August 3, 1944 in Florence, Italy

August 3, 1944 was a critical day in Florence’s history.  Occupied by Nazis, Florence’s insurrectional forces were organizing to face off with the German occupiers. The Germans delivered a new strategy aimed at blocking every activity in the city. In the afternoon, this Nazi regulation was posted all over the streets of Florence:

Firenze, August 3 1944, hour 2:00 p.m.

For the security of the population we order:
1) starting from now on, it is forbidden to anyone to leave home and walk in the streets or piazzas of Florence city;
2) all the windows, even those of the cellars, and the entrances of the churches and the doorways must remain closed night and day;
3) we recommend the population to stay in the cellars, and where these are not available to go in the churches or in big buildings;
4) German patrols are instructed to shoot any people coming onto the streets or looking out the windows.

(signed) Florence City’s Commander.

 

Without water and electricity, the streets littered with corpses (of both Nazis and Italians), German patrols and armored cars scouted around in an apparently deserted city, shooting anyone in the streets or anyone or anything seen moving in any windows.

With the Allied troops still far from the city, the partisan’s first order of business was the attempt to save the city’s bridges, which had already been mined by the Nazis.

On the evening of August 3, two teams of brave partisans tried to cut the wires connecting the mines placed at Ponte alla Vittoria to the command center. The Germans saw them and a violent firefight resulted. A partisan leader was killed and the teams were forced to fall back.

At Ponte alla Carraia another company of partisans fought to avoid further destruction. The Germans were defending the bridge with four machine guns and some vedettes (mounted sentries positioned beyond the army’s outposts to observe the movements of the partisans).

The partisans knew that when the Germans started to fall back, it was then that they would blow up the bridge. At that moment, a platoon of partisans began attacking two of the four machine guns, but the Germans responded with fire while retreating, and they blew up the mines, destroying the bridge. After a few hours of gun fighting, the patriots suffered the loss of another partisan, and four were injured.

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On the night of August 3, the five most important and strategic bridges of the city were destroyed by German mines (Ponte San Niccolò, Ponte alle Grazie, Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte alla Carraia, Ponte alla Vittoria). It started at 10:00 pm with horrendous explosions. Two hours later another huge explosion occurred, and then others continued until 4:00 – 5.00 a.m.,  creating columns of smoke rising from the bridges’ ruins.

Only the Ponte Vecchio was saved. Some said that the Nazis didn’t want to sacrifice such an artwork. Others argued that the Germans knew it was useless to blow the bridge up because, even if collapsed, it would have still been possible to cross the river over the rubble it would have produced upon exploding.

Shortly after 5:00 a.m., on August 4, the first Allied patrol entered Florence through the southern city gate, the Porta Romana.  Florentines started spilling into the streets to greet the arriving Allies. Most of the troops arrived several hours later.

To be continued, tomorrow, August 4, 2019

The source of this information: http://diariodiunfiorentino.altervista.org/liberation-florence-11-august-1944/?doing_wp_cron=1564842755.6783099174499511718750

 

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3 agosto 1944.

 

I tedeschi fanno saltare i ponti di Firenze nell’ambito del piano di ripiegamento verso la linea Gotica già stabilito da tempo. L’obiettivo è quello di rallentare il più possibile l’avanzata alleata. Sarebbe stato militarmente più remunerativo un aggiramento della città. Invece gli alleati, anche per responsabilità del CTLN che vuole l’insurrezione, riusciranno a farsi coinvolgere ed imbrigliare in una lotta che li porterà a ritardare di circa un mese l’investimento della linea Gotica. Dei ponti ne resterà in piedi soltanto uno, quello meno importante, il ponte vecchio. Era più portante il ponte di Santa Trinità. Oggi una immagine di esplosioni sui pilastri di questo ponte viene presentata per raccontare la barbarie tedesca. Non ci sono foto che raccontano l’opera distruttiva dei genieri tedeschi. I cittadini di Firenze sentirono i forti boati delle esplosioni nella notte. Nessuno le fotografo’. La foto riguarda invece l’opera dei genieri alleati che vi predisposero un ponte Bailey. Rimase il ponte Vecchio, seppure minato. Si disse perché intervenne Hitler che se ne era innamorato.

Oggi sul ponte si trova una lapide in ricordo del console tedesco Wolf che si adopero’ per salvarlo dalla distribuzione. In realtà Wolf avrebbe voluto salvare Ponte Santa Trinita. Si è scoperto che invece il ponte fu salvato dai partigiani. Sul ponte vecchio passa il corridoio vasariano usato dai partigiani per attraversare il fiume e per accogliere il filo telefonico necessario a mantenere il contatto tra le due parti della città all’insaputa dei tedeschi.

