Desperate Inscriptions: Graffiti From a Nazi Prison
September 4- November 10, 2002
Rochelle and Irwin A. Lowenfeld Conference and
Exhibition Hall Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, 10th floor
Stanislao G. Pugliese, Guest Curator
The former SS and Gestapo headquarters in Rome is today an eerily quiet place. Tucked away on Via Tasso in a middle-class district in the Eternal City - a stone's throw from the St. John in Lateran Basilica - the former prison is now the Museo Storico della Liberazione di Roma. Outside, children play in the street under the stern gaze of sober Roman matrons in their precious furs. Neighbors greet each other and go about their business in the shadow of an anonymous building. One can hardly imagine a setting less appropriate for war crimes and inhumane acts. Yet slowly the voices begin to penetrate the walls; or rather, the voices emerge from the walls, because here, in minuscule, windowless rooms, partisans were interned between "interrogations." While awaiting the next round of torture and ultimately - almost inevitably - execution, they managed to scratch or scrawl, with a pencil or furtively hidden nail or fingernail, graffiti, random thoughts, fragments of poems, testimonies and poignant pleas. The graffiti is full of pathos and the romantic idealism that so permeated the antifascist, anti-Nazi Italian Resistance. Instilled with a classical education, and sometimes writing in Latin or Greek, the prisoners often refer to Dante, the Bible, the Stoics and other writers of antiquity. The graffiti is poignant and tragic and a telling reminder of the human dimension often- times lost in academic discussions of the war. A small detail in the larger canvas of the war, it illuminates the larger canvas of the war and also serves as a prism through which the reader might grasp the essential humanity of its victims.
The photographs were taken by Liana Miuccio in 2002. The photograph captions were written by Liana Miuccio. Liana Miuccio is a freelance photographer who divides her time between New York City and her birth city, Rome. Her Roman maternal grandfather, Sigismondo Mammucari, survived imprisonment in a German Labor Camp during World War II. Through her photographs in this exhibition, Miuccio wants to help ensure that this tragic period is never forgotten. Miuccio's photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States and Italy. Her Italian sensibility figures prominently in her documentary photography, including her award-winning Italian Journey exhibition, which originated at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. She has received international recognition for her photographs and has received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Italian American Foundation. Miuccio's photographs have been published in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, L'Espresso and La Republica delle Donne. More information can be found at her Web site.
Bordighera Press will publish an expanded version of this essay with additional photos.