and grief in modern society.
The facts: what happened? On 23 March 1944, a column of 156 police troops from the Bolzen regiment attached to the German army were marching through the centre of occupied Rome. Between 15.45 and 15.50 a bomb exploded in the narrow street of Via Rasella killing thirty military policemen (three more were to die later) as well as at least two Italian civilians. The bomb had been placed by an official armed Gap partisan unit which had been active in Rome for some months. The German troops responded by firing indiscriminately into the houses on the street and rounding up the residents of Via Rasella. The next day, 335 people were taken to the Fosse Ardeatine Caves just outside the city and shot over a period of four and a half hours. 1 The victims had been taken from various official and unofficial prisons, Via Rasella, and other areas. Only three had already been condemned to death (for partisan activity), 154 were under investigation by the Germany military police, and seventy-five were in custody purely because they were Jewish. Other victims were taken from Regina Coeli (Rome's prison) or selected from those picked up around Via Rasella. The next day (25 March) a German army poster appeared across Rome and in newspapers. It accused ‘criminal elements’ of planting the bomb and added that ‘The German Command … has ordered that for every German killed ten communist-Badoglian criminals will be shot. This order has already been carried out.’
My first engagement with the past was prompted by philosophical and political commitments to Plato and Marx and their theories of historical development. But these commitments were soon dislodged by the study of the history of the ideas of historical development of Burke, Locke and Hooker. Prompted by Hooker's intellectual background, these studies, in turn, led to further but different engagements with medieval history--first with the history of medieval philosophy and, from there, with the socio-political formative centuries of the Middle Ages. And then, taking religion as seriously as medieval people had done, but myself not being a believer, I was obliged to ponder problems of the philosophy of religion. Each engagement raised further problems rather than provided solutions and therefore led to the next, which usually differed in kind. The one steady thread was the realisation that since the past has led to the present, these events must have been causally related. According to Popper, causal links are relative to generalisations. But since the generalisations used vary according to times and circumstances, events are linked in endlessly different ways so that one gets a plethora of narratives. The conclusion that all these metahistorical preoccupations required a meta-narrative, or what used to be called a philosophy of history, was logically inevitable.
L'ordineègiàstatoeseguito:Roma,leFosseArdeatine,lamemoria. By Alessandro Portelli. Rome: Donzelli, 1999. Pp. vii+448. ISBN 88-7989-457-9. L.50.000.
This article explores the difference that a focus on emotion makes to the writing of history. Using as a case study the widespread phenomenon of the ‘College crush’, it makes a case for considering the crush as an example of a distinctively modern emotional style, produced within the specific emotional communities of single-sex educational institutions rather than as ‘evidence’ of lesbian identity or of a phase on a developmental path to normative heterosexuality. The shift to considering the ontology of the ‘crush’ is enabled by the more flexible framework of the history of emotions. This contrasts with research on sexuality, which is underpinned by teleological notions of identity, biography and history.
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