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UNivrnnn v or tr mah ai AurtiiN ittm inn
2nd Sme* Nu. 3
Friends of Italian Freedom
Outwitting the Fascists
HARCH, 193 1
Friends of Italian Freedom
Edited by Mrs. V. M. CRAWFORD
Second Scries, No. 3 Price 6d.
Subicriptlon for l % numbers 6/- post free to any address.
The author of the following narrative served as an of&cer
throughout the whole of the war on the Austrian front in the
famous Sassari Brigade. He was wounded twice and earned
four decorations for acts of valour; later he was elected to the
Chamber of Deputies both in 1921 and in 1924,
His narrative appeared in the Atlantic Monthly^ June and
July, 1930, and is reprinted here by the courtesy of the Editor
of the American periodical.
OUTWITTING THE FASCISTS
By EMILIO LUSSU
A THOUSAND TO ONE
On the afternoon of October 31, 1926, an attempt was made
in Bologna against the life of iMussolini. A few hours later,
throughout the whole of Italy, the Fascists started to sack the
headquarters of anti -Fascist newspapers and associations and
the private dwellings of opponents of the regime.
That day I was at Cagliarij ni the island of Sardinia. In
the morning I had pleaded before the jury the cause of a young
man accused of murder at the Court of Assizes, and my client
was acquitted. I^eforc returning to the mountain village where
he lived, he came to my house to thank me, accompanied by
all his relations, who had come to Cagliari for the trial. On
leaving, the eldest of them, an eighty-year-old patriarch, who
was wearing the costume of the Sardinian mountaineers— coat
of black wool, white linen trousers, and tight black gaiters-
invoked, in Biblical phrases that I cannot recall without,
emotion, the blessing of Heaven upon me, the saviour of his
innocent son. The clock of a neighbouring church struck
I had scarcely stepped out of my house when one of my
friends appeared, breathless, to warn me that the Fascists were
sounding their summons to battle. I locked my ofiice and
went out to see what was happening.
In the street another friend informed me that the news of
an attempt against Mussolini had reached the Fascists and the
" I have been able secretly to obtain a copy of the telegram.
The boy who hred at Mussolini at Bologna was lynched on the
spot by the Fascists. Heie they have been summoned for
immediate reprisals. Your house and your life are in danger.
Leave the town and hide yourself in some safe place."
While he spoke, from all sides could be heard the bugles
summoning the Fascists together in the different quarters of
I returned home, and sent the servant away. My mother^
fortunately, was at our country house, and I had only myself
to think of. I went downstairs again, and met in the street
other friends who had hurried to warn me that the Fascists
were gathering at their headquarters, that motors were to be
used as rapid means of transport, and that shouts of " Death
to Lussu ! " were already to be heard.
I went to dine at a restaurant a few yards from my house.
As I was eating, news reached me by degrees : the theatres,
the cinemas, all public resorts had been closed ; armed Fascist
gangs were going about the streets; a punitive expedition
against me was being organised at the Fascist headquarters;
the leaders were exhorting the rank and file with inflammatory
speeches ; I was the appointed victim ; in half an hour the work
was to begin.
The waiter who attended me had served under me during
the war. He had subsequently become a Fascist, but he could
not forget his loyalty to his former oflicer. He was very much
embarrassed that evening, and hardly dared to speak to me.
Though he tried once or twice, I did not encourage him.
Finally he said : " Signor Capitano, I know what orders have
been given. I beg of you not to return home; leave here at
once. It will only be a matter of a few days. Then every-
thing will be normal once more."
" Do you think," 1 asked him, " that I am right or wrong ? "
''You are right," he replied, reddening, and mechanically
standing at attention in the military manner.
" Then why should I beat a retreat? "
My question embarrassed him still more. He did not reply.
As I went away I said to him : " Why did you turn Fascist ? "
"Things are so difficult. They made me many promises,
. . - Who can live in opposition to the Fasci ? "
" I hve well enough," I retorted, and left him. But I had
not told the truth. I could not honestly say that I lived well.
In a moment I was at home again. I occupied an apart-
ment on the first floor, of which five windows faced the square.
Next to me, on the same floor, lived an associate judge of the
Court of Appeal, Cavalier Tanchis. I went to his door and
rang the bell, wishing to appeal to his conscience as a judge in
order that, whatever happened, he should bear witness to the
violence used against me. Although he was at home, he made
no sign of life; he was terrorised. In the upper floors of the
building everything was silent. The occupants had hastened
to seek refuge elsewhere.
The square, which was the most central one in the city, was
deserted; houses, shops, all were closed. From afar came the
strains of the Fascist songs.
Then I prepared to defend myself. I had a sporting rifle
and two army revolvers — munitions enough. Two war
trophies in the form of weighted clubs, taken from the
Austrians, hung upon the wall.
The memory of many others who, during the last six years,
had had their houses sacked, their famihes dispersed, flashed
into my mind ; of those who had been killed, unarmed, in their
homes, under the eyes of their helpless wives and children, I
remembered, and seemed to see before me, poor Piiati, my
comrade in the war, in which he was w^ounded, and subsequently
my colleague in Parhament; he had been murdered in his bed
beside his wife. And I was conscious of immense and tragic
compassion for my country.
Two young friends ran up the stairs and announced to
me that a large column of Fascists were marching toward my
house and demanding to lynch me. When I told them that I
did not intend to escape, they offered to help in my defence
I had to force them to leave.
Hardly had the heavy door giving on to the street closed
behind them when I heard my nam.e threateningly shouted
from the advancing column.
" Now for it," I said aloud. " One must set an example."
I half-closed the shutters and put out the light. I could
thus see without being seen, and observe what was happening
in the square, which was brifliantly lit.
In the street to the right of my house was the printing press
of the Christian-Democratic newspaper, the Corriere di
Sardegna. The Fascists invaded and sacked it.
Then it was the turn of the neighbouring- office of the lawyer
Angius came of humble family. His parents had suffered
the most heroic privations to maintain him at his studies* He
had gone through the whole of the war, and had greatly dis-
tinguished himself. As a lawyer he had laboriously built tip
for himself an excellent reputation, and his family owed their
present ease to his w^ork.
Furniture, books, legal documents, all were thrown into the
street and burned. In a few minutes the Fascists destroyed,
that evening, the w^ork of a lifetime.
During the following days the lawyer's clients, in despair,
went to demand their scattered documents, ^ Angius left
Cagliari, and died a year later at Milan, leaving his aged
parents in poverty. He was scarcely thirty-five years old.
These two preliminary feats having been successfully carried
out, the column turned toward my house.
'* Down wath Lussu ! Death to Lussa ! *'
The column was commanded by the lawyer Giovanni Cao,
Count di San Marco, a member of Parliament, and leader of
the local Fascists. He had been a fellow student of mine at
the University, and my companion during the whole of the war ;
afterward he had been a member of my own politicar party,
and as a lawyer had worked in my office : he had been among
my most affectionate friends up to the time of the March on
Rome. After the March on Rome, however, being unable to
resist both threats and flattery, he became a Fascist. I had to
request him to leave my office, since my position as an adversary
of Fascism made it impossible for us to continue to work
together. He never spoke to me again. Nevertheless, I was
surprised, that evening, to see him personally conducting the
attack upon me.
I recognised others among the aggressors. One, a certain
Baldussi, had become famous on account of other " punitive
expeditions." He w^as known to me personally, for I had been
his lawyer once when he w^as indicted as the author of a some-
what sensational theft. He appeared among the most eager
against his former defender.
I was no less astonished at the presence of another, a man
named Fois, from Cagliari. An organiser among the maritime
workers, a syndicalist-anarchist, and violently anti-Fascist, he
had been many times attacked and arrested by the Fascists.
\yhen the Fascists occupied the headquarters of his organisa-
tion, he found it impossible to earn his living. He wanted to
emigrate to France, and I gave him introductions to friends
there, that he might find help and work. Before leaving he
had come to my house to see me, and had talked with me at
length of his difficuUies and of his family, which consisted of
a wife and three children, named Liberia, Spartaco, and Libero
(Liberty, Spartacus, and Free). In despair at not finding
work m France, he had returned to Cagliari and had joined the
Fascio toward the end of September, thus being able to take
over again the direction of his former organisation, now become
a Fascist one. He excused himself to his former comrades by
adducing the necessity of supporting his children, but he let
It be understood that his syndicalist-anarchist faith remained
I still wonder why he too, that evening, w^as demanding my
lynching. I know that he has since changed the names of his
children. It is not wholly improbable that in the future, when
times have changed, he will rechristen them with their original
' Probably I should have been able to identify other old
acquaintances of the same kind had I had time to do so. But
the street door had been broken in, and the staircase was filled
with a shouting crowed up to the door of my apartment.
