Friday, 9 November 2018

German war crimes in the Lago Maggiore region and the roman background of the perpetrators

There is still a less researched chapter in the history of the German and Italian fascists occupation of the Lago Maggiore region, that is the quantification of the war crimes committed during the period 1943-1945.

Then and Now of the SS-Pol.Rgt.15 in Rome.
Former Roman HQ of 5./SS-Pol.Rgt.15,
today at Via Salaria 227. Credits for the SS-Pol.Rgt.15
Fondazione Museo della Shoah, Rome.
Main picture by Google Street View August 2017.

A recent article of Insubrica Historica on the First Battalion of the Panzer-Grenadier Regiment 2 of the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Division, has brought some light in the activities around Meina and Verbania, during September 1943. In less than 10 days about 50 Jews were brutally killed by members of the Leibstandarte. Even less researched are other war crimes that happened in the same region, mainly committed 12 months later by members of the SS-Polizei Rgt. 15. 

The Italians operations of the SS-Polizei first started in Milan and Rome. Insubrica Historica has planned to spend a weekend in Rome. In order to best prepare for this historical trip, we have created a Google Mashup map that portrays the main sites where the Germans where active in Rome (see below). Just few sites have a direct link with our Insubrica region. Notably the sites of the SS-Polizei - eg. Via Salaria 227 - as well as the Fosse Ardeatine. The massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine is particularly important for Cannobio. The SS Captain that directed the retaliation of August 1944, Hans Clemens, was one of the major protagonists and killers at Fosse Ardeatine. An historical evening planned for 20.3.2019 in Cannobio will bring more light to Clemens and its activities before, during and after the war.

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Saturday, 3 November 2018

Insubrica (Ticinesi) artists and architects in Rome

Insubrica Historica is about to visit Rome this November. It seemed to us obvious that a visit in the Italian capital should have paid also a tribute to Insubrica artists and architects. We have realized a map that attempts to list all the major works by Francesco Borromini (25.9.1599 – 2.8.1667), Carlo Maderno (1556 – 30.1.1629) and Domenico Fontana (1543 – 28.1.1607). These are three personalities that technically could be considered today as being Ticinesi, even if the Canton was created only in 1803.

We will update Insubrica Historica of what we managed to visit during our stay. We are very much thrilled by the vestiges left by these Insubrica personalities. 

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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A shortest and beautiful train ride: Centovalli Railway

Picture copyright:
Insubrica Historica along with our visit from Munich Alexander, took this past weekend the train journey from Locarno to Domodossola with the Centovalli Railway. We opted for a short stint, boarding the train from Intragna to Camedo and back to Intragna. The railway is the shortest and most beautiful connection between lago Maggiore, the French speaking part of Switzerland and Berne, the capital of Switzerland.

Even if our train ride was slightly more than 30 minutes each way (about 9 km), it was a very panoramic train journey through the picturesque “One Hundred Valleys”. The train passed deep gorges and crevices with glittering cascading waterfalls, as since the early morning of Sunday it was pouring rain on this part of the Swiss alps. The train crossed colourful alpine meadows, several bridges, vineyards and forests of chestnut trees. 

The Domodossola-Locarno railway was born from an initiative mainly due to the then mayor of Locarno avv. Francesco Balli (1852-1924). The construction of the railway began in 1913 by the engineer Giacomo Sutter (1874-1939). The project stalled right at the beginning forced to halt as a consequence of the First World War, but gained momentum following a Convention signed on 12 November 1918 in Rome between the plenipotentiaries Sidney Constantino Baron Sonnino (1847-1922) and Hans von Segesser (1877-1935), representing respectively, the King of Italy and the Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation. 

The railway entered service on 25 November 1923 using for the first section the works of the Locarno-Bignasco railway and the Locarno trams that had the same metric gauge. Since then, it has regularly carried out its task of local connection between the region of Ossola and Locarno at Lake Maggiore. Even in the difficult period of the Partisan Republic of Ossola, it did not interrupt its important function of connection. Despite 1978 disastrous floods, which heavily affected the track in the Italian territories the service continued to perform as per today.

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Monday, 22 October 2018

Presentation Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Panzer Grenadier Regiment In Italy and Lake Maggiore

Pallanza, Villa Giulia, 21.10.2018. Raphael Rues of Insubrica Historica had on sunday the chance to held a presentation at the conference remembering the killing of at least 57 Jews during October 1944 on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Italy.

The conference saw the presence also of Senator for life, Mrs. Liliana Segre (Milan 1930).  In a very vivid testimonial Mrs. Segre recalled her experience of being captured in 1943 and deported in the camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz). 

