History divulges resistant fighters through ‘Resistance’

Fred S‘Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance’

– notable words expressed by Kennedy, from which hope and energy is drawn, allowing each individual to bear in mind the relevance of our acts.

Naturally, a certain retrospection is absolutely necessary here, in order to examine developments, and extract their lessons. Where Corsica is concerned Mussolini enters in 1924, when he institutes a ‘Committee for Corsica’ – thus, giving way to his desire to expand his territory after the conquest of the African colonies and annexation of territories in Europe. He sees Corsica as a land belonging to Italy; in relation to history, language and traditions, and important means of propaganda will be used: Pasquale Paoli utilised as an instrument against France, and the Corsican language studied by the Italian academics – the newspaper ‘A Muvra’ is created.

So, who exactly concurred with these decisions ?

– In Italy, a few deprived nationalist and intellectual Corsicans (and students), to whom Italy grants resources.
– A minority of Italian immigrants (supervised by a very active consulate), mainly consisting of Italians who fled their country because of the fascist regime, and had been persecuted – they organise themselves within the Human Rights League, Unione Populare Italiana and the French  Communist Party, who help them with the nationalist propaganda structure.

– In Corsica, the relay is assured principally by the P.C.A. (Partitu Corsu per l’Autonomia), gathered around Petru Rocca and the newspaper ‘A Muvra’, that he directs – it is to be noted here however, that a large fraction of a Corsican movement during the twenties (led by the poet Maestrale and academic Paul Arrighi), refused to follow Petru Rocca in this way forward.

What reaction could be felt in Corsica at this time ?

Very strong protests would be witnessed – especially after the Duce’s son-in-law (Count Ciano) publicly expressed the wish to take over the island, on November 30th, 1938. Powerful protests are organised. Daladier comes to Corsica to reassure the population who fears a negotiation with the Axe forces, especially as the democracies in Munich surrendered just a few weeks beforehand – Gabriel Peri, in the newspaper ‘Humanité’ warns: ‘No Munich for Corsica’. Now during these times, another event will hold its’ weight and advocate – a monument to the glory of Napoleon 1st, which finally took place at the end of the thirties from August 14th-17th, 1938, by César Campinchi, within a strong attachment for France. This was also a call for ‘help’ to the French !

However, France is occupied by the ongoing happenings of these times …

Pétain, De Gaulle, the Germans. Fred Scamaroni establishes first contacts with London in Spring, 1941. The resistance organises itself, and the Corsicans are ready to confront the occupant. In 1942, 85 000 Italians arrive on the island; to which, 15000 Germans will join, amounting to an army of 100 000 men – for a population of only 215 000 inhabitants.

The island will undergo the consequences of great conflict, bombings, torpedoing, confrontations, curfews and the arrest of 474 patriots, along with their deportation and internments in the camps of Prunelli di Fiumorbu (for the resistant fighters), and Bocognano (forced labour) – food restrictions and the outbreaks of the plague now existing.

Who were our resistant fighters ?

First of all, we must keep in mind that there was a problem as regards the structuring of the resistance. However, certain stood out and will continue to do so through time. A few examples can be observed, as follows:

Fred Scamaroni:

Born on October 10th, 1914 and son of prefect Jules Scamaroni.

At the age of 15, he leaves for the mainland, and goes on to study law in Paris. In 1934, he enters the army and becomes head of cabinet for the prefect in Doubs. In 1940, he joins De Gaulle in London and enters his general staff. Arrested after a mission (AOF), he is sent back to France and imprisoned. At his release in 1941, he integrates the Résistance network. He arrives in Corsica on Jan 7th, 1943, under the name of François-Edmond Severi. His mission was to contact and unite the local resistance networks, and to prepare the disembarkation of the allies. There are indeed several versions/theories of his future arrest:

1) betrayed for money

2) JL Panicacci spoke by torture

3) L Lucciani, did not speak and was executed and Scamaroni’s address is found in a tube of cream.

To an Italian officer who had promised him a spared life, he would say: ‘You do not know what honour is ..’