I had made arrangements for defence m the belief that the
door would immediately give way. Instead, it held. Warned
by me that I was waiting, armed, within, the Fascists, after
their first efforts to break it down, thought perhaps that there
was no necessity for any excess of zeal
The column in the square thereupon divided into three
One part remained to support those who had invaded the stair-
case; a second began to scale the five balconies facing the
square; and the third went to the back of the building and
endeavoured to enter my apartment from a courtyard.
I had not foreseen such mihtary strategy, and found myself
in much embarrassment as to how to defend myself from three
separate and simultaneous attacks. I was forced to go rapidly
from one side to the other in order to be in time to confront the
first to make a breach. I confess that I have found myself in
more pleasant situations in the course of my life.
The yells in the square were demoniacal; the crowd was
furiously mcitmg those who were making the aasauh: upon the
One balcony was reached. I fired at the first to appear,
and the unfortunate man fell backw^ards into the square below
Terror mvaded the crowd. In a ilash the square was
deserted ; not a soul remained on the staircase. Several times
Count Cao attempted to reorganise the column and to lead it
again to the attack, but in vam. My house was as though
Half an hour later the police turned up, followed by the
Carabineers in large numbers. They stood guard over my
house. Finally the Chief of Police appeared, together with
many commissioners and the Colonel of the Carabineers.
When my house had been surrounded and the whole square
occupied in a mihtary manner, the Fascists slowly reappeared^
at first silently, by ones and twos, then yelling and shoutings
in a crowd. They had recovered their courage. The police
did not interfere with them.
There came a blow at my door.
"Open, Onorevole ! '* It was the voice of the Chief of
Police. " On my honour, on my family, on my children, I
swear that I am here to defend you."
The rest all echoed in chorus : " Yes^ we are all here to
defend you ! "
I explained to the Chief of Police, through the door, that
I found myself in the unfortunate position of not being able
to trust his word.
"If you wish to enter, do so. But I warn you that the
light is out, and that my revolver is loaded. Enter only with
your hands up, ' '
" Impossible ! A chief of police cannot enter with his hands
up! " The poor man groaned and sighed.
" Very well, then, send a commissioner.*' And I suggested
the name of one of those with him whose voice I had recog-
"An excellent idea," said the Chief of Police. " Signer
Commissario, you go."
I opened the door and let the victim in; then shut it once
more and turned on the light. The Commissario was holding
his hands up, pale and upset. I put down my revolver and
told him not to be afraid.
He explained to me that they were come to arrest me. They
really did intend to protect me from the Fascists; as a proof he
adduced the large number of Carabineers that surrounded my
house. He convinced me of his sincerity. Shortly after, I
opened the door to the Chief of Police also.
This gentleman, somewhat embarrassed, communicated to
me the order for my arrest. I opened the Penal Code, and read
to him the part concerning legitimate defence and a state of
necessity. I told him that it was the duty of the authorities to
imprison the attackers, not the attacked; the violent invaders
of a private dwelling, not the citizen exercising a right
sanctioned by the law. But the Chief of Police explained to
me that he had a painful, a very painful, duty to fulfil — that of
arresting me. At the same time he anxiously observed that I
should do well to remove myself from the lighted window^
light m front of which I was standing; some evilly disposed
person might have a shot at me from the square, and the shot
— though this he did not actually put into words — might make
a mistake betw^een myself and him.
Seeing that the penal law was no use, I appealed to consti-
tutional law. I was a member of Parliament. Parliamentary
immunity from arrest was laid down in the Statute, an
immunity w^hich members enjoyed while Parliament was in
session. All in vain. The Chief of Police nad a painful, a
very painful, duty to perform.
I was handcuffed and conducted to prison by a squad of
The following day, acts of violence were continued m the
city. All supporters of the opposition were arrested; Fascists
sacked and destroyed their homes.
My house alone remained unscathed, protected by .numerous
cordons of Carabineers and even soldiers. This astonished me
not a little. However, I understood the privileged treatment
accorded me when I was reminded that my furniture and
belongings were insured against damage committed for
political reasons. The Insurance Society had lost no time in
setting in motion all the authorities in order to avoid the looting
of my home and the paying of the premium.
Those arrested remained only a few^ days in prison. On
their liberation, the Chief of Police explained to them that he
had deprived them of their freedom because their lives were in
danger owing to excessive excitement on the part of the
Fascists, and prison was the safest shelter for them. As a
matter of fact, one of them, Dr. Sanna, had found a perfectly
safe refuge for himself in the house of his mother-in-law, in a
village one hundred and fifty miles from Cagliari^ amid a
devoted population that would have defended him from all
aggression. The police considered this asylum insufficiently
secure. They sent Carabineers and soldiers to arrest him, and
brought him laden with chains to Caghari. His father, years
before, had been Under Secretary of vState to the Ministry of
Justice in a Democratic Cabinet, and this was a hereditary
blemish to the discredit of the son.
The Government ordered that the funeral of the Fascist
whom I had killed should be an imposing affair. All public
employees, the pupils of the state schools, the Fascist Militia
and members of all the provincial Fasci, representatives of the
navy and the array, the entire magistrature, the Prefect, and
the general commanding the Sardinian Army Division were ail
present. The dead man was compared, in the official speeches,
to the martyrs of the Risorgimento. The population kept
away from the ceremon}^
The dead man*s family received the pension accorded to
soldiers killed in war. At present a legion of Fascist Van-
guards bears his name.
On the occasion of the opening of the juridical year, the
Attorney-General for the province stigmatised, with inspired
eloquence, " the detestable crime committed by a politician
against a young man full of love for his country," and invoked
exemplary justice on his behalf.
Count Cao di San Marco, the leader of the punitive expedi-
tion against me, was shortly afterward nominated Under
Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, as a reward for his good
intentions in organising the enterprise, if not for its success.
Throughout the first night that I spent in prison, and for
many succeeding nights, the Fascists passed to and fro outside
singing insulting songs about me. They had certainly regained
In the cell next that which I occupied there was an
old acquaintance of mine. A few^ months previously
he had killed his young wife and had entrusted to
me his defence, but he insisted on basing this on the
plea that his wife had been unfaithful to him, which
was untrue. He was a pathological case, in whose unbalanced
brain jealousy has become a fixed idea, leading him to
crime. _ Unable to endorse his line of defence, I refused to
take his case up, but he bore me no malice. It was he who,
having been some time in prison and being acquainted with the
habits of the place, informed the other prisoners of my arrival,
by means of the mysterious systems which exist in prisons.
The member of Parliament for Cagliari in prison ! The
prisoners were proud to be in such company. I had been the
defender of many others among them — that is to say, for them
I was the most outstanding personality in their world. What
an undreamed-of surprise, to see one's own defending counsel
ending in prison himself! Modesty apart, it was quite an
historical event for the prisons of Cagliari.
The following morning, when I was taken to the open air
for half an hour's exercise, I found my name w^ritten upon the
walls together with good wishes toward me. One of these
inscriptions read : " Long live Lussu ! *' It was signed : " The
f " TViiQ rn
This proof of
Amalgamated Society of Safe-Blowers !
popularity was most flattering to my vanity
When I was once more in my cell, notes wrapped around
pebbles were thrown with great skill through the bars of the
window opening. They all said more or less the same thing :
" Courage. If you have need of anything, we ate here. Burn
this at once,"
The evening of November i the examining judge and the
public prosecutor came to interrogate me. There were many
expressions of grief at my situation. Both affirmed that it
was a matter merely of formalities indispensable at this stage;
the whole city had been a witness of the assault committed
against me; my action had been legitimate ; my liberation would
be a question of a few days. Handshakes and renewed
I nominated as my defender a lawyer named Marcello, a
personal friend of mine, and a teacher at the University. The
following day, the second of November, Marcello was arrested.
It was not a safe time for lawyers.
