Andrea Marrandino is the grandfather of a dear friend of mine. Knight of the Italian Republic and Alpine’s “Brigata Julia” Maresciallo Maggiore (Chief Warrant Officer), he is one of the few survivors of the Holocaust still living. He greets me inside his home with a warm hug and then leads me with him to his room. After a while he shows up dressed in his old uniform, proudly showing his medals, he sits down and starts to tell his incredible tale.

He was sent to Albania and caught by Nazi soldiers right after General Badoglio’s armistice proclamation of September 8th 1943. It was quite a chaotic moment: Italian soldiers thought the war was already over, so Nazis took advantage of this situation, since they had transformed into enemies. Marrandino was unfairly accused of stealing an SS’ Volkswagen Kommandeurswagen (the Beetle) and sent to Germany aboard a night flight, alone, with his hands cuffed behind his back. Once arrived, he was sent to the concentration camp of Buchenwald, near Weimar. Here Marrandino received the infamous striped pyjamas set and his arm was marked: since then, the serial number has faded, but the Beetle remains as an acrid persistence of the abuse he suffered.

He was put into hard labor, specifically to clean the remains of American bombardments. He was a young and tough man, despite the undernourishment: he was only given potato skins and Nazis’ food scraps to eat. Sadly, his knackered companions encountered different fate: some of them were mercilessly executed, some ill-fated others became human test subjects for poisoning and vivisection researches.

The camp was liberated on April the 11th 1945. When he saw the Allied, Marrandino took a white sheet and started to excitedly wave it, shouting with joy. As a free man he chose not to go back to Italy, but to march along the Americans towards Berlin instead. He was provided with the American uniform, a pistol and a machine gun. Once in Berlin, before their eyes they found an empty city. They come across a writing on a door: “You won’t find living Nazis here”; the few left in town hanged themselves in their basements. The war was over.

Marrandino was honorably discharged on the 4th of July 1946 and received a lot of mentions in dispatches such as the “Croce al Merito di Guerra” (War Merit Cross). He is 97 now and lives nearby Avellino with his family. As of today, hardly anyone knows his story; his memories bring me consciousness of the present. I’m narrating the story of a survivor in a few words and seven photos, so that people won’t forget that war wasn’t, isn’t and won’t ever be a solution.

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