“MY MOTHER OFTEN SAID THAT SHE WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED THIS HELL AT THE AGE OF SEVENTEEN IF HER MOTHER HAD NOT BEEN THERE TOO. SHE WAS WITH HER THE WHOLE TIME THEY WERE KEPT IN CAPTIVITY.”
My mother’s brother was one of the partisans in the GAP (Gruppi di azione patriottica) patriotic unit. Because information was revealed about a secret meeting in her house, the Gestapo invaded her home and arrested everyone there. My mother and grandmother were taken to the Gestapo headquarters where they were interrogated without betraying anything, and were then taken to Villa Andreini Prison, and subsequently to Ravensbrück.
After the Siemens plant was closed, my mother returned to the main camp and was forced to go on the death march in the last days of April 1945. After a few days, they were hit by bombing and she had to lie down on the ground with her mother and other prisoners. By not getting up, they managed to save themselves and escape from the march. They then met some Russian soldiers who told them that the war had ended and advised them to seek out American troops. In a refugee camp set up by the Americans, they had to wait a while for a train to transport them to Italy. They arrived in Bolzano and from there took another train to Genoa, where my mother’s aunt lived, and finally on 25 October 1945, they reached La Spezia.
My mother is still alive while my grandmother died at the age of 99.
For my mother, who until then had lived a happy student life, being kept in captivity in Ravensbrück was like being violently ripped from her previous life. It was as if she had suddenly entered a strange world in which her sole support was her mother, whom she was fortunately never separated from, and Bianca and Bice Paganini, girls from the same town with whom she spent most of her time in captivity. But above all, captivity in Ravensbrück filled her with the feeling of being an innocent sacrifice, and she has never got rid of this bitterness in her heart.
Mirella Stanzione’s daughter