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Don Ernesto Camurati: An heroic gesture
in the face of barbarim

Don Ernesto Camurati, son of Francisco and Zucco Luigia, was born in San Salvatore on June 17, 1898 and at age 35 came to the parish of San Remigio in Villadeati and began to visit the outskirts of the town with enthusiasm for those immense forests on the hills of Tribecco, of Marco, of Santo Spirito, of San Lorenzo, in which nature seemed pristine.

In his sermons he thanked the Creator of the peace that encircled the men, their work, their prayer; especially after the start of the war when one had to pray because the sons, the husbands, the siblings returned safe and sound. Then it was the Armistice and the Resistance. For this the parish priest at the end of September 1944 worriedly watched the greenery of Tribecca, where he knew there were groups of partisans of the Monferrato division waging war against the Nazi-fascists.

Once, already, he had had to go to an isolated farmhouse in the middle of the forest to administer the sacraments to two fascist spies and his intercession was worthless. Don Camurati was preoccupied by the turn of events.

He was not engaged like Don Garoppo, parish priest of Tonengo, "chaplain of the partisans," like Don Balossino di Sulpiano di Verrua (in that he had to carry out risky missions between the Germans and the republicans to Vercelli, Crescentino), like Don Finazzi di Zanco, Don Panizza di Lussello, but he knew that his mission demanded he remain close to his flock to protect them from the evil, from the violence, especially those brutal and bloody practices of the Germans who maintained it "was necessary to use the strong fist" (die deutsche starke Hand).

He had news of that first clandestine Committee of Liberation born near Murisengo especially through the work of Amedeo Cantimorri, Emilio Ricci, and of Professor Mario Allara. More than once he had met with lawyer Giuseppe Brusasca, with whom he was friends since university days and from whom he had known of the important reunion of political leaders and partisans in the rectory at Alfiano Natta. He knew the commander of the Monferrato partisan division, Pontini (Dr. Angelo Pietra) who had his headquarters on the Tribecco. And he feared for the future.

The anti-guerilla action of the Germans and the fascists of the Black Brigade, of the G.N.R., and of the X Mas, in order to unhinge the partisan forces and their ties with the civil population had already borne its sad fruits: Camagna had already paid in the summer and Rosignano on September 11.

On September 19, 200 hostages had been captured at Crescentino and on the hill there were round-ups and battles. On September 21 at Piancerreto the Germans had killed three and the parish priest Don Alfonso Cristino had been captured and sent the German court at Turin.

On September 25 a fascist column left the bridge of Crescentino and arrived at Murisengo and captured 15 hostages, but on its return, before Brozolo, it was attacked by the partisans of the Monferrato Division and endured losses and injuries. On October 3 near Sulpiano a real battle unfolded with the use of 200 Fascists with armored cars.

And October 9 was Villadeati's time. From early morning a guided German column led by Major Mayer from Casale had crossed the Valle Cerrina directing itself towards the Tribecco.

From the castle at Pessine it had been seen, but the Monferrato Division under the command of Gabriele (Count Dr. Carlo Cotta) had been scattered for two days and had only left some sentries.

The German soldiers came down to Villadeati from the hill, where they had found nothing, and they plundered the houses: into bed sheets they emptied the drawers and they threw the bundles onto trucks.

In the stables they killed the year-old calves with blows from their submachine guns, quartered them with axes and loaded them onto the trucks. The parish priest left the church and in the rectory they rummaged and carried away everything, including a golden tabernacle key.

Then with threatening cries of "Raus! Raus !" (Everyone outside!), the frightened inhabitants, the sobbing women and children, came together in the rondò at the foot of the town. It was by now nearly noon when the commander chose nine men; he put them in front of the Albo Pretorio and sent away the others, terrified.

Don Camurati tried to say that they all were good people, that none were '"rebels," that they were not guilty, that they were innocent. He tried to say that he also was innocent, but that the Germans should kill only him and let the others go because they were fathers.

He was pushed with the others and he had only time to give sacramental absolution to his fellow parishioners in this holocaust before Mayer gave the order, "Feuer!," and Don Camurati and the others fell, as if cut with a scythe, from the flash of the Mausers. It ended with two shots to the nape.

On its return the same column plundered Murisengo anew, set fire to some houses at Cicengo, killed two men at Pozzo and at Cerrina Valle they murdered a 19-year-old boy with the butts of their rifles.

Bishop Monsignor Angrisani could not do anything but protest vigorously to the German commander and then run to Villadeati for the wake and the funeral.

A marble column with the names of the martyrs has been erected to their eternal memory and the memory of the German barbarisms. Don Camurati's breviary, riddled by bullets, is now conserved as a relic. The ruined primitive church of San Remigio that was the bloody scene will become, perhaps, a shrine to the martyrs.


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