“I just need a thousand dead to sit at the negotiating table” with these words announced by Mussolini to the entire population, on June 10, 1940, Italy entered the most devastating war it had ever faced.
Studying the history of this year has allowed me to get close to the knowledge of two world conflicts that took place, in fact, with tragic changes compared to the wars of the past.
New elements of the first and second world wars were the great alliances that set millions of soldiers in motion, the most powerful and deadly new weapons that affected not only the military at the front, but also civilians in the cities, the duration interminable of the two conflicts that have reduced the whole world to misery.
There were aspects that particularly struck me: in the first world war the exhausting trench warfare, in the second the Holocaust.
The Shoà: this term means the extermination of an entire people; 6 million Jews killed in what was called “the final solution”.
How can a man come to harbor such hatred towards his fellow man? But this unfortunately was.
The racial laws initially marginalized Jews from civil society, then loaded en masse into unwitting leaded wagons towards a tragic fate of work and death.
Once in the concentration camps there was a total depersonalization of the individual marked as a beast with a number that from that moment on would have replaced his name. Life in the fields passed between hardship, humiliation, fear of being killed every day. Levi himself, deported to concentration camps, in the poem “If this is a man” states that people died for “a yes or a no”. And finally, the atrocity of death in the gas chambers or cremation ovens.
The most terrible aspect of this page of history is that so much horror could have been born from the mind of a single man who managed to drag an entire people into his crazy design.
Another great Italian poet recounted the Second World War in his verses: it is Salvatore Quasimodo.
The man of his time is the same ferocious man of prehistory and the blood shed in the last war is the same blood that shed Abel killed by his brother Cain.
And in the poem “At the fronds of the willows” he crudely describes the dead abandoned in the squares, the crying of children, the scream of mothers in front of the mangled bodies of their children.
This poem was written in the most tragic moment of the Second World War, when in Italy, after the armistice, the civil war, Germans (Allies or enemies?) And Fascists against the Liberation Army.
And now I would like to talk about the First World War which was characterized by trench warfare. But what was a trench? A pit, a hole dug in the ground where soldiers spent their days in the exhausting wait for an enemy attack or a bayonet assault.
The soldiers lived in unhygienic conditions, without ever being able to change clothes, exposed to heat, cold, rain, wind and the bombardment of the enemy artillery. The trench was wearing out the physique and morale of men. Testimony of life in the trenches is in the poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti. Soldiers are for the poet, like the fragile autumn leaves that, at the slightest breath, break off. But the closer the danger of death is, the stronger and more powerful is the attachment to life.
This is what he tells us in the poem “Vigil”: the poet spends the night next to the body of a massacred companion, but only because of so much horror has he never felt so attached to life and writes poems full of love.
More than sixty-five years have passed since the Second World War, but unfortunately wars are still being fought in the world. Situations have changed, conflicts are fought between two ethnic groups, two Nations, two regions, but they always lead to destruction, refugees killed and civilians. Today the conflicts in some areas of Africa, for the conquest of raw materials and resources of the subsoil, in the Middle East for oil. Quasimodo’s words are still valid today.