The presentation about the Leibstandarte was focused on the military activities of the first Battalion of the Second Panzer Grenadier Regiment 2 of the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler commanded by Hans Becker. After a brief introduction regarding the actual Ph.D. project research of Raphael Rues, the presentation reconstructed the various stations of this unit, prior the operations in Italy. A very short video allowed the participants to discover even more details about this unit. 

About 150 persons attended this event, which was organized by Casa della Resistenza (CaRe). Mrs. Ester Giuli Bucchi, archive responsible for CaRe, presented the online database dedicated to the Lake Maggiore massacres in September and October 1943, in which 57 Jews predominantly of Italian, German and Greek nationalities were killed. The operation is considered to be the first German massacre of Jews in Italy during World War II.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Feedback Presentation SS-Police in Ossola, Domodossola 12.10.2018

Original article written by Alessandro Velli, published in italian on the website Vco24.

Official presentation in the late afternoon of Friday 12 October, at the Mellerio chapel in Domodossola, of the interesting book by the Ticinese historian Raphael Rues "SS-Polizei Ossola- Lake Maggiore 1943-45. Rastrellamenti e Crimini di Guerra" printed by Edizioni Insubrica Historica

The event was moderated by Professor Pier Antonio Ragozza, who in his introduction highlighted  the responsibility of the SS-Police in the various war crimes committed in the Ossola region. Many of the officers also managed to remain after the war unpunished, and easily resumed their career in the German Federal police. The presentation also explained the various archival sources consulted for this specific research. 

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Thursday, 11 October 2018

Presentazione Panzer-Grenadier Division Waffen-SS " Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" 21.10.2018 Villa Giulia, Pallanza

Breve storia del I battaglione Panzer-Grenadier Regiment 2 della divisione Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler prima e dopo gli eccidi di ebrei sul lago Maggiore. 

La presentazione che si tiene Domenica 21 ottobre 2018 presso Villa Giulia a Pallanza  introduce un mirato appronfondimento alla formazione delle Waffen-SS responsabile degli eccidi di ebrei avvenuti sulle sponde delLago Maggiore nell’autunno 1943.

La presentazione, a cura del ricercatore svizzero Raphael Rues, rappresenta la sintesi di una più ampia ricerca, ancora in corso, condotta dall’autore nell’ambito della sua tesi di Dottorato in Storia Moderna presso la University of Leicester, Inghilterra, relativa alle attività delle formazioni tedesche e fasciste nella regione dell’Ossola e del Verbano dal settembre 1943 all'aprile 1945. L’autore può essere contattato a questo link.

 Il cinegiornale nazista “Die Deutsche Wochenschau” con il filmato “Deutsche Truppenverstärkungen in Italien - 'Panzervoran'! (September 1943)” riporta alcuni spezzoni di filmato che riprendono soldati della Leibstandarte a Reggio Emilia. Fonte: – . I tre ufficiali che sfilano a partire dal 1min18sec sono da sinistra verso destra: primo tenente Paul Gühl (1916-1997), maggiore Joachim Peiper (1915- 1976) e primo tenente Werner Wolff (1922-1945). A partire dal 1m31sec - 1m33sec l’ufficiale con la tunica
bianca e berretto è con tutta probabilità il capitano Hans Krüger.

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

74esimo Anniversario "Repubblica dell'Ossola" - Presentazione del libro SS-Polizei

In occasione del 74° anniversario della "Repubblica dell'Ossola", l'A.N.P.I e la città di Domodossola organizzano la presentazione del libro"SS-Polizei" di Raphael Rues, venerdì 12 ottobre alle 17:30 in Cappella Mellerio, piazza Rovereto Domodossola.
SS-Polizei. Ossola-Lago Maggiore. Rastrellamenti e crimini di guerra edito, in edizione trilingue (italiano, tedesco e inglese), da Insubrica Historica (Minusio, CH). Saggio che rappresenta un primo contributo all’interno di un lavoro più ampio di ricerca sulle formazioni tedesche e fasciste che operarono nell’allora alto novarese tra il settembre 1943 e l’aprile 1945 e che mette in luce aspetti in gran parte non noti. Questo primo lavoro è dedicato ai reparti delle SS-Polizei (reggimenti 12, 15 e 20) che operarono nella zona.

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Buchveröffentlichung: „SS-Polizei Ossola - Lago Maggiore 1943 - 1945“

Raphael Rues - aus dem Schweizer Kanton Tessin mit Abschluss in Wirtschaftsgeschichte – recherchiert seit vielen Jahren die Einsätze der SS-Polizei in der Region Ossola und Lago Maggiore. 

