If you were in Zeri on the first weekend of March 2012, you may have stumbled across the filming of a reenactment of the Arzelato rastrellamento, the term used for the intensive searches of an area for weapons and the roundup of suspected members of the resistance carried out by the Germans in World War II. The aim of the Arzelato rastrellamento in January 1945 was to stop the disruption of German operations being caused by the activities of Major Gordon Lett’s International Brigade, as well as the British SAS soldiers from Operation Galia, that were working alongside the International Brigade.
In the middle of January 1945, it was apparent that a large-scale rastrellamento was planned by the Germans to stop the growing resistance in the Magra valley. It was decided that the best response would be a series of simultaneous attacks to be carried out on the night of 19/20 January. The first attack would be by the International Brigade and the SAS in the vicinity of Pontremoli, the Brigata Val di Vara would be responsible for a second attack near Aulla, and the third was to be carried out by the Centrocroci Brigade on the outskirts of Borgo Val di Taro.
Unfortunately, what was not known at the time was that the rastrellamento would start on 19 January and that the Germans would already have moved into the mountains. It is the events at Arzelato, where the International Brigade and the SAS based themselves on the night and from where Gordon Lett was overseeing operations, that are the subject of the documentary. For an account of what happened, I recommend you read the recently republished Rossano, a Valley in Flames by Gordon Lett, or the fuller account of the rastrellamento in SAS in Tuscany 1943-1945 by his son, Brian Lett.
The rastrellamento itself went on for seven days and thousands of German troops were involved, successfully distracting them from more pressing conflicts with the Allies. Not a single SAS soldier was killed, captured or wounded. However, the partisans, including some of those belonging to the International Brigade, and the local population did not fare so well. Many lives were lost.
The documentary of the reenactment was organised by the Associazione di Rievocazione Storica Partigiana Stella Tricolore, in collaboration with the Associazione Ultimo Fronte 1945 and Pro Loco di Zeri.
- Lett, Gordon: Rossano a Valley in Flames, 2011
- Lett, Brian, SAS in Tuscany, 1943-1945, 2011.
- CDS News: Zeri, un cortometraggio racconterà il Battaglione Internazionale di Gordon Lett. 5 March 2011.
- Marchetti, Francesco on Facebook: Foto invecchiate cortometraggio Battaglione Internazionale
- Pagani, Antonio on Facebook: Photos
- Zeri on Facebook: Rievocaz. storica del rastrellamento del gennaio 45 ad Arzelato
You may also be interested in:
- Giovanni Sismondo – the bishop who helped prevent the destruction of Pontremoli in World War II
- Major Gordon Lett, the SAS and the Partisans in Zeri
- Lest we forget: Remembrance Day
Gordon Lett’s International Brigade & the reenactment of the Arzelato rastrellamento appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 6 March 2012. All rights reserved.