Fred Scamaroni took the decision to commit suicide, in order to keep his secrets. In his cell at the citadel, he used wire to cut his throat. On the wall of his cell, he wrote the following words in his own blood: ‘I did not speak. Long live De Gaulle! Long live France!’ – dying three hours later. The Italians ignored his true identity. The bishop of Ajaccio (Monseigneur Llosa) refused a religious ceremony for the ‘unknown person who had committed suicide’. His body, rolled in a military blanket was thrown into the mass grave in the presence of an Italian chaplain – at 29 years of age.

‘You will tell my mother, my sisters, that it is not very difficult to die .. and I die happy’ – final words left for his family.

In January 1944, after the liberation of Corsica – here, I must add that Corsica was the first department to be liberated – his remains were exposed in the cathedral in Ajaccio, upon the wish of Eugène Macchini, who welcomes him in his own family chapel in the cemetery of Fred Scamaroni’s native town.

les resistances france 3.frJean Nicoli:

Born in San Gavino di Carbini (south of the island), on September 1st and in a modest family of traders. After two years in a teachers training college in Ajaccio, he is called up and leaves for Avignon – however, he is able to pass his exams and returns to the training college in 1920. From there, he will teach in Sorio and Sainte-Lucie de Porto Vecchio, and in 1923 leaves for Senegal, where he will remain until 1935 – he teaches in Bamako, and becomes the school Director. During the summer of 1935, he comes back to Corsica, only for a few months, as he is nominated in Paris. He becomes a member of the Socialist Party. In 1936, returning to Corsica where he will teach in Propriano, and Olmeto. Occasionally a journalist, publishing several articles. When the war breaks out in 1939, he is again called up. He joins the Communist Party when he accompanies Arthur Giovoni to Marseille. In 1943, he belongs to the group who welcomes the Casabianca submarine in Avone Bay, and a second time in Solenzara a little later on. It was on June 27th, 1943, following a series of betrayals, that he was arrested, whilst studying a map of where the Casabianca would be delivering arms. Condemned to death, he refuses to be shot in the back, and says to his executioners: “you do not have the courage to look me in the eyes .. you are cowards” – leading to a brutal beating, and decapitation by stabbing. Towards 3am on August 30th, that same morning before his assassination, he wrote to his children:

‘To my children. In a short while, I will leave. If only you could know how calm I feel, almost happy to die for Corsica, and for the party. Do not cry, smile for me. Be proud of your father, he knows you can be – the Moor’s head and the red flower, are the only bereavement that I ask. At the threshold of death, I tell you, the only idea that seems fine to me is the communist idea. I am dying for our Corsica, and for my party.’

Danielle Casanova (born: Vincentella Perini):
A communist militant and resistant fighter, born on Jan 9th, 1909, and daughter of teachers. Preferring a liberal profession, she studies dentistry.  DC Storia di C

In 1930, she meets Laurent Casanova and they marry in December 1933. Very active in student organisations, she quickly becomes secretary to the group in the faculty of medicine. She benefits from her strong authority amongst the young communists, with her natural qualities. Because of the banning of the communist party in 1939 (and any organisations linked to it), she becomes clandestine. Her husband is a prisoner of war as of 1940. She participates in armed struggle, and keeps in contact with the party. She was arrested by the French police on February 15th, 1942, whilst supplying a couple with coal, for it was extremely cold. Imprisoned in 1942, she receives a weeks punishment in solitary confinement for giving information to male prisoners in another wing of the prison. Romainville Fort is the next destination in 1942, without ever ceasing to militate, or organise publications and clandestine manifestations. On January 24th, 1943, she is finally deported to Auschwitz. The fact of being the camps dentist permits her to escape the shaving of hair and ensures correct nourishment and clothing, and during all this time she continues to help the other deportees, that came with her, finding work and food. In April, 1943, an important typhus epidemic spreads through the camp – the doctor in charge manages to have her vaccinated, but, apparently this vaccination arrives too late; she falls sick on May 1st, and dies on May 9th.

We learn from these chosen examples, just how human nature can endure the hardest/worst conditions imaginable, and continue to steer with incredible strength and motivation, continually offering generosity, kindness and sympathy to those in need, through excruciating hardships.

Often the unforeseeable, always the unforgettable … history will continue to relate to those interested, involved, motivated and who have suffered – we must always listen, and never forget.

Source: With my thanks to : Philippe Perfettini – Historian, Musée
Fesch, Ajaccio
Photos credit:
Storia di Corsica ©
Ordre de la Liberation.fr ©
Les Resistances France3.fr ©

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