Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Concentration Camp in My Past

As a child growing up in the USA I was never far from the history of my mother's family. They are what can best be described as an interesting lot. They owned a hotel in the Italian town of Vestone called Locanda Italia.

The hotel and its fabulous restaurant was in our family for a very long time from 1580 until 1975. It endured allot of things- my great great great grandfather fleeing to fight with Garibaldi's Cacciatori delle Alpe, the Burning of our town by Napoleone, and the shelling by the Austrians in World War I. I grew up on their great dishes that older people in Vestone still talk about, Polenta and Rabbit, Stracciatella soup, Grostoli, and Risotto alla Funghi.
Our family during that great World War 2 was divided. Some Fascists some Socialists, some just not interested but the war was everywhere. My Zio Luigi was a Red Cross worker, after the Italian surrender in 1943 he fled to the mountains and lived in a cave for two years to avoid being deported as a forced laborer in Germany, my Zio Fausto who was an Italian soldier in Albania was interned by the Germans- and almost died of repeated beatings and starvation. Over 400 men from our town were murdered in Russia after the surrender and their memory is remembered in the name of our Piazza Nikolwjewka.
Right in the midst of this little town that I still to this day call my place of origin was a Concentration camp.
Vestone is 25 miles north of Brescia in a V shaped valley. It is a beautiful place but it was not so for the 5500 Slovenians, Jews and Croatians who were interned in our town. My grandmother told me that during the war the SS requisitioned our hotel- and they ran the camp after the Italians who had opened it were arrested-like all Italians because the king deposed Mussolini. We did not have guests we had Germans. She also told me that the mountains were filled with my male relatives hiding from the Nazis and the Brigate Nere-- my grandmother was the only person to talk about the camp to me my other relatives did not.

She is a formidable woman who did what she could but each day. She said they would march the people down through the Piazza in front of the church to trucks parked where today the condo
we still own sits.

Where did they go?? My Nonna did not know?

I dont know anything more about this camp. What I know about are my relatives who hid at a terrible time and the fact that on the Simon Weisenthal List VESTONE our town is listed as a camp site- from a time and a war that seems so far away... I often wonder when I walk the same route what people thought?? on both sides and why there is nothing written about it...

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