Giampaolo Pansa: Kill the white commander. A mystery in the Resistance

Giampaolo Pansa
Ed. Rizzoli.
pp. 289

There are stories, in Italy, not told or almost completely forgotten. Stories that, instead, should reside fully in the cultural and historical heritage of our country and contribute to constitute the national conscience. But is not so. For those who, like me, were born and raised in Tuscany, the Resistance is considered a real institution almost in its own right. I remember that already starting from elementary school, where every year we participated in the event for the commemoration of the massacre perpetrated by the Nazis in my village, I always heard the partisans describe as heroes without stain, almost mythical. Subsequently, my ordinary existence continued in the conviction that the Resistance, in a certain sense, belonged exclusively to a specific political area: that of the left.

At school, therefore, I have never read anything about the Italian civil war, about the horrible crimes committed in the aftermath of the so-called Liberation, on the tremendous vengeance of the "winners" on the "vanquished" and no one has ever spoken of the departments of partisans formed by ex military or militants belonging to political areas other than the left. Until, a few years ago, I read Il sangue dei vinti, by Giampaolo Pansa, a great journalist and historian, who certainly needs no introduction. At the time he was talking a lot, especially during his presentations of this work, thanks to which he has earned more than an antipathy in the Italian left, sometimes resulting in real protests and controversy with extreme tones. So it is an author who loves or hates himself. Personally I love him, if only because it allowed me to open my eyes on a period that has marked indelibly the recent Italian history, of which I had not previously heard anything about it. So, I could not miss this book, which deals with one of the most controversial events of the Resistance, worthy of a novel. This is the story of Aldo Gastaldi, class 1921, Lieutenant of the Genius of the Royal Army, who became the commander "Bisagno" of the partisan division Garibaldina "Chichero", in the autumn of '43. This formation soon became the most efficient of the liguria from the military point of view, as well as the only one not subjected to the Communist political hegemony, which distinguished the partisan formations of the so-called VI Zone. Bisagno, in fact, was a fervent Catholic believer, who refused political interference in his commanding action from wherever he came from, and even less, from the Communist one. His only mission was to fight the Nazi-fascist departments and to help free his country. He did this by demonstrating that he possessed an acute tactical intelligence and extraordinary gifts of organization and leadership. Suffice it to say that, in his early twenties, he came to command more than a thousand men, framed in small detachments distributed in a vast mountain territory, which operated in often critical climatic and logistical conditions. An excellent military commander therefore, as well as a rigid Catholic, who maintained a strict discipline both in the context of Chichero be against himself, so as to earn the nickname of "warrior monk". In the framework of the cynical strategy of the Communist party, Bisagno represented an indispensable military resource but, at the same time, also a major problem from a political point of view: the "winners", in the aftermath of the 25 45, had to be exclusively Communists and there were no political obstacles to the realization of the communist coup in Italy. As we know, things went differently than planned, especially thanks to the presence on the Italian soil of the Anglo-American troops, but the "white commander" paid with his own blood the refusal to bow to the "red partitone".

The thesis sustained by Pansa is that Gastaldi was made out of deception, as considered to be close to the Christian Democrats (an aspect of which, however, were never found findings), as well as too powerful from the military point of view. In short, Bisagno was a real "thorn in the side", so he was eliminated making him appear to be the victim of a tragic accident. A circumstance to be clarified: can a commander so expert and shrewd, who has escaped repeatedly Nazi-fascist roundups and a lurking strained by his command, die because of a trivial road accident with grotesque contours? After seventy years the disappearance of Bisagno, it is still an unsolved mystery. Whatever you think of it, it is an exciting affair, as is the custom of Pansa, told through the use of rigorous research, original documents and direct testimonies, against the backdrop of the Ligurian Apennines and the terrible months of war between the 43 and the 45.

The whole life of Gastaldi is an intriguing mystery, which even an expert novelist would find difficult to conceive. Military commander with extraordinary and rigorous Catholic abilities. Endowed with a very strong ascendancy on his own men but also able to extricate himself in the relations with the ambiguous superior command. A complex, profound, unusual personality for a young person of that age. Resolved in the fulfillment of his military mission, yet alien to excesses of violence and right against enemies put out of combat. It is a figure that deserves to be known or, even better, studied, both in schools and in military training institutes.

Pansa, with this work, gives us another page of recent Italian history, removed from the official narrative that prevailed in the last post-war period. This makes a book that reads all in one breath even more precious.

Ciro Metuarata