First page of Guido Calogero’s essay
Researcher Brian Sims discovered the following essay, entitled “The Handful of Flour,” among the files of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) in the British National Archives at Kew.
The task of the Allied Screening Commission was to investigate and acknowledge Italians who helped escaped Allied prisoners-of-war.
The purpose of this essay among the commission’s files is not entirely clear to me. Although it includes information about a particular Italian “helper,” Nunziata, the essay doesn’t seem to be intended as justification for a specific recognition or compensation. Rather, it seems a broader appeal to the commission to exercise fairness and generosity in their task.
Brian wrote, “What ‘Handful of Flour’ tells me is that the peasants gave what they really couldn’t afford to, while such people as businessmen gave several thousand Lire without too much ill effect on their everyday life.”
The sacrifice is best measured not in what was given, but rather in “the cost to those who gave.”
Translation in areas of the essay seems a bit awkward, but the sentiment of Calogero’s message rings clear.
Guido Calogero was an Italian philosopher and essayist.
Read a Wikipedia biography of Calogero in Italian, or translated into English.
The Handful of Flour
In the Autumn of 1943, some groups of friends went into hiding in the mountainous zone of the Abruzzo, which surrounds the lake of Scanno. The Germans had already placed garrisons in the villages, and the proclamations in two languages menaced the destruction of the houses and the families where Allied prisoners were found being sheltered. However, the prisoners liberated on 8th September from the Concentration Camp of Sulmona continued to pass through the mountain paths, stopped over in the houses, proceeded towards the South. And I was often taken for one of them. “Lordship do you wish to stop?” the mountaineers used to ask me (down at Anversa red posters announced the execution that had taken place of a shepherd who had given something to eat to come prisoners in his hut). “Come and eat a little bread and cheese with us. We are friends of the Americans.” I tried to use my best Abruzzo accent to convince them that I was Italian. But they looked at me with unbelief, and almost rancor, as if I had shown that I did not trust them.
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