Unfortunately, although I would have wished to I cannot take part in the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nazi-Fascist massacre at Marzabotto and other communities of the area, due to an appointment in Brussels for the parliamentary hearing on the position of European High Representative for Foreign and Defence Policy. I would, however, ask you to think of me as there with you, as I firmly believe in the value of keeping memories alive and am convinced that this is our precise duty now more than ever before.
We are duty-bound to not forget that over 400 episodes of collective murder took place in Italy between 1943 and 1945, resulting in over 15,000 civilian deaths. These were children, elderly persons and mothers, men and women rounded up and gunned down as the targets of the Nazi’s rage as they pulled back across our country, leaving a trail of terror and death. These were crimes that violated international law, crimes against humanity that were committed at Sant’Anna di Stazzema, at Civitella della Chiana, at Gubbio, Capistrello and Caiazzo; they took place on our soil at the foot of Monte del Sole, at Marzabotto, at Grizzana and Vado di Monzuno. Places that, along with the Fosse Ardeatine, will forever remain a symbol of the most extensive and painful savagery of the age. A savagery that the conscience of men and history judged and condemned, and the verdict for which was irreversible.
But it is necessary to understand and remember, and it is necessary to distinguish, to realise that there were also Italians alongside the SS, who sided with the Republic of Salò and Hitler’s Third Reich in carrying out these massacres. Any attempt to equivocate here between right and wrong, good and evil, is unacceptable. The stances and the choices made then were not and cannot be considered as equal. One side, and only one side, was in the right, and it was that side which had the strength to stand up to anti-democratic ideologies and systems; it was that side whose goal was to achieve freedom and democracy, that was dedicated to combatting a regime and policies that even in our country led to racial laws and the discrimination, persecution and deportation into concentration camps of Jews. It is to the memory of those terrible, inhuman acts against civilian populations that today’s ceremony is devoted.
Since the material and moral reconstruction of the country, which peaked with the Constitution of the Republic, the Italian people have never failed to demonstrate their capacity to keep solid that foundation of unity. We must not stray from the path that led us here and that placed us among the founders of a united Europe. Understanding and remembering the past is the best way to understand the present and to confront the suffering of the world and put humanity on the only path possible: that of respect for the rights and freedom of all individuals, for coexistence among peoples, for peace.