Torn lives - PhMuseum

Torn lives

Enrico Quattrini

2020

This work is a documentary research on the events that occurred during the Second World War to the population of Ciociaria, a large area of southern Lazio, in the municipality of Frosinone, and about the consequences that these had on the victims and on the society.

On May 12, 1944, the Allies, blocked for months on the Gustav line front, unleash Operation Diadem, the ultimate attempt to defeat the troops of the 10th Wehrmacht army, which had been settled on it.

At the 12,000 soldiers of the allied French Expeditionary Corps (CEF), under the command of General Juin, largely of Moroccan-Algerian origin, the so-called Goumiers, are given the arduous task of attacking along the steep slopes of the Aurunci mountains.

The goumiers, soldiers accustomed to fighting on the mountains, recognizable by their uniform, the "djellaba" and the long knife, the "koumia", with which they slaughtered or mutilated the enemies, broke through the German resistance, opening the way to Rome for the allies.

In the two weeks following the battle, which ended on 17 May with the fall of Esperia, the 7,000 surviving goumiers, soldiers who lived on looting, engaged in all sorts of violence, devastated and raided most of Ciociaria, leaving behind them a trail of unprecedented violence, thefts, rapes and killings of unarmed civilians.

Armed with the guarantee of impunity, the carte blanche, which, according to some testimonies, they are said to have been granted by the French command, and the so-called right of prey and plunder, the Goumiers in a few days killed and raped over 20,000 women and men, aged between 8 and 85 years old.

However, the violence for those women would not have healed together with the wounds suffered or the healing of venereal diseases contracted. For those who survived there was a slow agony in the following years, due to their marginalization by a society that was not ready to understand the reality of the events.

The numerous victims of the Moroccan women were accused of having harmed the honor and dignity of their men, many were repudiated by their families or forced to suffer new violence and discrimination. The shame of what happened was such as to force them to hide what had happened, to flee from those places or to drive them to madness or suicide.

The young girls raped had suffered an even greater violence, considered corrupt or contaminated, they were precluded from the possibility of a future love and therefore of a motherhood, in essence the loss of a woman's purpose.

Their lives had been taken from her in those two weeks of hell and nothing and no one would be able to give them back.

A story that, for a long time ignored by the authorities, and even minimized by the French authorities, remained etched only in the memory of the few individuals who had the courage to tell it. Unfortunately, it too is a victim of a lack of historical and collective memory of our society, who is slowly forgetting what happened, along with the names of all the women who have suffered such injustices.

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  • Slopes of the Aurunci mountains, from which the Goumiers attack towards the Gustav line started.

  • Historical photo of the Goumiers

  • Extract from the book "Tra due fuochi" in which the author, T. Baris, tells about the events. This page highlights the names of some of the women victims of violence and their stories.

  • The woods of the Aurunci mountains, where women tried to hide from the raids of the goumiers.

  • Document of the prefecture of Frosinone, dated 4 July 1949, signed by the mayor of Esperia, with the subject: hospitalization of women raped by Moroccans. This document indicates the Pontecorvo hospital as a reference for women suffering from venereal diseases following the violence.

  • Monti Lepini, some of the areas crossed by the fury and violence of the Goumiers.

  • Reconstruction of the map indicating the villages of Ciociaria affected by the violence of the Goumiers.

  • The Goumiers knife called "koumia"

  • In the memories of women, the Goumiers are associated with the devil or with beasts that came out of the bush and raped or killed all the women they found.

  • Lepini mountains.

  • The red coral rosary, religious symbol of the women of Ciociaria.


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