War Diaries from the Abbey
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As a result of many requests by English-speaking visitors, the English version of The Bombing of Monte Cassino, the war diary of E. Grossetti and M. Matronola finally sees the light of day. This is an eye-witness account, the testimony of two monks who remained in the monastery throughout, and experienced at first hand the dramatic events from November 1943 leading up to the terrible aerial bombardment of the Abbey of Monte Cassino on February 15th 1944, which resulted in its total destruction. These monks, as well as their venerable Abbot, Gregorio Diamare and a handful of their brother monks, had remained within the Abbey precincts, trapped in the line of fire between the opposing forces of the Anglo-American allies and the German army. They wrote down, almost every day, an account of what was happening all around them.
The present translation is based upon the reprint of the second Italian edition, published in February 2011, from which it differs in a few respects. The accounts of two lay people, one a refugee within the Abbey walls, the other living on the hill at S. Michele, have been omitted as well as several documents containing accounts written down some time after the bombing of the Abbey. This volume contains:
The Account of Dom Angelo Pantoni, covering the period which preceded the evacuation of the Abbey of Monte Cassino. This account is of particular interest, as it describes the events leading up to the period covered in the Diary, which follows at no. 2.
The Diary, begun and kept by Dom Eusebio Grossetti from November 1943 until January 29th 1944 – the day on which he succumbed to the illness which took his life two days before the bombing of Monte Cassino – and was then continued by Dom Martino Matronola until the days immediately following the destruction of the Abbey.
The Diary, which lay buried under the rubble, was found, partially destroyed, after the war. The notes covering the periods from November 26th – December 2nd and from December 23rd- 28th were beyond recovery. For this reason, when he transcribed the diary, Dom Martino Matronola took great care to recreate the substance, as well as the approximate chronology, of the dates whose record was covered by the missing pages of the Diary. He was particularly suited to this task, as he was a first-hand witness to these events in his role as private secretary to Abbot Diamare, and was able to combine Dom Eusebio’s notes with observations and details of his own. Unfortunately, as well as several pages of the Diary, the precious photographic record collected by Dom Eusebio was also destroyed.
The Diary of the Archivist, Dom Tommaso Leccisotti, covers the period from October 14th 1943, a few days before his departure for Rome which took place on October 19th, until February 20th 1944. His diary is of particular interest as it offers an account of what he did while in Rome, and whose help he solicited on the Abbey’s behalf, closely following his instructions from Monte Cassino.
Some Letters written by Abbot Diamare, or received by him, between July 1943 and the end of January 1944.
The Memoirs of Colonel Julius Schlegel and Captain Dr. Maximilian Becker, concerning the rescue of the Library and the artistic treasures of the Abbey, in Autumn 1943.
In offering English-speaking readers this opportunity to relive one of the most dramatic episodes of the last World War, we are sustained by the belief that the tragic events recalled in this book may offer a lesson in life, and a warning against every form of oppression, domination and barbarism that violence and war – from wherever they may originate and from whatever cause they spring – inevitably bring in their wake.
We trust also that the bloody events which Monte Cassino also had to endure, might awaken in the mind and heart of anyone who may relive them through the following pages, an ever-greater commitment to building a world of peace and harmony between all people.
- Donato Ogliari O.S.B.
Archabbot and Ordinary of Monte Cassino