They gathered us at nightfall:
“You will be sent to work in Germany”
The following is a testimony by Alba Valech Capozzi, who was present at Fossoli in the days of the massacre at the firing range of the Cibeno. This passage is from the very rare book,”A 24029″ by Alba Valech Capozzi, originally published by Soc. An Poligrafica, Siena in 1946, and reprinted in 1995 under the cure of the Historic Institute of the Siennese Resistance for the presses of Nuova Immagine Editrice, Sienna, whom we thank for their authorization to reproduce this document.
(…) Who knows where they’ve taken those twenty!” murmured the cook as he was intent upon baking a cake.
“It’s no doubt some new idea of the Germans! It’s just impossible to stay calm with them around!”
“Are they going to kill them?” I asked.
“You’re always so frightened,” Vittorina answered, “Don’t always think the worst! If I weren’t here for you, you’d be living in a constant state of terror. And why should they kill them? They left the camp with spades and barrels. They’ve surely been brought someplace to work.”
“Damn the potatoes!” I interrupted. “They never end, do they? But,” I continued, “there’s just no way to stay calm.”
“You never know with those beasts,” added the cook.
I simply couldn’t get a terrible presentiment out of my mind. It was the 10th of July, already eight days since Ettore came to visit, and from that moment on, I have been continually worried. The English were getting nearer, there was talk of an evacuation of the camp and I was afraid that they would kill us all, or that we would be taken to Germany. All of this in spite of the rumors that our liberation would soon come.
“Hurry up,” the cook said, “or else we’ll be late getting them lunch.”
That day, all of us worked with worried hearts. The twenty Jews didn’t return to the camp at noon either. A sense of nervousness reigned in the barracks. The most disparate comments were made. We were all worried.
They didn’t return at nightfall, either, when we were lined up in the courtyard for the control. We were certain that they had been killed.
All of us were lined up, but there was an atmosphere dense with tension and even Marshall Hans had a somber expression. In the mess hall I noticed something very strange. The Germans were engaged in banter that was more serious and intense than was their usual manner, and there were some animated discussions. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I figured that the discussion was definitely related to the absence of the twenty Jews. I tried to ask about the twenty, but was met only with shouts and fists on the table. I didn’t insist, and as soon as work was over, I ran as quickly as I could to the camp.
With a severe expression on his face, Hans finished the count, then he went to the center of the courtyard and said, “Those who I am about to call, will get their things and go sleep in another barrack. Tomorrow morning they will leave for Germany and they will go to a work camp where they will be treated very well.”
He started calling names. There were seventy in all.
By my side I heard the weeping of a woman. She was a political prisoner and her son was among the seventy.
“You see,” she said to me, “if he goes somewhere and he’ll be better off, I am happy, but I was just as happy to have him here with me, my little boy! The other one they executed at St. Vittore. But, if he really has to go to a place where he’ll be better off, ” she repeated, “then let him go. In Germany, working, it’s not likely that they will kill him, while here, with these retaliations, it’s just not possible to stay calm.”
The seventy were in the meantime gathered together, with all of their belongings. I saw Fritz, the interpreter, speak animatedly with them, while they neared the barrack.
The twenty Jews hadn’t yet returned.
One after another, those seventy came to say their goodbyes to all of us, and that night at the camp, there was more worry for the fate of the twenty Jews than for those seventy political prisoners. The next morning, upon entering the kitchen, I saw that the Jews had returned to the camp. They stood in a group between the kitchen and the mess hall. Their faces were ghostly white.
“Mister Vita, Mister Vita,” I asked, addressing myself to one of them, “Well, where have you been? Everyone in the camp has all been sick with worry!”
Mister Vita did not respond. He simply shook his head with an air of desolation.
“Alba, Alba, come here,” shouted the cook.
A German approached us. It was around eight o’clock in the morning.
I took the kettle of coffee and headed for the mess hall.
One of the Germans had his arm bandaged.
“Capùt, capùt,” I said while I indicated his arm. I wanted to ask him if he had hurt himself; it was really an attempt to start up conversation so that I could find out some information.
With a surprised expression on his face he nodded, saying, “Very, very capùt.”
I left the mess hall with a strange feeling. I saw the bricklayers who came to the camp to work. They too had strange expressions on their faces.
“What’s happened?” I asked one of them.
“They massacred each and every one of them, but keep quiet, please!” one whispered to me.
“Who, who did they massacre?” I insisted.
“A group of prisoners,” he replied.
I understood. I went to the kitchen. In the vicinity of a barrack, about one hundred meters away from me, I saw that woman who just the evening before wept by my side.
She did not yet know.
Alba Valech Capozzi, deported to Fossoli and successively to Birkenau, was liberated by the Allied forces in the vicinity of Dachau the first of May, 1945.