Casa Rossa Arca di Pace sign now

Casa Rossa (The Red House) is a big establishment in the
countryside around Alberobello, located on the way to Mottola,
at the confluence of three districts of the Region of Apulia: Bari,
Brindisi and Taranto. During the first half of the XXth Century,
it was an agrarian school, according to the will of its founder,
Don Francesco Gigante. Soon after the first World War, it gave
hospitality to the little orphans of the dead soldiers, and permit-
ted them to get the primary education. On the eve of the sec-
ond World War, it was requisitioned by the Ministry of the
Interior and the city could not use it during long years, because
of exclusive police needs.
Between 1940 and 1949, European and even non-European
citizens were deported here, successively, during three different
Between 1940 and 1943, during the fascist and the war time
and with the following civil mobilization of the population,
many different groups of people arrived there: some British
subjects in chains, among them Hindu Indians, Irish and Mal-
tese citizens, German Jews, Polish citizens, ex Czechoslovaks
and stateless people, politically dangerous Italians, Italian Jews
unwilling to submit to the civil labour injunction, some other
Jews considered antifascists by the dictatorship only because
they contested the persecutive Italian legislation against the
Jews, Croatian Jews escaping from the concentration camps
directed by the ustasa ex Yugoslavs coming from the territories
annexed to Italy and submitted to violent measures of forced
Italianization, including setting fire to villages and shooting the
families to which the Serb and Slovenian partisans of Tito
belonged. At the moment of the Armistice, some Jews and even
non-Jews were transferred and deported to the Lazio region
thanks to the zealous collaboration between the fascist police
and the German occupants.
Between 1944 and 1946, when our region was attempting a
difficult and chaotic transition towards democracy, but leaving
the still opened issues of the fascist dictatorship unresolved,
with the complication of an allied liberation which was not
friendly at all with our civil population, another group of peo-
ple was imprisoned in the house: some ex fascist political
internees, other people charged with serious crimes consequent
to some tragic episodes of expulsion from the bottom, roused
by enraged mobs because of the missed institutional purge,
some ex soldiers of the Decima Mas.
Between 1947 and 1949, in the middle of the Cold War, which
was not milder than the "hot" one, even if it was longer, at the
beginning numerous foreign women from all over Europe (ex
collaborators, prostitutes, drifters following the Allies or women
withouut documents) arrived there; with them many children
were imprisoned. They were refused by all the civil societies,
too. After that, many entire families of displaced persons from
all over Europe and even from outside Europe were hosted in
the Casa Rossa: among them, there were especially some
German and Albanian Muslims, some Austrians ex Italian citi-
zens from the Alto-Adige region who had chosen the new citi-
zenship under the Hitler dictatorship and who now were detest-
ed by their compatriots as well as by ours, some Yugoslavs
which did not follow Tito and escaped from their land, some
women from the German-speaking areas of the Sudetes submit-
ted to brutal tortures by the Soviets, because before they had
been privileged by the Nazis, some Russian orthodox not bol-
shevist people and citizens from the Baltic states, pursued by
the emissaries of the Red Army, some deserters of different
armies, some foreign Jews which were expelled from the allied
gathering camps because of the violation of the Italian laws,
some Polish Jews undesired in their land and hoping to emi-
grate to Palestine. A renowed movie, Donne senza nome. Le
indesiderabili (Women without a name. The undesired), by
the Hungarian filmmaker Geza van Radvanij, was inspired by
this third period at the Camp, which was now visited by some
reporters from all over Italy.
The camp was, from time to time, an internment, concentra-
tion, transit, political confinement, prison or refugee camp.
Historically, the description of the Casa Rossa as a reception
camp, spread in Apulia during the last years, is not correct. This
interpretation has perhaps the goal to confirm again, this time
in the Apulian way, the well-established myth of the good
Italian people, which still does not permit us to face totally our
obscure history of the war and the after-war years.
On 5th December 2007, the regional Management for the
Cultural and Landscape Goods of Apulia declared the Casa
Rossa a good of historical-artistic significance, under the protec-
tion of the Legislative Decree dated on 22 January 2004 n. 42.
This date marks an important change of direction: the period of
the improvised events and of the liturgical memory has come to
a stop and a new era of the projects on the future of the site
has begun.
Casa Rossa is not a unicum of the interment of the Jews in
Apulia or of the stay of displaced persons during the long after-
war time: but it represents an isolated case in Italy and among
few other cases in the world of a long lasting deportation struc-
ture, that is ten years. Here the civil population, and especially
women, children, political opponents, professionals and intel-
lectuals, had to pay the price of the war and the after-war as
well as that of the rewriting of the European geopolitical map,
in terms of mobilization, eradication of populations, privation of
every right and dignity in addition to the elementary goods of
the everyday life.
A museum of art works is scattered in some houses in
Alberobello. They were left by some ex imprisoned artists in
exchange for food (in order to fight hunger) and clothes (for
bearing the cold). The most important art work of that period
are the frescoes in the chapel of the Red House.
Thanks to the variety of nationalities, cultures and religions of
the women and the men imprisoned during all those years in
the Casa Rossa, because of the totalitarian oppressions and even
of the intolerance against every diversity, the Casa Rossa can be
proposed as Memorial-Museum of the Shoah in Southern Italy
(considering the disappearance and the transformation of the
other similar memory sites in the South, too), with a prevalent
didactical aim. Moreover, it can be proposed as a Center for
Peace and Intercultural Dialogue between Europe and the
Mediterranean area, against every deportation, discrimination
and all the wars. This place of the encounter of civilizations and
cultures is located in the marvelous city of Alberobello, declared
Patrimony of Humanity by the UNESCO. This is not by chance.
Today the Casa Rossa is in a condition of total collapse and
neglect: a conservative restoration of the building and some
safety measures are urgently necessary, in order to commit it
afterwards to the peoples of the Mediterranean area, that will be
asked (through an international consultation) to project its pub-
lic ways of reuse and fruition, within the above-mentioned cen-
Alberobello, March 7th 2008

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Katelyn WilkersonBy:
Politics and GovernmentIn:
Petition target:
Italian Governament


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