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Liveblogging World War II: September 21, 1943

The Nazis Massacre the Italian Soldiers on Kefalonia: Battista Alborghetti:

A nightmare. This is still for me, Kefalonia. I’m a survivor. I was in that hell from November 1942 to November 1944, along with other 11,600 Italians. After September 8, 1943--as a result of our refusal to surrender to the German army--10,500 Italian soldiers were massacred.

A terrible massacre, that still remains in my eyes and on my mind. There are so many images about those awful days of terror: stories of war and death, written in the blood of so many young people who pursued the dream of a better Italy.

I was nineteen years old when I was assigned to the Divisione Acqui--at 33th Artillery, First group, Second battery--on the Greek-Albanian front, already controlled by German Army. The armistice proclaimed in Italy by General Badoglio changes our destinies.

Germans claim our surrender, but they do not offer sufficient guarantees about of the Italian troops repatriation. Italian officers called a consultation between the departments: it’s an unprecedented event in the modern army history. We decide to refuse surrender and not give our weapons to the Germans. And after that, the Apocalypse….

In the early hours of the battle I see my three companions dying. They fall down close to me. Some minutes later, a splinter of a grenade explosion hits my left leg. The Acqui Division--poor in weapons--is destroyed. People who do not succumb in the fighting they become prey of the Wehrmacht. German soldiers rakes the island, inch by inch. I escaped from the capture in a couple of occasions; I hide myself between mules and I repair inside water pipes in the undergrowth. They capture me on September 21.

About 300 Officers (captains, lieutenats and second lieutenants) were captured and transferred to that, sadly, is now known as the “Red House”, in San Teodoro. Against every principle of the international conventions, they are shot within 36 hours, four people a turn…. The corpses, weighed down with rolls of barbed wire, they were then thrown into the sea, sprinkled with petrol and burned in bonfires, whose light illuminated the night, leaving a foul smell in the air.

My companions were loaded onto trucks and taken somewhere: I won’t see them anymore. My friend, the second lieutenant Giampietro Matteri--from Dongo (Como), twenty-two years old--is killed on September 24. The same destiny for another friend, the second lieutenant Pillepich, from Trieste: I still remember the terror in his eyes when, together with eleven companions, he was dragged from the group. Few minutes later we heard the shots of machine guns, followed by cries of pain, yells, invocations. And then other shots. The finishing strokes.

At the concentration camp we were treated worse than beasts. In the morning, Wehrmacht officers assembled us, offering--as they were saying--“the chance to return to Italy”. But I always said to myself: if they want to kill me, I prefer that they do it here. We now know: who accepted that proposals they were shot. They were shipped on steamers, as easy targets for Stukas airplanes or for floating mines. It’s what that happened to my compatriot, Ferdinando Mangili. He climbed aboard of one of those ships that were full of soldiers who looked forward to reach home… But the ship was sunk off and the waves returned the corpses…. The Germans forced me to bury the dead, all around the island. Chaplain father Luigi Ghilardini and I, we recomposed corpses or what was left of bodies mangled by bullets and then devoured by ravens and vultures….

One day the Nazis picked up us suddenly and they brought us in the square of Lixouri, where they deployed 13 Greeks accused of being partisan. Those poor people were hanged under our eyes. It happened that one of them--because of a broken rope--fell to the ground. He was still alive. The Germans took him and hanged him again…