RIVA DEI SETTE MARTIRI, VENICE


If you stroll far enough, long enough eastwards

on Riva Degli Schiavoni (Shore

of the Slaves) – before it was a wide,

stone promenade it was sand and mud  –

stroll away from the crowds, past the Danieli,

the Arsenale, the vaporetto stops

and beyond, with San Georgio Majore

across the Bacino Di San Marco –

you come to the Shore of the Seven Martyrs,

where now private yachts and small cruise ships dock.

 

It was the Riva Dell’Imperio –

built by the Fascists in the ’30s –

when the German Kriegsmarine torpedo boats

moored there. The officers were partying

one July night – the carousing loud

through the blacked out canals – when a sentry

disappeared. A crowd of hundreds was forced

to watch the seven murders – men who were

already incarcerated – and children

forced to clean the blood from the stones. Later,

body unmarked, lungs full of sea water,

the sentry’s corpse washed up against the oak piles

that keep the city safe in the lagoon.

 

Nothing extraordinary here. There are

two other sites in Venice, many more

throughout Italy, with greater numbers –

like the bus exchange in Gubbio,

Piazza Dei Quaranta Martiri,

or Rome’s Adreatine massacre.

Nothing remarkable anywhere perhaps

given half a million Italian war dead

except mostly, despite the witnesses,

the crimes are unpunished.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Huddart - November 27th, 2017 at 12:26

    A witness as ever to the brutality of Fascists, and the indifference of authority in bringing perpetrators to book. At least there is an International Court of Justice, which hands out sentences to Balkan thugs.

    Thanks, as ever, for keeping history alive, and our sense of injustice keen. And for the other poems this month, too!

  2. #2 by John Huddart - December 4th, 2017 at 10:32

    I have just discovered a historical thriller by Martin Cruz Smith, called ‘The Girl from Venice’, which deals engagingly with the lagoon and its way of life under German occupation in 1945. It mentions the executions above, and is as entertaining as only Cruz Smith can be!

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