To avoid further trouble for Professor Marcello j I entrusted
my defence instead to a young friend of mine named Calabresi,
who was getting his training in my oflice. At the moment he
was in Rome, and I therefore believed him safe from local
ill-feeling and reprisals. I was mistaken. On his return
journey to Cagliari, my friend heard in time that the Fascists
were awaiting him at the station, and in order to avoid arrest
he turned back. His house in Cagliari was sacked. He had
to remain for a long time in hiding, now in Rome and now in
My cell, w^hich w'as on the ground floor and measured three
metres by two, was very cold, and badly lit by a small barred
window which gave on a courtyard. A table, a chair, a fold-
ing bed fixed to the wall, a straw mattress, and one or two
other objects completed its equipment. When the door was
opened, a strong draught was formed between it and the
window, which during the winter was like an icy douche,
I was in the army during the whole of the war, and in the
trenches I had ample opportunity for increasing my entomolo-
gical knowledge. Nevertheless, a good many varieties of the
insect race were as yet unknown to me. Those who do not
specialise in natural science never come in contact with them.
But they flourish in Italian prisons, and, although the Penal
Code makes no reference to them, they constitute a very real
augmentation to the prisoner's sufferings.
The prison rules allow those who are awaiting trial to
obtain better cells upon payment. I applied for one, and my
request was immediately attended to and complied with. On
the door of my cell a placard was fixed bearing the words :
" Paying Room " ; but the cell remained the same. In
deference to truth, however, I must admit that when my cell
was thus promoted to the dignity of a paying one a woollen
mattress, a washstand, a jug of water, and a tumbler were
added to it.
Living for a year under these conditions, I fell a victom to
bronchitis and pleurisy, although I had been in the best of
health at the time of my imprisonment.
My case gave the local bench a g:reat deal to do. Under
Italian legal procedure, the inquiry into the facts of the case
is made by an examining judge assisted by the public pro-
secutor. When the inquiry is finished, the Attorney-Generai
for the province presents his conclusions — that is, proposes that
the accused should be recognised as innocent or sent to public
trial. A commission of three judges, called the Accusing
Section, examines ali the evidence and the proposal of the
Attorney-General, and pronounces whether the accused is
innocent or whether he is to stand trial by jury. In the latter
case, the commission also formulates the charge to which the
accused must reply. After this first sentence is passed, the
public trial by jury takes place.
The inquiry into my case lasted till April, 1927 — that is,
five months— as though it were not a question of a public
incident all the details of which could have been ascertained in
a few hours ! Meanwhile I remained in prison.
When the inquiry was concluded, the Attorney-General
requested the commission to impeach me on a charge of inten-
tional manslaughter, a crime punishable under the Italian Penal
Code by from eighteen to twenty years* imprisonment. He
deposed that I had acted with brutal malice, having " under
the stress of ambition, and on seeing my hopes of pohtical
power shattered, basely committed murder.*'
The indignation of all honest people in Sardinia was
tremendous. The father of the man I had killed refused to
appear at the trial, and sent a message to me in prison to say
that he grieved not only at having lost a son in a criminal
enterprise, but also to see that in the name of his family a great
injustice was being committed against me.
In May, 192;, the three judges of the Accusing Section
pronounced sentence of acquittal for legitimate defence.
Before the sentence had been registered at the Chancery,
and thus made effective, the Chief Justice in the province inter-
vened to obtain its modification. One of the three judges
refused to make any concession. The Chief Justice therefore,
avaihng himself of a right accorded to him by law, himself
took the place of this judge in the Accusing Section, and
deposed that the sentence must be altered and that I must stand
my trial according to the request of the Attorney-General. Tlae
other two judges resisted. After a fortnight of conflict, the
two judges finally consented to modify the sentence, and
decreed that I should be tried for " excess of defence/* but
they refused to alter the definition of the crime. " Excess of
defence '' constitutes attenuating circumstance and diminishes
the penalty by two-thirds.
The Attorney-General was still dissatisfied. He appealed
to the Court of Cassation, demanding that my sentence should
be revoked and that I should appear before the Court of Assizes
on a charge of intentional manslaughter The Court of
Cassation could not countenance such a flagrant act of injustice.
It confined itself to annulling the sentence, and decreed that
the case should come up again before the Court of Caglian
itself, to be re-examined by other judges.
This persecution levelled at me was so outrageous that it is
said an influential personage in the Fascist Militia, General
Zirano, in speaking about it to the Duce, expressed the opinion
that the scandal was too greats and damaging to Fascism itself.
I am told that the Duce replied that I should be judged by
impartial judges outside Sardinia, at Chieti in Abruzzo, and
the General was dismissed from his post.
Had I been brought to trial at the Court of Assizes of Chieti,
I should certainly have been sentenced to the maximum penalty.
The Fascist Government tries all the most scandalous cases at
Chieti. The Fascists who murdered the member of Parliament
Signor Matteotti in June, 1924, were condemned to the
minimum penalty by the jurors of Chieti in March, 1926. The
Fascists who, during the night of October 3, 1925, in Florence,
shot and killed the lawyer Ernesto Consolo under the eyes of
his wife and children, and the ex-member of Parliament Pilade
Pilati, surprising him in bed beside his wife, were acquitted by
the jurors of Chieti in May, 1926.
My three new^ judges at Caglian put up a really heroic
resistance to the pressure brought to bear upon them by the
Chief Justice. They acquitted me for legitimate defence, drew
up the sentence, and had it immediately registered at the
Chancery before the Chief Justice had time to intervene as
he had done the first time. '
This example of courage I record in honour of the Italian
bench, while so many judges, especiallv in its higher ranks, and
beginning with the President of the Supreme Court, have
entirely submitted to the will of the political power.
As a result of my acquittal, I ought immediately to have
been set at liberty. The order was, in fact, communicated to
me in due course, but at the same time the prison authorities
were ordered by the Prefect to keep me where I was, for political
reasons which would be communicated to me at an opportune
During these days I was suffering from a chronic high fever,
and irritation of the bronchial tubes and the pleura obliged me
to remain m bed, I was transferred from my cell to the
infirmary, under increased supervision, for they were afraid
that I should attempt to escape. They telephoned from the
Prefecture even at night to make certain that I was still there.
After ten days I received a half sheet of typewritten paper,
from which I learned that the Provincial Internment Commis-
sion had sentenced me to mternment for five years, as a person
" flai^l'ero^is to the regime, a confirmed adversary, and one
harmful to public peace." The Commission was careful to
point out m a footnote that this decision had been taken by a
unanmious vote^this unanimity being naturally of especial
satisfaction to me !
I never had the pleasure of seeing my latest judges ; I was
never called to defend myself. They inflicted the maximum
penalty upon me, and informed me of the fact by means of
that half sheet of typewritten paper. That was all. The
efficiency of the Fascist regime was undeniable.
There is such a commission in every province, which con-
demns the opponents of the dictatorship to the confine that
is, mternment. Each commission is composed of five members -
an attorney^general, an officer of the Carabineers, an officer of
the Fascist Militia, the chief of police of the Province, and the
prefect, \yho presides. The pohtical adversary is arrested,
sent to prison, and kept there until the commission has decided
his destmy^that is, until a piece of paper reaches him with
the communication that he is to be set at hberty or sent to the
The provincial Internment commissions were originally set up
on November 6, 1926, and I had been in prison since the end of
October. Since the day on which the new law had come into
force, I could not have committed any new misdemeanour, and
was sentenced for activities which had taken place before the
new law had been thought of. Not even a single day was
allowed me m which to prove that I was not dangerous to the
A police commissioner, who declared that he was sent by
the Prefect himself, came to see me and toid me with extreme
courtesy that, in consideration of my state of health, I was to
be^ allowed the exceptional privilege of choosing the place in
v^hich I wished to pass my five years of internment, provided
that it was outside Sardinia. He spoke sincerely, and in
perfect good faith. I realised it when, on leaving, he held out
his hand and I did not give him mine; he was embarrassed,
and reddened at the unexpected affront.
My medical certificates stated that sea air would be harmful
to my health. Nevertheless, on the afternoon of November
16, 192;, the director of the prison informed me that I was to
spend my five years of mternment upon the island of Lipari,
in the midst of sea air.
