Under pressure from a large rounding-up operation fanning out from Faltona, Ortignano Raggiolo and Rassina, the 3rd Battalion of the XXIII Brigata “Pio Borri” moved in numbers from Carda and Calleta towards Poggio Catarozzo. In order to deceive the Germans about the true position of the partisans, a “diversionary” patrol was sent to Carda, which in the meantime had already been occupied by the Germans. The patrol was made up of six partisans of the Command Company and the 4th Company of the III Brigade and the XXIII Brigata “Pio Borri”, including some Slavs. The patrol was sighted and annihilated, together with an elderly man from the area who was probably considered an accomplice of the partisans.
While playing with other children and relatives, the two brothers were killed by what was probably a German artillery shell.
It has been proved that the destruction of Ponti and part of Via Garibaldi was caused by mines, while the next few days saw sporadic but precise German shelling on the old town and on anything moving in the surrounding areas.
German soldiers broke into La Ropa and shot Francesco Pierguidi, throwing his body onto the manure heap (perhaps out of contempt, perhaps to conceal it). The episode took place two days before the liberation of Stia.
A German patrol, undoubtedly linked to the German troops dug into the nearby Montanino emplacements at the time, rounded up Attilio Ballerini and Romeo Menchini in the woods. They were taken to battalion headquarters in Casina, forced to dig their own graves, shot and hastily interred. Their bodies were found and buried in the cemetery of Moggiona on December 29th 1944. While Menchini’s age and military status may account for his execution, little can be said about the killing of Attilio Ballerini, who had actually been a strong supporter of the fascist regime in the past. Presumably the cause of their execution was the tense atmosphere of the retreat or, perhaps more likely, the fact that two civilians were spotted in a war zone. This episode is the last killing connected to the sequence of events that began with the evacuation of Moggiona on August 26th and culminated in the massacre of September 7th 1944.
The German troops finally abandoned the area of Moggiona on September 21st 1944.
Casini, Strada Montanino direzione Eremo di CamaldoliUfficio Stampa2021-12-06T09:40:52+01:00
A large formation of about 30 partisans in Romena (mainly from the 7th Company), having learnt that German soldiers were carrying out a violent assault on the nearby Casa Nuova farm, set out in two patrols with the aim of driving away the Germans before the worst could happen. On their arrival they could only take cognizance of the barbaric killing of a man and a woman. It should be noted that the presence of a murdered man is mentioned only in the report of the Commander of the 7th Company of the 3a Battaglione XXIII Brigata “Pio Borri”, while it is apparently not recorded in the Pratovecchio registry office.
During the days of the retreat to the nearby Gothic Line positions, a German patrol rounded up three women and a man in the village of Lonnano, all completely innocent elderly persons. The soldiers placed them against the wall of a farmhouse in the nearby hamlet of Chiesa Vecchia and shot them dead. They then set fire to the house, probably in an attempt to conceal the bodies. There are no reports of partisan activity in the area at that time, but the pointless massacre can certainly be ascribed the great pressure the Germans were under as the front drew near.
The small village of Moggiona took on strategic importance in the Germans’ defence plans from November 1943, when the first troops of the Engineer Corps were stationed at Montanino to begin building fortifications on the mountain. The Todt construction organisation, which employed over 1,400 people (partly workers from the Viti company of Bergamo, partly locals), worked continuously to reinforce the Gothic Line in this sector, from January 1st until late August 1944; that is, until the emplacements became the actual front line.
As the Allies approached Bibbiena, the Germans began forcibly deporting towards the North many inhabitants who had stayed behind in Moggiona and the surrounding areas. On the morning of August 26th, German troops entered the village, firing into the fields, destroying houses and forcibly removing about 60 hapless residents. Some young girls were harassed but were saved from a worse fate by the great determination of their families. At the end of the day, almost all those captured were transferred to Romagna, except for three young women and two baby girls, who were taken back to Moggiona to join the only two families left there, the Mecianis and Maria Ceccherini’s.
Between August 26th and September 7th, what happened in Moggiona was similar to other Casentino villages in areas of combat or retreat: violent behaviour, the rape of young women, the damaging or destruction of buildings and infrastructure. But the brutality that ensued in Moggiona went far beyond the normal, cynical behaviour of other German troops in the territory. Around 6.30 p.m. on September 7th, the last cannon was towed from Moggiona to Montanino, followed by the troops who had been stationed until then in the village. But at that point two German soldiers, a lieutenant and a sergeant, arrived from Pratale and entered the street leading to Prato. There they asked the Meciani family for bread and then, without further explanation, machine-gunned everyone in the house. Five innocent people lost their lives. From there, the two murderers moved on to Prato, where another 11 civilians fell victim to their machine-gun fire. Two young girls and two women were spared from this phase of the massacre by the decision of the Germans to send them to Poppi beforehand. Unfortunately, they decided to return to the village, unaware of the shooting that had taken place. There they were caught by the sergeant and the lieutenant who, after reassuring them, suddenly opened fire. A mother and daughter lost their lives, while two very young sisters managed to escape in the darkness. Later, the Germans mined the bridge and blew it up before abandoning Moggiona.
For three days, Emilio Benedetti and Aurelio Ceccherini brought water and assistance to the wounded who remained in their stricken homes. In the meantime, other German troops (whose personnel also included Italian soldiers) passed through Moggiona, without giving the slightest help to the survivors.
On the morning of September 11th, the Camaldolese monks were informed of what happened by Aurelio Ceccherini, who was then only 12 years old. They brought first aid to the village and took the survivors back the monastery. Later, the German Command denied the Monks permission to approach the village, giving the approach of Allied troops as their reason. In reality, this lie was the final act of the tragedy.
Between September 12th and 21st, German troops entered the deserted village and mined the two houses of Prato and Villa. Their aim was to conceal the corpses and destroy the evidence of the massacre by simulating a bombing.
The whole Moggiona affair was thus, in all its phases, an event of particular gravity and dishonour for a military formation.