Quattro giornate di Napoli, 1943


In the days between 27 and 30 September 1943 the Neapolitans rose up against the German occupiers and, after fierce fighting, drove them from the city. It was the first revolt against the Germans and was an example of the subsequent actions and the establishment of committees of National Liberation (Comitati di Liberazione Nazionale).

The previous days were very hard days, between the Allied bombings, raids of civilians, executions of people chosen at random from the population.

The bombings, which struck the area of ​​the central station and the port as well as other districts, had more than 25,000 dead. The bombing of 4 August ’43 had caused alone 3,000 casualties among civilians. The Basilica of Santa Chiara was hit and destroyed nearly 4 December of ’42. The ship Caterina Costa, charged with explosives and ammunition, broke out in the port on March 28, ’43, causing 600 deaths and 3,000 injured throughout the city, due to pieces of metal that reached far places several hundred meters from the harbor.

After 8 September of ’43, the leaders of the military command in Naples General Richard Pentimalli and Ettore Del Tetto, after helping the Germans in their actions against civilians, they gave to escape in civilian clothes, leaving the few troops Italian (5,000 Italian soldiers in front of 25,000 Germans in Campania) without orders he directives, but the first clashes took place with the participation of soldiers and officers of the Police.

In ’44 the general Pentimalli and Del Tetto were sentenced to 20 years in military prison for abandoning the command, then reduced penalty for amnesties and measures of grace.

On September 9, ’43 Via Foria soldiers and police faced the Germans who demanded that it disarm. After several armed clashes German soldiers were captured, but the military leadership, in collusion with the occupiers, demanded the release of prisoners.

September 10 via Acton there were armed clashes with 3 deaths among Italians and three deaths among the Germans, September 11 to the Riviera di Chiaia, the Germans attacked with machine guns a hotel where  a detachment of public security  was hosted, the agents reacted with 91 type muskets supplied and forced the Germans to surrender.

On September 12, they were rounded up in the streets and houses 4,000 men to send them to forced labor. On the same day Colonel Walter Scholl took command of the army to Naples and proclaimed a state of siege, with orders to shoot a hundred people for every German killed.

In those days the population was forced to watch the shooting of 8 prisoners of war took place in Via Cesario Console. Struck especially the execution of a young sailor on the staircase of the university to which thousands of people were forced to assist.

Groups of citizens, with the help of the only military in the city, began to stock up on weapons, in the barracks of the city and in various stores of arms and ammunition, in view of the fighting that now seemed inevitable.

On September 23, Colonel Scholl ordered the evacuation of the entire coast, about 240,000 people were forced to leave their homes, tooking refuge at other family houses, or in places such as caves and public buildings.

At the same time there was the call to forced work for all males between 18 and 33 years. Instead of the planned 30,000 men answered the call only in 150. Colonel Scholl ordained to the roundup with the immediate execution of defaulting.

This was the straw that sparked the uprising, it was impossible to wait any longer, 30,000 people were likely to be passed to arms. Already on September 26, unarmed and screaming crowd saved young men raked from German soldiers.

September 27, 1943: after about 8,000 men had been rounded up by the Germans, the first armed clashes burst between the population and the occupants. Via Belvedere, locations Pagliarone, was stopped a German car and killed the marshal who was driving. Meanwhile the Germans gave commencing the evacuation of the city, but on the roads found insurgent groups with which lit firefights. Lieutenant Enzo Stimolo head of 200 insurgents attacked the armory of Castel Sant’Elmo that was conquered with many fallen despite the intervention of the German army command who was in Villa Floridiana and the detachment of the Littorio stadium (today Collana).

The group of Vomero district of insurgents, under the political guidance of retired teacher Antonio Tarsia in the Curia and commanded by Lieutenant Enzo Stimolo, mobilized to free the captive civilians. They had 200 men available plus the reinforcement of another 50 men led by Ciro Vasaturo. They attacked in force the stadium which was defended by a large department of German soldiers. There were violent shootings, also carried out with machine guns that fired from above the surrounding buildings. The clash lasted several hours. The military stationed in the stadium had no way out. In the evening the German commander came out with a white flag. Negotiations began which were also conducted at the German command of Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Some citizens made their way to the Bosco di Capodimonte where it was feared that the Germans wanted to shoot the prisoners rounded up. Others tried to prevent the Ponte della Salute in via Santa Teresa was undermined and destroyed. In the evening they attacked arms depots of the barracks of Via Foria and Via Carbonara.