I was in bed with fever. The prison doctor declared it
impossible to move me, and the prison regulations direct that
if the doctor considers it harmful to a patient to move him, his
removal must be postponed. During the whole evening, con-
versation on the telephone between the Prefecture and the prison
authorities was continuous. The doctor w^as repeatedly pressed
to change his opinion and not oppose my departure ; the political
authorities assumed the responsibility of any possible complica-
tions or consequences. One cannot deny that they had a
certain courage. The doctor would not change his mind, how-
ever. Italy is full of these humble and unknown heroes who
put their duty before all else.
At night another doctor came to see me, sent specially by
the Prefect. _ He carefully examined my tongue four times,
and treated with contempt the sister of charity who suggested
an egg beaten up with Marsala for me. The following day, at
twelve o'clock, I received the order to get up from my bed and
A closed motor awaited me m the prison yard. *' The Chief
of Pohce," said a pohce commissioner, " has ordered that you
should go to the port by car, and not in the prison van."
I was moved by such kindness, and took my place between
the Carabineers. The city was in a state of siege; I saw nothing
during the drive of half a mile except Carabineers, police, and
armed Fascist Militia. When w^e arrived at the port, the
marshal of Carabineers, to whom the prison authorities' had
consigned my money and papers, paid for the motor at my
expense. My gratitude for the kindness of the Chief of Police
became somewhat modified.
The port was deserted and all traffic was suspended.
Sentinels and patrols w-ere everywhere to be seen. As I went
down toward a police boat, there sailed swiftly in before the
breeze a fishing boat, which passed in front of mc at a distance
of a few yards. A young and sun-bronzed fisherman recognised
me and understood what was happening. Springing upright
upon the prow, he cried : " Viva Lussu ! Long live Sardinia ! "
It was my island's farewell to me.
y The patrols on the quay threw themselves upon the boat as
it landed ; I had barely time to see the fisherman surrounded by
the armed throng and disappear.
Political prisoners travel as though they were common
criminals. Handcuffed, without water to drink, foodless, thev
are conveyed in *' cell carriages " by trains that stop every
evening at a station to allow^ the prisoners to be given food and
to sleep in the " transit prisons/' or else they are crowded in
the hold of a steamer, beside the cattle.
In my state of health such a journey was literally impos-
sible. They would have had to convey me on a stretcher. So
I^ was permitted to travel second class, paying for my own
ticket and for those of the Carabineers accompanying me.
The journey from Cagliari to Trapani takes eighteen hours.
The steamer was small, but the sea calm, and after a year in
prison to find myself in the open air, on the sea, gave me a
sense of exultation. Exultation and fever never left me.
From Trapani the same steamer took me to Palermo. The
morning of November i8 we passed by the island of Ustica,
where the worst and most incorrigible of the common criminals
are interned. Among them there were at that time a large
number of political prisoners. A few months before, one of
them, Spartaco Stagrietti, had been killed by a common
criminal, w^hom he had found in the act of stealing. General
Bencivenga, who was General Cadorna's secretary during the
war, and later, in ig25, was my colleague in the Chamber of
Deputies and president of the Italian Press Association, was
there until a few months ago ; he is now on the island of Ponza.
We arrived at Palermo on the evening of the eighteenth.
A police commissioner with his men awaited us, and he snouted
with a voice which rivalled a megaphone : " Where is the
arrested deputy ? Where is the arrested deputy? *'
The people on the quay stopped. The spectacle of an
arrested member of Parliament was not one to be seen every
"Where is he? '' "Which is he? " "What has he
done ? " "Is he the one from the bank ? " " He^l have put
the money in some safe place/' " What bank? " " What
money ? " " Who is he, then ? *'
" Political police ! " shouted the commissioner.
The crowd became mute,
" We understand," said a voice, lost in the throng.
I made my way through the respectful crowd. As the
steamer, by reason of the rough weather encountered during
the last hours of the journey, had arrived very late, the Cara-
bineers conducted me straight to the railway station. I was
thus spared the torment, of which all the interned speak with
horror, of remaining for a certain time in the prison of
Palermo, which is the most frightful of all the prisons in Italy.
I travelled by train from Palermo to Milazzo, where I
arrived late at night. The prison was at some distance, and I
should have had to reach it on foot; but I had a high fever^
and obtained permission from the Carabineers to pass the night
in one of the rooms at the station.
Some rail way men were clearing up the room, which had just
been used for a Dopolavoro (a kind of night school) ceremony.
There had been a small party and a lecture. When I entered,
the men were grumbling at having had to pay five lire a head
for two bottles of syrup and a worthless lecture. All wore the
Fascist badge, and gave the Carabineers the Roman salute.
I did not speak until one of them asked me who I was.
When they knew my name, they gathered round me, prepared
me a sofa with cushions to lie on, and offered me hot coffee.
Then came confidences. Mussolini should disguise himself as
a political prisoner in order to learn what his railway employees
think of him personally and of his r6gime.
The next morning, with as much circumspection as if they
were handing me a bomb, they oifered me a small bunch of
I boarded the ship for Lipari. With me was being con-
ducted a woman who had with her a baby two years old. She
was worn out with suffering, but the baby was fat and rosy.
The woman told me her story.
" I am the wife of Sergio di Modugno. He fled to France,
because the Fascists never left him alone. He wanted me and
the child to join him, and he went over and over again to the
Italian consulate in Paris to ask for our passport. They put
him off from one week to another; they kept him for hours at
a time waiting for an answer, and then told him to return
another day. This went on for six months, and finally he lost
his head. He fired at the consul and killed him. I knew
nothing of it. How should I know what my husband was
doing in Paris ? They arrested me with my child and are
sending me to Lipari for five years. For a month I have been
sent from one prison to another. Do you know anything of
my husband?" . , , ^ ^ ^j.
She continued to tell me of all that she had endured. Of
what use to speak of it here ?
At last we came to the ^olian Islands. There ^yas Lipari,
the queen of the archipelago. From a distance it is enchant-
ingly beautiful. To the east, Stromboli, with its smoking
volcano, stands out against Calabria, like a sentinel. To the
south-west the little island of Vulcano guards tffe way to
Milazzo. . , , n-u
Lipari appeared much larger than the other islands. The
sun was shining upon a long line of mountains behind the little
city by the sea,
I landed, handcuffed with a double chain.
"This is a place to get out of as soon as possible/' I
thought as I stepped ashore.
It was my first thought. Other considerations came later.
THE FLIGHT FROM LIPARI
When I landed on Lipari, the director of the colony did not
address a single word to me, but stood with bent head, as
though ashamed of my situation and his office. _ My handcuffs
were removed and I was given a booklet containing^ the regula-
tions in force. The Carabineers who had accompanied me from
Cagliari to Lipari appeared glad that their mission was accom-
plished ; they had treated me with much kindness.
The director took charge of my money, leaving me three
hundred lire. When this was gone I could draw the rest, little
by little, giving each time an account of how it had been spent.
On leaving the director's office, I found friends who had
been awaiting my arrival. Just as in prison, everything is
known at the internment camp; news travels by mysterious
ways and spreads swiftly. There were waiting to greet me with
open arms a group of exiled members of Parliament; Beltra-
mini, deputy for Como ; Morea, deputy for Fabriano; Basso,
deputy for Venice; Volpi, deputy for Rome; Picelli, deputy
for Parma ; Repossi, deputy for Milan ; Rabezzana, deputy for
Turin; Grossi, deputy from the Romagna, Benotti, deputy for
Genoa. These were difficult times for members of ParHament !
The lawyer Domizio Torrigiani, Grand Master of the Free-
masons, also took part in the reception. For Freemasonry,
too, the times were none too easy.
We quickly exchanged accounts of our different careers. It
was pointed out to me at once that I was closely followed by
plain-clothes men. This exceptional measure was applied^ only
to Torrigiani and myself. Mussolini was afraid that inter-
national Freemasonry would abduct Torrigiani from Lipari ; he
was ignorant of the fact that Freemasonry is not a maritime
power. No armoured lodge ever came to carry Torrigiani
away from the Mediterranean. The discovery that I too was
being treated as a person of international importance flattered
me not a little.
To be constantly shadowed seems a matter of little moment.
It is, however, extremely irritating and painful. One's nerves
have to be pretty sound to prevent one from becoming neuras-
thenic. To leave one's house, and to be followed ; to approach
a friend, and to be followed ; to speak, and to be overheard ;
to stop, and know that the other too has stopped; to enter a
caf^, a shop, a house, and always see the same tace at the door;
not to be able to smile, not to be able to shake hands with a
passer-by, without^ your shadow taking note of it— all this
becomes an oppression, a burden.
