Sixty nine years ago today three-hundred-and-thirty-two Italians were lined up in Rome, taken to a cave near the Via Ardeatina and one-by-one, shot in the head. They were forced to kneel on the bodies of those executed before them. The executioners were given cases of cognac to dull their nerves. Then the entrance was blown up, sealing the cave. This was the Ardeatine massacre.
The day before, Italian partisans had killed thirty-two German policemen, and as a reprisal, ten Italians for each policeman killed was deemed a suitable ratio. Adolf Hitler himself authorized the reprisal, requiring that it be carried out within twenty-four hours.
In Death in Rome, Robert Katz writes that the victims were “rich, and poor, doctors and lawyers, workers and shopkeepers, artists and artisans, teachers and students, men and teenaged boys from every walk of life, and even a man of God to walk among them.” The youngest to be executed was fifteen. One of the oldest was sixty-four-year-old General Simone Simoni, a war hero who had survived torture with a blowtorch. Twenty-six-year-old boxer, Lazzaro Anticoli, in jail at Regina Coeli prison, at the last minute was included in the roster of victims in place of informer Celeste’s brother. Before leaving his cell he wrote on the wall with a nail:
«Sono Anticoli Lazzaro, detto Bucefalo, pugilatore. Si non arivedo la famija mia è colpa de quella venduta de Celeste. Arivendicatemi».
“I’m Anticoli Lazzaro, called Bucefalo, boxer. If I don’t see my family again, the fault lies with the sold-out snitch, Celeste. Avenge me.”
This post’s for you, Lazzaro.
8 thoughts on “The Ardeatine Massacre: He’s Not Coming Back”
Really touching piece
Thanks for reading!
Wow. Never even knew…
There are a couple of movies about it…one with Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni.
What are the names? Would be interested to hearing more.
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you with the names of the films but here they are:
The event was made into the 1962 film Dieci italiani per un tedesco directed by Filippo Walter Ratti and starring Gino Cervi. In 1973 the feature film Massacre in Rome by George Pan Cosmatos was released starring Marcello Mastroianni and Richard Burton.
American composer William Schuman (1910–1992) subtitled his Ninth Symphony from 1968 ‘Le fosse Ardeatine’ in memory of the victims.
Celeste, good heavens! For the life of one brother he forfeits that of another!
Yeah, he saved his own brother’s skin and sold out poor Lazzaro. Thanks for reading. This story gets to me every time I think of the boxer scratching his message out on the prison wall.