domenica 29 aprile 2012
The April 25th Liberation Day holiday was celebrated and ushered in with the usual fanfare of our city's marching band and the ever present bass drum beat of Gastone. Daisy always gets excited when she hears the band and insistently barks and hops up on a chair to let us know she wants to watch from our window. It was an interesting and thought provoking Liberation day for us because we had two guests in the house who were on a special mission. Writer/giornalist Alessandro Eugeni was a guest in our house. In January he had come to Cortona accompanied by a small group of citizens from the Germany, to present a book which he wrote "Il Falegname di Ottobrunn" which documented a tragedy of war inflicted on a small community near Falzano a small community in Cortona County. The Germans who accompanied him were from the town of Ottobrunn. At the end of June 1944, after encounters with partisan groups in the area, the German troops marching through the area led by Major Herbert Stommel captured and imprisoned 12 civilians in a farmhouse which under his orders was barricaded and set on fire. Only one adolescent boy survived when a collapsed beam shielded his body, though he was badly burned and remembers "playing dead" when the soldiers returned to the rubble to finish off the victims with rounds of gun fire. This chilling war time crime led to trials against Mr. Stommel and his second in command Josef Scheungraber in Munich which concluded in a life sentence for Mr. Scheungraber, known as "the Carpenter of Ottobrunn" in 2009. The sentence was suspended as it was judged that Mr. Scheungraber was mentally incapacitated and Mr. Stommel was never tried for the same reasons. The sentencing was significant however, because it was the first time in the history of Nazi-Fascist war crime trials that the Italian and German courts sent down the same verdict. In the interest of paving a path to forgiveness, Mr. Eugeni accompanied the parish priest of the town of Ottobrunn to Cortona for the 25th of April. Father Christoph Nobs arrived to serve a mass on this day of Liberation and the feast day of the city at the Church of San Marco to honor the dead and take the first steps in healing this old wound. Perhaps this was a day of liberation from bitter memories left from this horrific period in the world's history; a chance to remember and re-dedicate one's self to the idea of Liberation from war.