How many times, day and night, when m my own room i
believed myself free at last of patrols and watchers, have I
found myself face to face with my " shadow/' who had made
his way in to make sure of my presence indoors ! r • j
The surveillance was so vexatious that many of my friends
advised me to complain. But where could one lodge a protest ?
The agents were carrying out superior orders, and were only
doing their duty. The orders came from Rome; I should have
had to appeal to the Duce, in his capacity as Minister of the
interior. I have always thought no spectacle more humiliat-
ing than that of impotence protesting. I refused to complain,
and comforted myself with the thought that one fine day they;
would come to find me and I should not be there.
Accompanied always by my escort, I explored my new
dominion, and made the acquaintance of all the others interned
there. The zone beyond which we were not allowed to go was
confined to about one square mile, . ,
There were over five hundred people interned on Lipan, of
whom about four hundred were political prisoners from all parts
of Italy and belonging to all parties. ,. ^ ,
Among the hundred or so who were not political prisoners
many figured as members of that party to which the authorities
of their province thought well to ascribe them. A number of
workmen from the Lazio and the Romagna, arrested for
hostility toward Fascism but not belonging to any party, were
officially assigned half to the communist party and half to the
anarchist. Twenty citizens of Monterotondo (near Rome) were
deported to Lipari for having attended the funeral of a work*
man well known as a socialist. Among them were two women
—one the mother of five children, the other of three. They
had never concerned themselves with politics, and had attended
the funeral simply because they were relatives of the dead man.
The police designated them all as the " Monterotondo com-
munist group," and sent them to Lipari. A man who has set
up a small shop for selling flowers, fruit, and fowls on the
island was sent there because the police sergeant of his town
passed him off as a communist, though the man himself has no
idea what communism means. But the sergeant was his wife's
lover. So the man says, and so say all his acquaintances,
and everyone believes it.
Then, too, the brother of the boy Zamboni, who was lynched
at Bologna for having made an attempt on Mussolini's
life, had never been concerned in politics. He was doing his
military service at Milan at the time of the attempt, but he was
tried by the Special Tribunal for the Defence of the State,
together with his father and his aunt. The latter were sentenced
to thirty years' imprisonment because twenty years previously
they had been active in the anarchist movement. The brother
was acquitted, there being no evidence against him, but he was
sent to Lipari for hve years. His only fault was that of
belonging to his family. What is most dreadful is that there
is a general conviction in Italy that young Zamboni was inno-
cent and that the attempt against the Duce was simulated.
Others in Lipari had been sent there, like Zamboni, by the
Special tribunal. This exceptional court, formed not of
regular judges but of oihcers of the Fascist Militia, almost
always sentences to prison, as a matter of course. If, how-
ever, the accused person is acquitted, it is a regular thing for
him to be sent to the , islands. The mere fact of having
appeared before the Special Tribunal makes him a danger to
A group of young men — lawyers, teachers, and engineers —
were denounced to the Special Tribunal for having endeavoured
to form a secret society with the aim of reviving parliamentary
institutions in Italy. The Tribunal intended to condemn them
all, with or without proofs of their guilt, but several senators
and ex-ministers were implicated in the affair and to avoid too
glaring a scandal the Tribunal acquitted them, and the police
sent them to the internment camp.
The others on Lipari were common criminals — dishonest
doctors and midwives, usurers, and the like, ^ Besides them
there was a small band of dissident Fascists — individuals who,
having been too unruly or loquacious, had been removed by the
political authorities in their districts for fear of their upsetting
discipline. They committed the crime of revealing party
secrets, and paid for the indiscretion by internment. Some of
them had Deen sent to the internment camp as agents provoca-
teurs and spies. The political prisoners despised and avoided
In ig28, the news spread in Italy that one of these dissident
J:*ascistSj Amerigo Dumini, had been put to death in prison.
He was the leader of the gang that murdered Matteotti, but
got off at his trial with only a few months more of imprison-
ment still to be served. Once free, he had the ill-fated idea
of making allusions to the Duce's complicity in the crime, and
was condemned to prison for fourteen months for disparaging
the Prime Minister. Having served this new sentence, he was
given a concession of land in Somaliland by the Government,
on condition that he should make no further appearance in
Italy. Not finding the life of a farmer in Africa to his taste,
he returned to Italy and was arrested at Naples on landing,
since when no more has been heard of him. A man who came
to Lipari from the island of Tremiti, nowever^ assured us that
Dumini was by no means dead, but interned on that island,
guarded night and day by police agents.
The mail of the interned is always opened, censored, and
often confiscated. In this matter the police are implacable.
The friends who correspond with the political prisoners have
their names added to the Hsts of political suspects, and have
no further peace. I therefore never wrote to anyone except
my mother, or friends who, being already interned or
imprisoned on other islands, had nothing to lose. To send
letters except through the police is to incur the risk of imprison-
ment up to six months.
The five hundred people interned on Lipari are guarded
by four hundred officers and men of the Fascist' Militia, the
Carabineers, the police, and the naval guards. In so small a
space, the guards are thus to be seen on every hand. On the
confines of the area reserved to the interned are stationary and
flying patrols. The Fascist Militia is on guard day and night
on the ramparts of the Castle, which is an old citadel contain-
ing the prisons, the Militia barracks, and rooms for the interned.
A motor boat equipped with a gun, mitrailleuse^ and wireless,
three racing motor boats, and six oil-driven ships control the
sea, and in the Castle there is wireless communication with the
naval bases of Messina, Palermo and Trapani,
The political prisoners are the real colony at Lipari,
Brought together by the same fate, they lead the same life.
The Government offers them free lodging together in large
rooms in the Castle, but even the poorest undergo every priva-
tion to be able to live in a little room of their own, however
squalid. It is permitted to rent apartments in the town, pro-
vided they are within the special zone. The Government
allows each interned person ten lire a day, and the large
majority have to procure food, lodging, clothes, light and
water with this sum. Water is brought to the island in summer
by tank ships. Very few of the interned can avail themselves
of private means or financial help from relatives, and very few
can find work in the place — only one or two mechanics, shoe-
makers, tailors and masons. About a hundred have been
permitted to have their wives and children with them ; in such
cases the whole family lives as best it can on the ten lire a day.
The interned are not allowed to receive monetary assistance
except from their own families ; anyone helping them without
being a member of the family commits a pohtical crime and
may be tried as a " subversive " and opponent to the regime.
The Republican Baldazzi of Rome was condemned to five
years' imprisonment for having sent a sum of money to the
sister of Lucetti, who, in September, 1926, made an attempt
against Mussolini* s life.
The interned therefore have to help one another as best
they can, and secretly. It is a life of wretched poverty,
endured with dignity. Certain of the poorest families apply
to the Ministry of the Interior to ask either for work or for
monetary help. Now and then a subsidy of a few hundred
lire is allowed them, and when this happens the newspapers
announce the fact under the title* " The Duce's Generosity/'
The crowd of £tve hundred menj unable to work* found
relief in walking, talking, and reading.
Torrigiani, who suffered from incipient blindness and had
to read as httle as possible, became the king of the streets j and
was known as " the talker," By walking up and down the
same street of five hundred yards in lengthy I am certain he
did not cover less than twenty-five miles a day. Around him
there was always a confused crowd, moving in all directions.
The regulations state that " it is forbidden to talk of
politics/' on penalty of imprisonment up to six months. And
what else should political prisoners talk of ? Of everything.
Even of politics, provided the terminology is appropriate.
When they speak of politics they have recourse" to every
metaphor to be found in treatises of rhetoric. It is quite pos-
sible to talk of Fascism for hours on end, for instance, without
ever mentioning it by name. If you are a novice, you require
some enlightenment; but after a little practice you will have
learned the art.
I believed at first that my friends were discussing the
growing of shellfish ; instead they were referring to the
Monarchy. For the King a terminology hardly flattering is
reserved, and for the Duce (to speak disrespectfully of whom
is to incur imprisonment up to three years) an infinitely richer
and more highly coloured nomenclature is used. By means of
this veiled language the most dangerous subjects can be
All the same, if the police should come and stand within a
yard of you, you would do well to talk of something else.