3 August 1944. The Germans blew up the bridges of Florence as part of the retreat to the Gothic line already established for some time. The goal is to slow down the Allied advance as much as possible. A circumvention of the city would have been militarily more profitable. Instead the allies, also for the responsibility of the CTLN who wants the insurrection, will be able to get themselves involved and harnessed in a struggle that will lead them to delay the investment of the Gothic line by about a month. Of the bridges, only one, the less important one, the old bridge will remain standing. The Santa Trinita Bridge was more important. Today an image of explosions on the pillars of this bridge is presented to tell of the German barbarity. There are no photos that tell the destructive work of the German engineers. The citizens of Florence heard the loud roar of explosions in the night. No one photographed them. The photo, on the other hand, concerns the work of the allied engineers who set up a Bailey bridge. The old bridge remained, even if mined. We read that Hitler intervened in saving the Ponte Vecchio because he admired it. (I find that difficult to swallow.)

Today on the bridge there is a plaque in memory of the German consul Wolf who worked to save it from destruction. Actually Wolf wanted to save Ponte Santa Trinita. It turned out that instead the bridge was saved by the partisans. Over the Ponte Vecchio passes the Vasari corridor used by the partisans to cross the river and to receive the telephone wire necessary to maintain contact between the two parts of the city without the Germans knowing.

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http://firenze.repubblica.it/hermes/inbox/2016/10/26/news/l_amico_dei_gioiellieri_che_salvo_dalle_mine_il_ponte_vecchio-150653750/

Si chiamava Burgassi ma tutti, sul Ponte Vecchio, lo chiamavano Burgasso. Era storpio, claudicante: la poliomelite aveva lasciato segni pesanti sul suo corpo. Ma la mente no. La mente era lucida, limpida, come l’onestà di quest’uomo storto a cui i goiellieri avevano dato il compito di aprire e chiudere le botteghe spostando le antiche, pesanti vetrine mobili, che ora non ci sono più. Lucia Barocchi se lo ricorda benissimo, Burgasso. È stampato nella sua memoria di novantaquattrenne perché eroe. Lo chiama così. Perché cosa può essere l’uomo che salvò Ponte Vecchio dalle mine dei tedeschi, se non un eroe? La testimonianza di Barocchi, esponente di una delle più importanti e antiche famiglie di gioiellieri, è nel volume Di pietra e d’oro (Maria Cristina de Montmayor editore) dove Claudio Paolini, Cristina Acidini, Dora Liscia, Antonio Natali, Elisabetta Nardinocchi, Marco Ferri raccontano le vicende storiche e artistiche del ponte. I suoi segreti. E non è un eufemismo definire segreto la vicenda di Burgasso perché di questo si trattava: l’aveva conservato Enrichetta, una signora che aiutava Barocchi nelle faccende domestiche, e in negozio.

His name was Burgassi but everyone on the Ponte Vecchio called him Burgasso. He was crippled, limping; polio had left heavy marks on his body. But his mind was clear; clear, like the honesty of this crooked man who had been given the task of opening and closing the shops by moving the ancient, heavy mobile windows, which are no longer there. Lucia Barocchi remembers it very well, Burgasso. It is printed in his memory of 94 years as a hero. He calls it that. Why can the man who saved Ponte Vecchio from the mines of the Germans be, if not a hero? The testimony of Barocchi, exponent of one of the most important and ancient families of jewelers, is in the book Di pietra e d’oro (Maria Cristina de Montmayor, publisher) where Claudio Paolini, Cristina Acidini, Dora Liscia, Antonio Natali, Elisabetta Nardinocchi, Marco Ferri recounts the historical and artistic events of the bridge. Its secrets. And it is not a euphemism to define the Burgasso affair as secret because this was the case: Enrichetta had kept it, a lady who helped Barocchi with housework, and in the shop.