September 28, 1943: all districts of Naples rose up, in Materdei was captured a German patrol that had taken refuge in a house, there were other battles in Porta Capuana, in Vasto, around the Maschio Angioino, the Germans massed men captured in raids in Campo Littorio (Collana). Enzo Stimolo and his men, from the terrace of the building to the left of the field (today police station) began to shoot at German soldiers who were inside the fence, after fierce fighting, and only the next day, they managed to free the prisoners, after negotiations between Colonel Scholl and Lieutenant  Enzo Stimolo, in return was assured the Germans a way out of Naples.

Maddalena Cerasuolo, affectionately called Lenuccia, 23, was the eldest daughter of Carlo Cerasuolo, one of the leaders of the revolt in the Materdei district. She was tasked with procuring weapons for the insurgents in the police stations and barracks in the neighborhood. The commander of the barracks of the “Carabinieri” of Materdei district, appreciating the courage and determination of Lenuccia, proposed to bring a request for surrender to some Germans who were in the shoe factory in Trone Street, in exchange he promised to give the weapons to the insurgents. Lenuccia accepted, she did not want to consider the dangers she ran. The Germans could have killed her instantly.

The building was surrounded by Neapolitan insurgents. They prevented the German soldiers from leaving the factory where they had gone to steal the hides and valuables that were in the building. Lenuccia knocked on the door and handed the request for surrender to the soldier who had appeared at the door. The soldier refused the surrender with a disgusting grin. Immediately a shooting started between the men surrounding the building and the Germans. Maddalena Cerasuolo barely had time to take shelter. Some insurgents and some enemy soldiers died in that battle . The occupants were forced to surrender.

On returning home Lenuccia saw a German patrol on a sidecar that had stopped to ask an old man who was passing by where the Sanità bridge was. She immediately sensed that they intended to blow up the bridge. She ran at breakneck speed, reached her father Carlo and told him of her fears. Carlo Cerasuolo, gathered a few insurgents who were nearby, ran towards the bridge. Lenuccia ran through Via Santa Teresa to warn as many people as she could. She met a butcher in the neighborhood, a big, big man in his bloody white coat, because he had stopped halfway a slaughter. He had two pistols, one in each hand, he ran towards the bridge. He had just heard of the Germans, and had wasted no time in giving his help.

Having gathered some insurgents, Maddalena joined her father on one side of the Sanità bridge. Three Germans was under fire of Neapolitans. They had already mined the bridge. Lenuccia also participated in the shooting with an old, but still effective, musket 91. As the Germans were preparing to trigger the explosion, one of the insurgents bravely slipped inside the trap door, where the explosive had been placed, managing to tear the wires connected to the detonator, saving the bridge from destruction.

29 September 1943: the uprising was organized at local level, to command the Vomero was prof. Antonio Tarsia in Curia,
in Materdei Ermete Bonomi and Carlo Cerasuolo father of Maddalena Cerasuolo, at Avvocata Carmine Musella, at Capodimonte Aurelio Spoto, at Chiaia Stefano Fadda, in Vasto Tito Murolo, in other quarters Franco Cibarelli, Amedeo Manzo, Francesco Bilardo, Gennaro Zenga, Francesco Amicarelli,  Adolfo Pansini of the Liceo Sannazzaro stood out among young students (which is dedicated a plaque to the Campo Littorio). Liceo Vincenzo Cuoco there were violent clashes between German tanks and a group of 50 insurgents Neapolitans who suffered the loss of 12 insurgents dead and 15 wounded. German gunfire occurred in Ponticelli on the civilian population. Clashes took place at the airport and Piazza Ottocalli.

In via Santa Teresa a group of boys opposed with rifles and hand grenades to some German tanks that advanced along the road. The most courageous boy was Gennarino Capuozzo.