All branches of human knowledge had a place in our dis-
cussions, Torrigiani, who had specialised in philosophy,
would range from the Smnma of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the
expression of the mediaeval spirit, to the pragmatism of William
James, a product of modern industrial mechanism. With
Torrigiani these two subjects provided material enough for a
millennium of history and twenty miles of road.
The most scrupulous of the police agents intervened one
day and inquired, in the name of the law, who Signor James
was, and where he lived. It was explained that he was a most
respectable person, who did not concern himself with politics,
and that not one of us knew whether he was alive or dead.
The policeman made a note of the fact and referred the matter
to his siiperiors to make inquiries,
When Torrigiani obtained permission to be transferred,
still under special surveillance, to a clinic near Viterbo, on
account of his increasingly bad eye trouble, peripatetic
philosophy lost many of its disciples on Lipari.
According to their different vocations, the interned have
divided themselves into groups, among the most important
being the historians, the literati, and the spiritualists, each
group with its own leader and its own adventures.
To the historians only a few centuries are allowed as field
for research. The interned had collected together, at their
own expense, a small but well-selected library, but one fine day
an inspection ordered from Rome discovered in it many things
dangerous to the regime. Hundreds of volumes wxre con-
fiscated : all the volumes on the French Revolution and the
Russian Revolution ; all those that contained the word " revo-
lution " in their titles; all the Russian literature, including
Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Chekhov ; all freethinking writers,
among them Voltaire, Mazzini, and even Anatole France,
Bernard Shaw was religiously respected, but it was a bad
moment for his admirers. The historical group was not a
little disconcerted by this incident, and recovered from the
crisis by turning, almost en masse, to arch^ological studies.
Nearly all of the spiritualist group ended in prison, because
they were surprised m "doubtful attitude " around a table,
This was ex=[>ressly forbidden by the regulations. It is di£&-
cult to explain wnat a " doubtful attitude " is, according to
the regulations, but it incurs six months of imprisonment. In
this particular case, however, the spiritualisus were able to
demonstrate the legahty of their attitude and got off with three
days in the prisons of the Castle.
The group of literati is made up of the men quietest in
character, but it had the most violent discussions. It pro-
duces many poets who comment in verse upon the incidents,
both sad and gay, of the colony. As always happens with
art, the contemporaries have little appreciation for works of
genius, and only posterity will render justice to the misunder-
In the evening, when the bugles of the Castle sounded the
retreat, each man would shut himself into his own dwelling,
and in solitude think over the day that he had passed. Very
unalluring was the prospect then of five years of such a petty
On the whole, I cannot say that the Militia made the sur-
veillance worse by actual provocation, but small vexations were
not lacking. There was one serious case. A certain Del
Moro w^as constantly being made the victim of the jibes of the
Militia; wherever he went, he was stopped and insulted, One
day he lost patience and struck the captain of the Militia in
public, knocking him down, whereupon he was arrested and
horribly knocked about. We learned a few month later that
he died in a madhouse in Sicily, although he was a man per-
fectly normal mentally and of exceptional physical fitness.
His family was not informed of his death, and wrote to us
for information concerning- him.
After this incident the demeanour of the Fascists became
less arrogant, but not a week passed without someone being
arrested upon some futile excuse or other. When a motive was
lacking, one was invented.
Christmas of 1927 was approaching, and the colony was
preparing to celebrate it; Christmas trees and presents for the
children were ready. Suddenly a warship arrived one night.
There was general astonishment at this unusual occurrence.
Two hundred Carabineers, Fascist Militia, officers, and police
commissioners landed, together with the public prosecutor of
the Special Tribunal. Two hundred and fifty of tne interned
were arrested during the night and taken to the Castle and
the next day the town appeared in a state of siege. The
arrested men were all interrogated during the following day,
and late at night two hundred of them were set at liberty.
Only then was the mystery explained. A " plot " against the
safety of the State had been miraculously frustrated : four
hundred pohtical prisoners, closely guarded on an island, had
endangered the security of the State 1
The fifty most under suspicion were taken on board the
man-o'-war next day. Squads of them, handcuffed and
chained together^ were marched through the town, and the rest
of the interned were forbidden to see them off or to approach
the quay. But the atmosphere was electric ; all defied the order
and thronged toward the wharf, and the cordon of armed
police was powerless to prevent them. It was the first collective
revolt against superior orders on the island.
When the fifty arrested men boarded the boats which were
to carry them to the warship, one of them, raising his hat with
his fettered hands, cried with a loud voice : " Long live
liberty! " A great chorus echoed his cry, from the boats,
from the quay, from the houses,^ from the street. Silence
followed this unexpected acclamation. The cordons of armed
men raised their rifles, and the sinister metallic sound of the
clicking of triggers was heard. Pale, and with an unsteady
voice, a police officer ordered : " Back with you, in the name of
the law ! *' Everyone remained motionless and silent.
A tragedy seemed imminent. Only the half -suppressed
weeping of some women and children broke the stillness. But
the officer did not give the order to fire. The ship left with
our friends, and the crowd slowly dispersed.
After a year the Special Tribunal closed the case against
these fifty men by acquitting them alL Two spies had brought
accusations against them in the hope of reward, but the impos-
ture was too flagrant. After their year in prison, the fifty
took up once more their life of internment.
Following upon these arrests, the co-operative eating
houses which the interned had organised for the sake of
economy were suppressed, together wuth the classes at which
they took turns teaching various subjects, and the small sports
clubs. Life became harder.
Two men, above all others, I came to know, admire, and
love during my internment: Carlo Rosselli and Ferruccio
Carlo Rosselli comes of a family of patriots; Giuseppe
Mazzini died in the house of his grandparents at Pisa in 1872.
At thirty years of age, Rosselli is a veteran of anti-Fascism.
His house in Florence was sacked by the Fascists in July, ig25,
and a few months later he was assaulted, unarmed, at Genoa,
while on his way to lecture at his school In the spring of
1926, when the opposition newspapers were everywhere being
suppressed and their editors and their staffs imprisoned,
Rosselli had the audacity to found an anti-Fascist weekly. In
order to devote all his time to this he resigned his post as
teacher of political economy at the School of Economics at
Genoa. During the night of October 31, 1926, reprisals took
place in Milan, as at Cagliari and other towns in Italy, and
Rosselli 's house in Milan sheltered several of the men who
were being sought by the Fascists. His paper was suppressed
in November, 1926, together with all the other opposition
Eapers that had resisted up to that time. In December, 1926,
e organised the escape from Italy of Filippo Turati, the leader
of the Reformist (right-wing) Socialist Party.
Ferruccio Parri was a young teacher of history in the
secondary schools before the war, during which he was
wounded twice and received four decorations for valour on the
field of battle. He ended with the rank of staff major, having
begun the campaign as a second lieutenant. He then joined
the staff of the great Milanese daily, the Corner e delta Sera,
where he remained till the Fascists succeeded in getting rid of
the editor, Senator Albertini. Then Parri, who had no other
means or income, resigned. He was not a socialist : in England
he would have been a follower of Mr. Baldwin: but he was
indignant at the treatment meted out to the socialists, and he
co-operated with RosselH in organising the fiight of Turati,
The two "accomplices*' were arrested for this "crime.*'
At the trial, w^hich took place at Savona in Spetember, 1927,
instead of defending themselves they took up the attitude of
accusers. They reasserted their right to save from the fury
of the Fascists their seventy-year-old friend, who had dedi-
cated his life to the service of his country. In the most
dramatic moments it seemed as though Rosselli himself had
become the president of the Tribunal which had to try him.
Pam declared that after ^^•llat he had seen m the last few years
he had a desire to tear off all the 'i^l-^^'^J^^^^^^^ IZ^
Th^ accused were condemned to ten months' .mpnsonment,
followed bv five years of internment. , ^_™.„
To find myself with these two men on Lipan was compen^
satiln enough'^in n.y eyes for all -^y .rytTllkd^^^^
the personification of generosity, unselfishness, and danng.
