Italians bad people

Publish date 29-06-2020

by Matteo Spicuglia

Remembering one of the worst pages in our history: Ethiopia still waits.


There is a moving image, carved in the memory of a country. March 2016, Addis Ababa: the square of the monument that recalls the victory of the Ethiopians over the Italians. The President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella lays a wreath of flowers, then approaches a small group of elders: the young people 75 years earlier, the former partisans who fought against the Italian invader. You see pride and pain, the signs of a long life, but also of a possible reconciliation. One of them looks into the eyes of the president of a ruthless nation. He looks him in the eye and honors him with a military salute.


The symbols are not involved here. Because saying Ethiopia also means today dealing with a terrible past that our national conscience has completely removed. Of course, the Italy of the 1930s was the Italy of dictatorship, of an era that we feel far away. Very true, but facts like words are stones. We can't turn away. To conquer Ethiopia and build the Empire, we were the first western army to use Viper and chemical weapons on unarmed populations, we had no qualms about making scorched earth, opening concentration camps, for example those of Nocra and Dadane. As an Italian Church we have blessed the war against the Orthodox heresy of the Ethiopian Church, as a people we have made ourselves galvanized from a perspective of greatness.


Almost nobody has ever apologized. Not even for the most serious war crime committed by Italy. Born right in that square in Addis Ababa, after the attack in 1937 in which viceroy Rodolfo Graziani, a war criminal, was injured. The reprisal wanted by Mussolini and by Graziani himself was atrocious. For days, the Ethiopian population of the city was left defenseless in the face of attacks by Muslim formations and gangs of Italian civilians. People killed, raped, the numbers are still unknown: 30 thousand deaths according to Ethiopian sources, 3 thousand according to Italian ones. However thousands. Then revenge served cold months later, when the order was given to pass under the arms all the inhabitants of the monastic citadel of Debre Libanos, a spiritual beacon of Ethiopian Christianity, considered a den of resistance by Graziani. The Italians raked and shot between 1200 and 1600 monks, including novices and students practically children. The monastery was partially destroyed, many bodies were not even found anymore. A story practically put in silence and finally restored to memory by the historian Paolo Borruso, recently published with "Debre Libanos 1937", a book of horrors. Our.


The hope is that it will be read by as many Italians as possible, because true forgiveness only passes through justice. President Mattarella teaches us, those former partisans who have not been stopped by the weight of the past, all free people who are not afraid to look history in the face. It would be nice if one day, with a striking and shared gesture, the whole of Italy asked for forgiveness, the Italy that in the early years of the Republic refused to extradite Graziani himself to Ethiopia, who died peacefully in his bed in 1955 and today honored with a mausoleum in Affile, its town of origin.


Remembering, asking for forgiveness, knowing. The only weapons we have to restore dignity to the victims, to the innocent who will ask us for an account, to the pain that maybe will make us think before talking in vain about Africa, about us and them.

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