In seinem im Juni 2018 veröffentlichten Buch beschreibt er den Weg einiger Polizeibataillone und einzelner Ordnungspolizisten in diesen Bataillonen von den blutigen Massenmorden im Osten über Norwegen nach Nord-Italien. Detailgenau berichtet er von einigen Einsätzen dieser Einheiten gegen PartisanInnen und ZivilistInnen in der Region zwischen 1943 und 1945. Beispielsweise über das Massaker in Fondotoce und die Zerschlagung der freien ParisanInnenrepublik im Ossola-Tal. 

Das Buch ist dreisprachig: italienisch, deutsch und englisch. Es enthält seltene Fotos der SS-Polizisten und einzigartige Karten. Susanne Pauli vom Verein „NS-Familiengeschichte – hinterfragen erforschen aufklären e.V.“ hatte die Ehre, das deutsche Vorwort zu schreiben. „SS-Polizei Ossola - Lago Maggiore“ von Raphael Rues (ISBN-13: 978-88-31969-00-0) ist erschienen im Verlag Insubrica Historica und ist online direkt beim Verlag für 7,99 € bestellbar (diese Seite ist englischsprachig). Beim Verlag ist auch eine englische Übersetzung einer Rezension in der italienischen Tageszeitung La Stampa zu lesen.
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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

List of living traditions in Switzerland

With the ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage on October 16, 2008, Switzerland started to develop, maintain and periodically update an inventory of its intangible cultural heritage.

The «List of Living Traditions in Switzerland» was created as a part of the implementation of this UNESCO Convention. The list is conducted in cooperation and with the support of the cantonal cultural institutions.

The list is available in the form of a comprehensive documentation of the intangible cultural heritage of Switzerland in word, picture and sound on It currently comprises 165 traditions selected by experts, representatives of the cantonal cultural institutions and the Swiss Commission for UNESCO under the direction of the Federal Office of Culture on the basis of proposals by the cantons.

The «List of Living Traditions in Switzerland» forms the basis and prerequisite for nominations of living traditions for the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. The nomination process will be based on the tried and tested example of world heritage.

The Federal Office of Culture envisages various measures to publicize the list and keep the traditions alive. An increase in funding for organizations of culturally active lay people and the possibility of supporting events in the field of lay and popular culture have already been realized. The plan is to cooperate with the open-air museum and Kurszentrum Ballenberg on the topic of handicrafts as well as with Switzerland Tourism on the topic of culturally sustainable offer design.

  • Alphorn- und Büchelspiel
  • Alpinismus
  • Blasmusik
  • Decken und Reparieren von Dächern
  • Eidgenössisches Feldschiessen
  • Fondue
  • Grafik-Design und Typografie
  • Historische Milizen
  • Jassen
  • Kastanienanbau, Kastanien und Marroniverkäufer
  • Konsenskultur und direkte Demokratie
  • Martinimarkt und Jahrmarkt zu Ehren von San Provino
  • Prozessionen der Karwoche in Mendrisio
  • Rabadan und Fasnacht im Tessin
  • Schwingen
  • Sternsingen
  • Trockenmauern bauen

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Friday, 6 July 2018

Gordola: artillery fort and barrack of the First World War in Ticino

It is symmetrically positioned in the front line of the defence artillery zone of Magadino Superiore (see the article). As a matter of fact, the Swiss military forces built in the Valle Verzasca a series of corresponding forts and bunkers just before the beginning of the First World War.  The idea behind the defence elements was to block any possible route from the South (Lake Maggiore) leading to Bellinzona and further to the North to the massive of Sankt Gotthard.

It is the most easily accessible work which is a sort of the long fort, coloured in red, appropriately named today La Casa Rossa (in English: the red house), and situated above the village of Gordola. It is an infantry barrack built on the top of the hill, from where opens a spectacular view on the northern part of Lake Maggiore and Gambarogno. The number of canons originally installed is unknown till today. 

From the northern side, there is also an artillery fort built on the rock in 1913 which had the same layout of the one in Magadino Superiore which was conceived for approx. 70 soldiers. Originally, there should have been four canons of 7.5 cm firing toward Magadino, two headlights and at least two emplacements for heavy machine guns. The fort was somehow upgraded in 1941 as there has been since that date situated on the top of the Eastern entrance.

Further to the South, alongside the rail bridge, there are also two bunkers and one trench line.

  • Monumenti Militari nel Ticino (Link), pages 16-17 for Gordola artillery fort
  • Schweizer Festungen - Fortifications in Switzerland (Link)
  • Werner Rutschmann, "Befestigtes Tessin: Burgen, Schanzen, Werke, Stände", Verlag NZZ Zürich, p.115-124

  • Two objects mentioned in this article, La Casa Rossa and the artillery fort can be easily accessed as it is showed on Google Map below. The artillery fort access is protected by a gate and barbed wire.

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