^ mixed little with the others who were interned on Lipari-
I inteS to escape, and from the first day I had to regu ate
my life with this end m view. No one ^^.^^f ^t^^^,;^^ J.^^
had ever succeeded m escaping, and what was difficult tor
the others was more than ever difficult for me, subjected as I
^^"^ A^vS^'ift^T^^^^^^ I picked out two spots on the
coa^ wifhin the zone reserved for us. Approach to the sea
v^^l mtercepted by steep cliffs. No one ever attempted to break
his i^^ck bv descending those precipices; and even if one had
reached the sea, what could one have done ? , It was "npossible
tn^et axvav because these two points were visible to the guards
.11 ^.lonrtbe coast In consequence, the police wisely kept no
senttSf B these places, but confined themselves to watching
he access to them': Therefore I concluded, once reached, it
was from here alone that escape could be attempted.
I went to Hve m a house a few hundred yards from both
Doints Should it be necessary to give up the idea of one, the
K would still remain, I could esca^ ^^n-*^^r.''.nd
way of the neighbouring roof s m four different ^^^^ctions^^and
There was also I high terrace giving on to he sea. This choice
<;ubseauentlv proved to ha^^e been an excellent one.
f Stomped myself to leaving the house only twice a day
^a noon f^r exactly half an hour, and m the afternoon at
five in the winter, and seven m the summer, for exactly one
hour If thT weather was bad, as. it often was m winter, I did
nor^o out. I kept strictly to this schedule for a year and a
Sa f and no one ever saw me outside my house at any other
Sme My friends used to say that the ^habitants ofLipari
sLT their watches by my outings, as the people of Konigsberg
Sd by the walks of Immanuel Kant. I thus obtained two
results first I was regarded as a man who for no reasonin the
wSdwourd change his life of study and has habit of sticking
To a certain schedule; secondly, my guards came to thmk of
r^e as a poor invalid who was afraid above all things of taking
On my walks I always went the same way, along the prin-
cipal and longest street of the town and on along the beach
crowded with boats. The police considered this spot best
adapted for an escape, and therefore made it an object of
especial vigilance. Their suspicions were further aroused by
my long pauses here, and they trebled the gniards. But the
place I had chosen for an attempt was in precisely the opposite
Two weeks after my arrival I had already settled upon a
plan of escape with two friends. It was to take place on
Christmas night; I thought that at that time the surveillance
would be less strict. As one of these friends of mine is now
in Italy, I cannot divulge the details of our plan, which would
have been relatively easy, swift, and audacious; but it fell
through, owing to two unforeseen events. One of the friends,
who was indispensable to the undertaking, was arrested for the
" plot "of the two hundred and fifty, of which I have already
spoken, and I had a return oi my pleurisy ; on Christmas night
my temperature was over a hundred degrees. News of my
death reached the Fascists of my city, and they made great
My illness prevented my flight for the moment, but it made
it more easy for the future. Everyone was now convinced that
I was a physical wreck, and I alone knew what reserves of
strength I could count on. The watch upon me slackened.
While I was forced to remain in bed, the police used to come
to see how my malady was prospering, to be sure ; but on the
other hand my bedroom was the undisturbed scene of new plans
of escape. Many times the doctor found me with a map of
the Mediterranean in my hand, only to attribute my obsession
for the sea to my longing for my own island home. Many
times I fell asleep upon the lines which I had traced between
Lipari, Milazzo, and the Straits of Messina.
When my illness was at its worst, in January, 1928, Carlo
Rosselli w^as brought to Lipari. The first time that we were
alone together we discovered that we had the same idea — to
escape. We took two others into our confidence — Francesco
I' austo Nitti and another whom I will call Caio.
Nitti is a Southern Italian, and a nephew of the former
Prime Minister. In Decenlber, 1926, he was condemned to
five years' internment on suspicion of having wished to form
a secret anti-Fascist society; but his chief fault was that of
bearing, without apparent embarrassment, the name of one of
the men most hated by Mussolini. He belongs to the Italian
Methodish Church, of which his father is one of the leaders.
Of Caio I will only say that he was to have been one of my
companions in the escape which had already failed.
We undertook, on our honour, not to reveal our intentions
to a living soul; in these matters confLdences are the worst of
dangers. For an Italian to be silent is, as a rule, somewhat
difficult. But we kept our word. No one had the slightest-
suspicion of our intentions.
We thought of taking Parri into our enterprise. Who more
worthy than he ? But he had with him his wife and child, he
was always unwell, his parents were old, and other family
circumstances forced him to remain in Italy. He could not
take part m the attempt. We held a small council of war and
decided to tell him nothing.
In the spring of 1928, Professor Salvemmi succeeded m
getting in touch with us from abroad. For Salvemmi, Musso-
lini reserves a hatred without quarter, and the professor, it
must be said in justification of the Duce, certainly does his
best to deserve it. To the hst of all his other "crimes
against the regime he thus added that of concerning himself
with us, and in helping us he was able to rely on three of his
trusted friends, one of whom acted admirably as chief of staff
in the enterprise.
Given this external help, we abandoned all our former plans.
The one intended for the previous Christmas was no longer
possible; the others presented various difficulties of a compli-
cated kind. We directed all our efforts towards the realisation
of the scheme our friends from afar were proposing.
Our plan was very simple: to throw ourselves into the sea
at one of the two points I have designated, which were not
watched, and to get picked up by a boat coming from the open
The sun, disappearing at sunset behind the heights which
dominate the city and the port to the west, left the latter in
deep shadow, and from land nothing could be seen of what was
happening a few hundred yards away on the sea. The two
points I have mentioned were precisely within this area of
shadow. We ascertained this by making innumerable obser-
vations, and checking them carefully one with another.
The zone remained in darkness only when, in the place of
the sun, there was no moon to light it. It followed that the
only time suitable for the undertaking would be the w^eek after
full moon, in which the moon did not rise from the sea until
But after sunset we were obliged to retire mto our houses,
at seven o'clock from November to February, at eight in March,
April, September, and October, and at nine from May to
August. Half an hour later began the visits of inspection^
that is, the rounds made from house to house in order to ascer-
tain that everybody was indoors. To be seen in the streets
after that hour was to be sent straight off to the Castle. The
only time di ring the whole twenty -four hours that w^as suitable
for the escape, therefore, was the half -hour betw^een the dis-
appearance of the sun behind the hills and the visit of inspec-
tion. The boat that w^as to take us off would, have to arrive
in the port of Lipari from the open sea neither before nor after
that half-hour. Should it arrive before, it would be seen; if
it arrived after, it would be too late for an opportune escape.
There was also the danger of the motor ooats on guard,
whose ways w^e studied carefully and reported to our friends.
The boat which was to come and take us off must have a sp>eed
of at least tw^enty miles an hour ; the motor boats which might
follow us would attain at the most eighteen miles. Only if
we had half an hour's advantage could we become unreachable
and a difficult target for the machine gun, but we could count
on this half -hour even if our escape were discovered immedi-
ately, for a certain interval of orders, counter-orders, and
disorder was inevitable between the discovery and the pursuit.
The friends w^ho came to fetch us would carry arms and
munitions with them; if we W'Cre attacked, we should defend
ourselves. Chance or luck would in any case have to play its
The plan was perfect; and, in fact, it succeeded. But it
succeeded a year later. The first attempts failed.
In March, 1928, I resumed my daily walks at fixed times,
but they were shorter, as I was convalescing from my illness.
In public I always appeared muffled up to the ears, but at home
I accustomed myself by means of cold douches to the long
immersion in the sea which was to be an indispensable part of
the new plan of escape. We hoped to get aw^ay in June.
In May four prisoners escaped from the Castle, hoping to
take ship for Calabria. But their confederates failed them,
and the fugitives remained on the island hiding in the country.
The whole garrison was in arms ; motor boats and sailing boats
searched the seas ; flying squads beat up the island in every
direction. After a day, two of the fugitives were recaptured,
and shortly afterwards the other two; the four unfortunate
men paid for their temerity with imprisonment. After this
the nocturnal visits became more frequent, and the surveillance
on the island more intense.
As soon as the police heard of the escape, the detectives
rushed into my house; I was held urider great suspicion. But
my undeviating walks lulled their misgivings.
During June, July, August, September, and October, our
plans fell through. Each time, on the appointed day, some
diabolic obstacle intervened. All our plans had to be remade,
and a new and favourable phase of the moon awaited. My
terrace became an observatory, and I learned to know ail the
constellations. How slowly pass the phases of the moon !
