What were the experiences of those involved?

Gianni Rossi, a partisan

The Stella Rossa brigade was caught unprepared by the Nazi operation of 29th September – 5th October. The commander, Mario Musolesi (“Lupo” - the Wolf)  was killed on the first morning. After his death the band disbanded and by the afternoon of the 29th  armed resistance was finished. Since the end of the war one part of the collective memory has blamed the partisans for not protecting the local civilian population and for underestimating what the German forces would do.


At the time of the big massacre, I was deputy commander of the Stella Rossa Brigade. In September 1944 the situation was quite heavy: the Allies were getting nearer every day, the artillery was getting closer and closer and then the fighting reached our territory. The Nazis in retreat pressed us and wanted control of our zone to organize their last defence before Bologna. Every day we attacked their retreating units but we had very few weapons and ammunition. (..) Many times we heard about signs and warnings of a Nazi combing operation before it had happened. It's well known among those familiar with guerilla warfare that in such situations, almost daily, these rumours go around. If we had always given credence to them, there would have been a permanent state of alarm. In addition it's very difficult to decide between real news and the alarmism provoked by overexcited fantasies. ……….We saw Nazi troops in transit in both valleys on a daily basis and we could also see through binoculars the Allied troops just beyond Setta, not more than a mile away from us. It was important in Lupo's opinion that we maintained the area to support the Allied advance. It was easier to trust these voices and to hope for a close and immediate liberation and consequent victory. (..)

Source: Interview with Gianni Rossi, reported by Renato Giorgi, Marzabotto parla (Marzabotto speaks), Bologna, 1955