“No one could imagine that women, the old and young would have to bear such violence.” Enio Mancini

Ma cos’è stata Sant’Anna di Stazzema?

Giulio Cavalli,  Left,  Agosto 2020

Lo racconta un superstite. Enio Mancini aveva 6 anni.

Non avevo ancora compiuto sette anni all’alba di quello splendido sabato estivo; niente faceva presagire ai circa quattrocento abitanti di Sant’Anna e agli oltre mille sfollati che si trattasse di un cupo giorno di terrore e di morte, il giorno del massacro di cinquecentosessanta vittime innocenti, delle quali circa centocinquanta erano bambini sotto i quattordici anni.

Mio padre aveva scorto le colonne naziste che scendevano dai passi montani sui borghi di Sant’Anna.

Prima di andare a nascondersi con gli altri uomini nel bosco, ci sveglio’ e ci invito’ a mettere in salvo la nostra “roba”.

Pensavamo si trattasse di un rastrellamento e temevamo l’incendio delle nostre case, come era avvenuto nel vicino paese di Farnocchia.

Nessuno immaginava che donne, vecchi e bambini avessero a subire violenze.

Poco dopo ecco entrare in casa un gruppetto di S.S., indossavano la tuta mimetica, erano armati fino ai denti e portavano l’elmetto sul capo; notammo che due nascondevano il volto con una specie di maschera e parlavano come noi.

Ci buttarono letteralmente fuori, non permettendoci di prendere nemmeno gli zoccoli e, mentre alcuni con strani attrezzi che lanciavano lunghe lingue d fuoco incendiavano la casa, altri ci condussero sull’aia che dominava il borgo di Sennari.

Li’ trovammo gia’ molte persone, ci addossarono contro un muro di una casa e iniziarono ad installare, su un poggio sovrastante, degli strani attrezzi, tipo treppiedi.

Qualcuno comincio’ a piangere e ad implorare per la disperazione; una vecchina, forse per ingenuita’ o per sdrammatizzare il momento, disse di non preoccuparci che forse stavano per farci una fotografia.

Quando anche la mitragliatrice fu montata e lo sgomento e la paura erano ormai generali, arrivo’ nell’aia un ufficiale tedesco, forse un generale, che imparti’ degli ordini in tedesco: “Raus… Valdicastello”, ripeteva.

Le spregevoli belve con il volto mascherato tradussero: l’ordine era quello di scendere verso Valdicastello.

Al nostro nucleo familiare si erano aggiunti la nonna materna, la zia e gli altri.

Scendendo, passammo davanti alle nostre case, ormai quasi completamente incendiate (si udiva ancora il muggito della mucca rimasta intrappolata nella stalla).

Decidemmo di non ubbidire all’ordine di scendere a Valdicastello, ma di nasconderci nei pressi, con la speranza di poter fare presto ritorno alle nostre case per salvare il salvabile.

Ci nascondemmo in un anfratto naturale che si trovava nella selva, duecento metri sotto casa.

Dopo circa mezz’ora si udirono quelle voci gutturali che si avvicinavano al nostro nascondiglio; lo sgomento fu totale, ci videro, erano una decina, alzammo le mani in segno di resa.

Ci incolonnarono e ci spintonarono lungo il sentiero che portava verso il centro del paese, verso la chiesa di Sant’Anna.

Malgrado le pedate e i colpi coi calci dei fucili nella schiena, si riusciva a procedere molto lentamente.

Alcuni, infatti, erano scalzi ed il sentiero era pieno di rovi e ricci di castagno.

Ad un certo punto decisero di proseguire (sembrava avessero molta fretta), lasciando di guardia un solo soldato che, nel frattempo, si era tolto l’elmetto dal capo; era molto giovane, quasi un adolescente e non ci faceva piu’ tanta paura.

Quando il gruppo dei tedeschi scomparve dalla nostra vista, il giovane soldato comincio’ ad impartirci degli ordini, che non capivamo, ma ci faceva anche dei gesti eloquenti.