One night Nitti and Caio carried out a reconnaissance in
the neighbourhood of the first of the two points which we had
selected for our departure. They only just avoided being
discovered. We were afraid that the suspicions of the police
had been aroused, so we changed our plans and chose the other
In September another prisoner attempted to escape. He
secured a canoe, hoping to reach Sicily, a distance of thirty
miles. A very strong swimmer, he relied largely on his powers
of resistance, even if the canoe should fail him ; but he had not
taken into account the currents of the Straits of Milazzo and
Messina. After a few hundred yards the canoe capsized, and
the current forced him to return to the island. The alarm had
already been given ; it was impossible for him to return to the
colony, and he disappeared into the bush. They searched in
vain for a month. One night he plunged into the sea, and
reached a German steamship laden with pumice stone. Climb-
ing up by the cham of the bow anchor, crushing his chest in
the ascent, he reached cover; but the captain did not dare to
harbour him, and handed him over to the Fascists. He was
condenined to three years' imprisonment in addition to the five
The surveillance became closer than ever.
Our nerves were on edge, for on November 17 another attempt
was to be made. We were due to meet our rescuers at 6.30
p.m., and by different routes we all reached our rendezvous.
Owing to my change of attire, I slipped through my guards
without being recognised, and the others were not suspected.
We threw ourselves into the water and swam a hundred and
fifty yards. The water was icy and the sea rough ; the weather
was as bad as it could be. We stayed in the water for over
half an hour with only our heads above the surface, diving
whenever a suspicious sound made us fear discovery. I never
as a rule take spirits, but I was obliged to swallow brandy to
resist the cold. We waited for half an hour.
Our rescuers did not come. What a disappointment ! We
returned in silence, profoundly discouraged. The bugles from
the Castle nad already sounded, and a few minutes later the
control watch passed our house. In spite of our misfortune we
could still consider ourselves lucky, for neither detectives nor
prisoners knew anything about the attempt. We passed a
despairing night, however ; a whole year of waiting had ended
miserably in failure.
The following morning we took every precaution to hide
or account for the bruises and cuts we had received on the rocks.
Rosseiii had a black eye and looked like a defeated boxer;
Nitti had a bruised hand ; I had grazed my face, and had a cut
on my left hand which took two months to heal. But I was
none the worse for my icy dip.
Two days later, as had been arranged, we made another
attempt, but we had little hope. Nevertheless we tried. Nitti
and Caio went into the water, but Rosseiii and I waited on the
shore for the prearranged signal, for it was both useless and
dangerous for us to expose outselves when the chances of
success were so small. This time, too, our luck was out.
If we had exercised more discrimination we should have
realised that during those ill-starred days a storm such as had
not been experienced for many years was raging in the Mediter-
ranean. The violence of the sea was too much for a small
boat. To those who were prepared during those days to risk
life and liberty for us we shall remain eternally grateful, even
though fortune did not smile upon their efforts.
I'he fair-weather season had passed, and the \vinter winds
had taken possession of the Straits We were obliged to give
up all hope of escape for months. The usual surveillance went
on, the usual schedule, the usual miserable life,
Caio finished his sentence that winter and returned to Italy.
He volunteered to pass the frontier secretly, to organise another
attempt, and to come himself to fetch us. No one knew as
well as he our anxiety, the difficulty of the undertaking, and
the geography of the place. He made this offer, so fraught
with risk, very simply. He and the pilot of the motor boat
are the real heroes of our enterprise.
When Caio returned home he was put in prison twice as a
suspect, the suspicion being based upon his previous intern-
ment, which in turn had been the result of earlier suspicions.
He did not wait to be arrested a third time, but passed the
To get secretly across the Italian frontier to-day is as
difficult an undertaking as to get unseen into the strong room
of a bank. Those found violating the law of expatriation are
condemned to anything up to six years' imprisonment, if they
escape being shot in the act by the Black Shirts who guard the
We arranged to make our next attempt in June, 1929, and
beguiled the time in making other plans in case this one also
On the appointed evening — no longer four, but three in
number — we retraced our steps of November, 192S. We
entered the water, swam out, waited vainly. Complete failure.
"It is written in the book of Fate," said Nitti, dripping
wet, ■' that we shall die on this island or in prison. It is a
brilliant career j why should we change it? I protest against
this absurd obsession to die free, I shall not take another
step. I refuse to become mad.**
We learned afterwards that the motor boat had broken
down en route. We had arranged with Caio to make a renewed
attempt on July 27.
On the morning of the 27th, Rosselli came round to our
house. Nitti was there. Rosselli related a dream he had had.
" I do not remember where I was "
'' In prison/' interrupted Nitti, gloomily.
" Suddenly a lion with a mane leaped out of a shell."
"Africa! " I cried, joyfully. "That means Africa! "
" The mane was an extremely fine one. Suddenly, while
I stood cleaning my nails with the broadsword of a Marshal
of France "
" It was really a Marshal of France? *'
" Yes, without doubt a Marshal of France."
" Excellent! From Africa to France, Second step.*'
" While I was cleaning my nails/' he went on, " I found
myself playing roulette.**
"Roulette! ** I interrupted again. " Paris— third step."
It is all very well to smile, but, given desperate straits, even
a dream will reawaken hope.
I took my two walks as usual; I saw my guards and the
little world of the prisoners. Rosselli waj profuse in his salu*
tations of the authorities. Nitti was gloomier than ever.
At sunset Rosselli and Nitti walked across the central
square discussing philosophic problems like good, law-abid-
ing prisoners ; then they separated. Once back in my rooms,
I disguised myself in a second : and the detectives who ordin-
arily knew me a mile off, did not recognise me again this
time. We arrived late at our rendezvousj for both Rosselli
and I had found the patrols blocking our way. Rosselli had
The sea was exceedingly calm when we plunged in. There
was nothing but darkness and silence. Then, suddenly,
scarcely perceptible at first, there came across the water the
throb of an engine j and a motor boat drew near. The signal
given was ours and Caio was in the bow, but we did not
exchange a single word. One after the other, by means of a
rope ladder, we climbed on board. Describing a narrow circle,
we shot away, leaving behind us a white, shining path on a
sea as smooth as oil.
With doused lights the motor boat passed rapidly through
a fleet of fishing vessels. We changed our dripping clothes
for others which our friends had provided ; dressed as sailors,
we took up our duties on board. As the motor boat slid
forward, Nitti passed up petrol tins to Rosselli, who kept the
tank filled; I pierced the empty tins with a knife and threw
them into the water. These were our instructions. The
pierced tins filled at once and sank, leaving no trace to assist
Soon the moon rose. For many hours there was still a
possibility of being overtaken. But little by httle, as the
engine drank up the petrol, the lightened craft increased her
speed, and after a time all chance of pursuit was left behind.
There remained only the danger of being intercepted from
one of the naval bases along our route, warned by wireless of
our escape. From dawn until 8 a.m. we lived in constant fear
of this; glasses were passed from hand to hand, and the
horizon scanned. Only the dark, silhouette of a ship appeared
afar off; we altered our course and disappeared from its view.
Finally, blurred by mists, the longed-for land was sighted.
Danger, anxiety, and suffering were forgotten in the joy of
victory. The tiny band of prisoners threw discipline and dis-
cretion to the winds and gave themselves up to unbridled
rejoicing over their hard-won freedom.
ITALY TO-DAY for 1929
Twelve Numbers, 7d# each, post free.
Printed by Utopia Press, l/rn..
U, Worship Htjreel, EX%2 ajid
Publiahfid by H k w u k B s o H sl
(if*, Charing Cross, Hoad, W.C.2.
i.—The *• Corporative 5tate " In FascUt Italy* If.—
Economic Italy In 1938. Ill Fascist Electoral
Methods, IV.— Is Fascism ati Economic Success?
v.— The Lateran Treaty. VL—The Fascist ''Special
Tribunal/' VII.— Political Prisoners and Police Sur-
veillance. Vlll.—The Italian Liberals and the Lateran
Treaties. IX.—An American Enquiry* X,— (I), Intern-
ment Under Fascist Rule; (11). The Rosselli Case and
the Method of Taking Hostages. XI.— Fascist Rule
in South Tyrol. XII — -Three Views of Fascism.
ITALY TO-DAY for 1930
Twelve Numbers, 3d, each, post free.
ITALY TO-DAY for 1931
THE LATEST PLOT. By Gaetano Salvemini.
FASCISM : YEAR VIII By Percy Winner,
LONDON : HENDERSONS, 66 Charmg Cross Rd.