Salo, 4 November, 2005
Up early again, this time heading towards Lake Garda. Just south of the southern end of the lake lies the small town of Ponti sul Mincio. A couple of kilometres out of town, down a narrow track is Piccola Caprera, a lovely farmhouse and garden, given over to former members of the Young Fascists. This division fought bravely throughout North Africa and used to be the home of Fulvio Balisti, one of their former battalion commanders. After the war, with Fascism outlawed, the veterans of this division were not allowed to publicly celebrate their war record and so Balisti left his home to former members of the Young Fascists as a place where they could meet in peace. Once a month, they gather for the weekend, and like any group of old friends, they hugely enjoy seeing one another and refuge the farmhouse offers. All of them were very courteous to Julia and me, showing us around their museum and giving us a wonderful lunch. We spoke mainly to William Cremonini, who had been wounded just before the end of the North African campaign and had made it back to Italy on the last ship before the surrender there. Once recovered, and with the war continuing in Italy, he had joined the Bir el Gobi company, a Black Brigade unit and Pavolini’s personal bodyguard. For him, the Italian armistice in September 1943, after all they had gone through in North Africa, had been nothing less than a terrible betrayal. William believed it was simply a matter of honour to carry on the fight.
From my point of view, anyone who sided with Nazi Germany made the wrong choice, but that is just my view. I have to try and see that the choices facing Italians back then was not black and white, and that often decisions were made not for deep-rooted political reasons but because of a range of other factors.
Afterwards we drove to Salo, on Lake Garda, where we were found rooms for the night. This beautiful town was the official centre of the Neo-Fascist Government. What a good trip this has been. And what a lot to think about!