The forgotten heroines of the Roman WWII resistance

There is a monument quietly introducing the Ponte dell’Industria in the Ostiense neighbourhood of Rome which commemorates the sacrifice of ten women who rebelled against the Nazi-Fascist regime.

The surroundings are inglorious. Overgrown lawn and weeds crowd the base of a stone slab. Tall cypresses like obelisks cast pale green shadows over the grey monolith. The inclement weather only makes the scene more eery. Perhaps it was the improbable setting that caught my eye, but as I walked hurriedly along a decidedly dull section of Rome’s Ostiense neighbourhood, I stopped. Ten ghostly heads craning their long necks out of a bronze tile looking this way and that drew my eyes down to the inscription below:

IN MEMORY OF THE TEN WOMEN KILLED BY NAZI-FASCISTS ON 7 APRIL 1944.
SPQR 7-9-1997.

A little research was in order. What occurred on the night of 7 April 1944 is recounted in detail by the partisan Carla Cipponi in her book Con cuore di donna (Milan: Il Saggiatore, 2000).

In March 1944, the Nazi invaders in Rome decreased the daily civilian rations of bread to 100g. It was nearing Easter, and the women of Rome worried that they would not celebrate in a suitable way. Could they at least have that little extra that would allow them to make a meal for their families? It was not just bread they were being denied, but the warmth of their traditions, the freedom and comfort of their communities, the foundations of their dignity.

I can only imagine the frustration, the boiling ire.

All over the capital, women began to protest in front of the bakeries. Their anger only grew when they learned that rations had increased for the Nazi troops. They discovered that some bakeries held greater stocks of flour and made more white bread to distribute to the invaders. A group of women in Ostiense conspired with one such bakery to take extra portions under the cover of night.

But one nervous onlooker reported the incident to the German guards, who promptly arrived on the site, and blocked the road. Some women were able to flee, but ten were rounded up along the adjacent bridge facing the rushing waters of the Tiber, and summarily shot, their bodies left bleeding in the road among loaves and flour.

One woman’s body was found naked underneath the bridge.

The monument does not remember their names.

In a city which so passionately, beautifully, ubiquitously glorifies its men in its architecture and monuments, this one remembering these ten women has suddenly become special to me.

IMG_1685

Clorinda Falsetti
Italia Ferracci
Esperia Pellegrini
Elvira Ferrante
Eulalia Fiorentino
Elettra Maria Giardini
Concetta Piazza
Assunta Maria Izzi
Arialda Pistolesi
Silvia Loggreolo

 

 

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