Questi si’ erano facilmente intuibili: ci diceva di tornare velocemente indietro.

Salimmo il ripido pendio, si udi’ una scarica di arma automatica che ci fece trasalire, ci girammo di scatto temendo che ci stesse sparando addosso ed invece imbracciava il fucile verso l’alto e sparava verso le fronde dei castagni.

Si continuo’ a salire verso Sennari, mentre sul versante opposto, verso la chiesa, si udivano in un frastuono generale crepitio di spari, scoppi di bombe, tetti di case che crollavano, lamenti di animali che stavano bruciando vivi nelle stalle e poi si scorgeva il fuoco ed il fumo nero che proveniva da ogni direzione, da ogni borgo del paese.

Non ci rendevamo pero’ conto di tutto quello che realmente stava accadendo.

Giungemmo a casa poco prima delle dieci e tutti ci adoperammo per salvare dal fuoco quella parte non ancora completamente distrutta.

Ci sembrava cosa gravissima aver perso gran parte della nostra roba e soprattutto la mucca che, in quel periodo, ci aveva permesso di sopravvivere.

Verso le cinque del pomeriggio, pero’, la tremenda notizia.

Un giovane della borgata, allontanatosi al mattino con gli altri uomini per nascondersi nei boschi e che, al ritorno, aveva attraversato il centro e gli altri borghi, arrivo’ a Sennari urlando, sembrava impazzito: “Una strage! Sono tutti morti! Sono bruciati!” ripeteva.

Lasciammo le nostre case che ancora fumavano per correre verso il centro, verso la chiesa.

Ogni gruppo andava la’ dove abitavano i propri congiunti, i propri parenti.

Passammo al “Colle”.

Ne avevano uccisi diciassette (una ragazza, ferita, ed un uomo anziano si erano miracolosamente salvati sotto il cumulo dei cadaveri).

Arrivammo alle “Case” dove abitavano i nostri parenti: cadaveri sparsi dappertutto, rovine, fuoco e i pochi sopravvissuti impietriti dal dolore.

In una casa, sventrata dal fuoco, su una trave che ancora ardeva – incastrata – una rete di un letto e sopra tre corpi quasi completamente consumati.

Al nero dei tessuti carbonizzati faceva contrasto il bianco dello scheletro; uno dei corpi era piccolo, il corpo di un bambino.

E poi l’odore acre, intenso, della carne arrostita.

Una nonna, per fortuna, riprese noi bambini per riportarci verso Sennari.

Avevamo visto molto, troppo per la nostra tenera eta’.

Una esperienza drammatica che segna per sempre un’esistenza, ma comunque meno tragica di altri giovani ragazzi sopravvissuti nell’eccidio che, feriti o incolumi, videro massacrare i propri cari.

Poi ci fu il dopo, ma quella e’ un’altra storia.

But what happened in Sant’Anna di Stazzema?

Giulio Cavalli, from Left, August 2020

The account of the survivor, Enio Mancini, who was 6 years old.

I was not yet seven years old on that marvellous Saturday in summer; and nothing could make the four hundred inhabitants of Sant’Anna, and the thousands of people who were evacuated, anticipate that it would be a day of terror and death, the day of the massacre of five hundred and sixty innocent victims, of whom roughly one hundred and fifty were children under the age of fourteen.

My father saw the Nazi troops descending from the mountain passes into the town of Sant’Anna.

Before going to hide in the woods with the other men, he woke us up and told us to hide our “stuff”.

We thought it was going to be a raid and we were afraid they would burn down our houses like they had done in the nearby town of Farnocchia.

No one could imagine that women, the old and young would have to bear such violence.

Soon after, a group of S.S.―in camouflage, armed to the teeth and wearing helmets―entered our home; we noticed that two of them were wearing a sort of mask and spoke just like us.

They literally kicked us out of the house: we couldn’t even grab our clogs, and while some of them, who were holding a strange thing that shot tongues of fire, burnt down the house, others lead us onto the farmyard that looked over the village of Sennari.