Gennarino Capuozzo was only 11 years old, he was cousin of Maddalena Cerasuolo. Despite his young age he already worked as a boy in a shop, since his father had been enlisted and left for the front in 1941. He had joined a group of boys who fled the reformatory to fight the Germans. On September 28, Gennarino and his companions had blown up a German truck in via Toscanella with a grenade. The military on the truck had become the protagonists of a massacre in Miano, nearby Capodimonte. Then they blocked another truck, loaded with soldiers that followed a short distance away. Gennarino with a hand grenade stood in front of the vehicle blocking it. The Germans surrendered and were taken prisoner by that group of insurgents, made up of children and young people.

On 29 September the “guagliuni” brigade had moved to Via Santa Teresa, the road that connects Via Toledo with Capodimonte, where they took up positions on the terrace of the building that houses the Istituto delle Maestre Pie Filippini, hundred meters after the museum. The youths fired at German tanks that attempted to leave the city from the institute’s terrace. Gennarino Capuozzo, in throwing some hand grenades at the “panzers”, leaned out of the institute’s terrace. At that moment, a grenade, thrown by the first of the wagons in the column, hit Gennarino in full, killing him instantly.

The sacrifice of Gennarino Capuozzo, an early-born child, too early a hero, was one of the last acts of the armed struggle since that same evening the Germans began negotiations with the insurgents to leave Naples before the arrival of the allied forces.

September 30, 1943, the Germans began the evacuation of the city since the Anglo-Americans were now on the outskirts of Naples, The Germans continued throughout the day the shelling from the hill of Capodimonte on Port’Alba and Materdei. Prof. Antonio Tarsia in Curia assumed full civil and military powers in the city. In retreating, the Germans burned the volumes and the “membranacei” Anjou of the State Archives that were hidden in San Paolo Belsito.

On October 1, the Anglo-Americans entered in Naples, welcomed by the cheering people. The budget of the four days was of 168 deaths among the 1,589 partisans and 159 among the citizens, however cemetery logs turned 562 deaths. The armed insurrection against the Germans prevented the occupants to make Naples “ash and mud” as Adolf Hitler had explicitly asked, and the mass deportations of citizens of Naples were avoided as far as possible.

Some fascists still resisted in the city. They shot treacherously from the windows at the civilian population. Some of these had barricaded themselves in a building in Materdei shooting wildly at passers-by. Maddalena Cerasuolo, together with other resistance men, tried to flush them out of their lair. An American officer, arrived with a jeep, replacing the insurgents with his soldiers. He disarmed them, performing the allied arrangements, breaking their rifles. Lenuccia said the officer that she would have liked to keep her musket 91. The soldier with a smile left her rifle and said “Go home!”
The next day Maddalena Cerasuolo was invited to the royal palace where she met General Montgomery. He, having heard of her events, had wanted to meet her. Montgomery hugged and kissed her, thanking for what she had done. Shortly afterwards Maddalena was contacted by the allied security services. The Services proposed she work for their secret service. Maddalena Cerasuolo participated in some secret operations crossing the German lines to bring messages to the men of the resistance.

City of Naples was awarded the Gold Medal for Valor for this rebellion against German occupants, it is the highest honor of the Italian State.

Also four “scugnizzi” was awarded the Gold Medal for Valor (in memory) who lost their lives in the fighting: Gennaro (said Gennarino) Capuozzo, 12, (he took part in the fighting in Via Santa Teresa, where he lost his life while throwing a grenade at the German tanks),
Filippo Illuminato, 13, Pasquale Formisano, 17,
Mario Menechini. 18.

Nine were awarded Silver Medals to Giuseppe Maenza (memory), Giacomo Lettieri (memory), Antonino Tarsia in Curia, Stefano Fadda, Ezio Murolo, Giuseppe Sances, Francesco Pintore, Nunzio Castaldo, Fortunato Licheri, and four Bronze Medals to Maddalena (called Lenuccia) Cerasuolo that, risking her live, went to parley with the German officers, Domenico Scognamiglio, Ciro Vasaturo, Carlo Abate.