” Un giorno di qualche anno fa – racconta – venne a a trovarmi insieme al marito Luciano, che Burgasso, ormai anziano in quell’agosto del 1944, aveva preso come aiutante. Anche lui era un uomo specchiatissimo, perché Burgasso non avrebbe potuto scegliere altrimenti”. La voce della Barocchi s’incrina, come fece il giorno in cui Enrichetta le svelò ciò che aveva tenuto nascosto negli anni bui della guerra “perché lei e Luciano temevano che avrebbe potuto ritorcersi contro il Burgasso. E, se ci ripenso, provo ancora lo stupore che mi scosse davanti a quella rivelazione, seppure mi venisse confermato ciò che avevo sempre sospettato: non fu Hitler a decidere di non far esplodere Ponte Vecchio nella notte tra il 3 e il 4 agosto del 1944. È leggenda, quella. A me, a tanti fiorentini, è sempre parso strano che un barbaro come il führer prendesse una decisione così saggia, a fronte delle mine già disposte e dalla zona evacuata: io ero tra gli sfollati ospitati a Boboli, tutti attendevamo con dolore che quel pezzo di Firenze, e della nostra vita, cadesse giù. La cosa incredibile è che fu merito di Burgasso, che i tedeschi credevano non capisse niente, quindi lo lasciavano circolare liberamente. Lui aveva visto tutto. Sapeva dove erano gli allacciamenti delle mine”.
“One day a few years ago – he says – he came to see me with her husband Luciano, who Burgasso, now an old man in that August 1944, had taken as an aide. He too was a very specious man, because Burgasso could not have chosen otherwise” . The Barocchi’s voice cracks, as it did the day Enrichetta revealed to her what she had kept hidden in the dark years of the war “because she and Luciano feared that she could have turned against the Burgasso. And, if I think about it, I still try it astonishment that shook me in front of that revelation, even if it confirmed what I had always suspected: it was not Hitler who decided not to blow up the Ponte Vecchio on the night between 3 and 4 August 1944. It is legend, that. to many Florentines, it has always seemed strange that a barbarian like the führer made such a wise decision, faced with the mines already in place and the area evacuated: I was among the displaced people hosted in Boboli, we all waited with pain that that piece of Florence, and of our life, would fall down. The incredible thing is that it was due to Burgasso, that the Germans believed he didn’t understand anything, so they let him circulate freely. He had seen it all. The minds of mines “.

Nel libro, la testimonianza è raccontata in una lettera che Lucia Barocchi ha inviato a Dora Liscia. Ma la storia ha avuto ulteriori sviluppi cinque giorni fa, quando Lucia Barocchi ha ricevuto una telefonata di Luciano “che, avendo subito una grave operazione e vedendo ancora poca vita davanti a sé, mi ha scelta come depositaria di un ideale “testamento”. La vera storia del salvataggio di Ponte Vecchio. Ha ripercorso le vicende, arricchendole di particolari. E c’è una frase che Burgasso gli riferì, che mi commuove:

In the book, the testimony is told in a letter that Lucia Barocchi sent to Dora Liscia. But the story had further developments five days ago, when Lucia Barocchi received a phone call from Luciano “who, having undergone a serious operation and still seeing little life in front of him, chose me as the custodian of an ideal” testament “. The true story of the rescue of Ponte Vecchio, he retraced the events, enriching them with details, and there is a phrase that Burgasso told him, which moves me:

“Luciano, e noi non non s’ha da fare nulla per la nostra povera Firenze”? Poi, lo condusse nel punto esatto dove i fili delle mine erano stati allacciati: in via dè Ramaglianti, dietro Borgo San Jacopo. E, davanti agli occhi di Luciano, rischiando la vita, li staccò. Oggi, sono io a dire: E noi non s’ha da fare nulla per ricordare quell’eroe? E a chi dice che questa non è verità, io rispondo: la verità si riconosce. Sempre”.
“Luciano, is there nothing we can do for our poor Florence”? Then he led him to the exact spot where the wires of the mines had been connected: in via dè Ramaglianti, behind Borgo San Jacopo. And, before Luciano’s eyes, risking his life, he detached them. Today, it is I who say: And we have nothing to do to remember that hero? And to those who say that this is not truth, I answer: the truth is recognized. Always”.

 

“Era un rumore fortissimo, insopportabile. Dei boati tremendi. La terra tremava, tremavano le pareti di casa.. Io te lo racconto, ma te non lo puoi capire, non è una cosa che si può immaginare”.
“It was a very loud, unbearable noise. Tremendous explosions. The earth trembled, the walls of the house trembled .. I tell you, but you can’t understand it, it’s not something you can imagine”.


Nelle parole di mia mamma il ricordo indelebile: era la notte tra il 3 e il 4 Agosto 1944, saltavano in aria i ponti di Firenze.

In my mother’s words the indelible memory: it was the night between 3 and 4 August 1944, the bridges of Florence jumped into the air.

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Nella foto: le macerie del ponte alle Grazie.  In the picture: the rubble of the Ponte alle Grazie.


2 thoughts on “August 3, 1944 in Florence, Italy

  1. Pingback: August 3, 1944 in Florence, Italy — get back, lauretta! – Truth Troubles

  2. Pingback: Anne Frank in Amsterdam and Florence, Italy on August 4, 1944 | get back, lauretta!

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