There were already a lot of people there. They lined us up against the wall of a house and started setting up strange equipment, like tripods, on a nearby knoll.

Someone started sobbing and begging in desperation; an elderly woman, out of naïveté, perhaps, or to lighten the moment, told us not to worry because maybe they were going to take our picture.

When they had set up the machine guns and the dismay and the fear had overtaken us all, a German official, a general maybe, appeared in the yard and gave orders in German, repeating the words: “Raus…Valdicastello.”

The disgusting brutes with the masks on their faces translated: the order was to descend towards Valdicastello.

My maternal grandmother, an aunt, and other members of the family had joined us.

We descended, passing in front of our houses, which were by now almost completely burnt to the ground (we could still hear the mooing of the cow that was trapped in the barn).

We decided not to follow the order to go down to Valdicastello, and we hid in the surrounding area, in the hopes that we might return to our homes and save what we could.

We hid in a natural ravine in the forest, two hundred metres below our house.

After roughly have an hour we could hear guttural voices moving closer to our hiding place; we were overwhelmed with fear; there were ten of them; and they saw us: we raised our hands in a sign of surrender.

They put us in a row and pushed us along the trail that led to the centre of the town, towards the church of Sant’Anna.

Even though they kicked us and jabbed us in the back with the butt of their rifles, we were able to descend very slowly.

Some of us, in fact, were barefoot, and the path was full of bramble and chestnut burs.

At a certain point they decided to hurry forward (they seemed to be in a terrible hurry), leaving only one soldier to guard us, a soldier who, in the meantime, had removed his helmet; he was very young, almost a teen, and we were not as frightened anymore.

When the group of Germans disappeared from sight, the young soldier started shouting orders, which we didn’t understand; but he also gestured eloquently.

These gestures were easily decipherable: he was telling us to run back quickly.

We climbed the steep incline. We heard the shots of an automatic weapon, which made us jump. We turned apprehensively, thinking that maybe he was shooting at us; but he was holding his machine gun upwards and shooting towards the tops of the chestnut trees.

We kept climbing towards Sennari while on the other side, towards the church, we could hear, in the uproar, shots being fired, bombs blasting, the roofs of houses crashing down, the cry of animals burning alive in the barns, and then, signs of a fire and black smoke coming from every direction, from every district of the town.

We didn’t realize, however, what was really happening.

We reached our house just before ten and tried to save from the fire the part that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

It seemed to us that losing most of our possessions―especially the cow, which in that period had helped us survive―was something terrible.

Towards five in the afternoon, however, [came] the terrible news.

A young man from the village, who had left that morning to hide in the forest with other men and who, upon returning, had crossed the centre of the town and the other districts, arrived in Sennari screaming as if he were mad. He kept repeating: “A massacre! They’re all dead! They were burnt!

We left our homes, which were still smoking, to run to the centre, towards the church.

Every family went to the place where their loved ones lived, where their relatives lived.

We went to “Colle”.

They had killed seventeen (a girl, who was injured, and an elderly man had survived miraculously under the pile of bodies).

We reached “Case” where our relatives lived: there were bodies strewn everywhere, ruins, fire, and a few survivors who were paralysed by grief.

On a wooden beam that was burning in one house that had been gutted by the fire, there was a bedspring― trapped ―with three almost completely consumed bodies on it. The whiteness of the skeleton stood out against the black charred fabric of the clothing; one of the bodies was small, the body of a child.

And then [there was] the pungent smell, intense, of roasted meat.  One grandmother, fortunately, took us children back to Sennari.

We had seen a lot, too much for our tender age.

It was a dramatic experience that mars your life forever; but it was less traumatic than that of other young survivors of the massacre who, injured or unscathed, had watched their loved ones being slaughtered.

Then came the aftermath, but that is another story.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2020

This account was first published in Left, here, by Giulio Cavalli. I have his kind permission to translate.

Giulio Cavalli is a politically active author, actor, and writer and on the screen. His work can be found here.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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