Giorgio Marincola: The Black Partisan
April 6, 2021
April 6, 2021
“I feel the homeland as a culture and a feeling of liberty, not as any colour on the map. The homeland is not identifiable with dictatorships close to the fascist ones. Homeland means freedom and justice for the people of the world. This is why I fight the oppressors.”
These are the words declared by Giorgio Marincola, the Black Partisan, at “Radio Baita” in Villa Schneider (Biella) in the first months of 1945. He was forced by the Nazis to compel his fellow partisans to give up, but instead, his words convey a feeling of belonging, fight and resistance.
Giorgio Marincola was born on the 23rd of September 1923 in Mahaday, a town north of Mogadishu, Somalia. His father, Giuseppe Marincola, was an Italian infantry officer in the Somali colonies and his mother, Aschirò Hassan, was a Somali woman born in Harardere. In 1926, after the birth of his sister Isabella, they moved to Italy with the father, which recognised both of the children as his own, which was a rarity in those days, and was able to grant them Italian citizenship.
Marincola first lived with his uncles in Pizzo Calabro, Calabria, and in 1933 he moved to Rome to live with his family. He attended Liceo “Umberto I”, a high school in Rome, where he met Professor Pilo Albertelli. Albertelli was the co-founder of the Action Party (Partito d’Azione), a liberal socialist political party in Italy, which was also anti-fascist. He educated Marincola to critics, dissent, social justice and freedom and guided him to the anti-fascist movement.
In 1941, after high school, Marincola enrolled in the University of Medicine in Rome to specialise in tropical diseases and then go back to Somalia and work there, but he never finished. During his years in university, Marincola got close to the Action Party and took part in many sabotage actions to defend the city of Rome, until 1944 when he enrolled in the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). In the Special Forces of the Allied command, Lieutenant Marincola, also called “Mercuzio” or “Mercurio”, organised various attacks against the Nazi-fascist troops.
In August 1944, Marincola joined the Bamon mission and the month after he suffered a leg injury. After a couple of months, Marincola met British Captain Jim Bell who described the young man as “the only man that really wanted to do something and not wasting his time or money in different activities.”
On the 17th of January 1945, the Black Partisan Marincola was captured by the Nazi troops and he was transferred to Biella, in Villa Schneider. During his captivity, the fascists forced him to give a speech on the radio in order to deceive other partisans and broadcast anti-partisan propaganda. During the transmission, Marincola did not follow the Nazi requests and he was beaten while the broadcast was still on. He supposedly said instead “I perceive the nation as a culture and a sense of freedom, not as any (racial) colour.” After Biella, he was moved first to Turin and then, in February 1945, to Bolzano transit camp, which was one of the largest fascist concentration camps in Italy.
On the 25th of April 1945, also known as Liberation Day, the Resistance won the fight against the Nazis and freed all the prisoners in the camp, where the Black Partisan was kept. The war was over, the major cities in the north of Italy were not occupied anymore by the Nazis and Marincola was ordered to go to Switzerland. Instead of following the order of his captain, Marincola chose to join a group of partisans and went to Val di Fiemme, to free the last cities, which were still occupied by the fascist troops.
Giorgio Marincola died in Stramentizzo on the 4th of May 1945, at the age of 22, during a clash with one of the last Nazi troops in the area. The reason why he, like many others, is described as a “forgotten soldier”, is because he died after Liberation Day when everybody thought the war was already over.
When his body was found it was difficult to recognise him, and he was first identified as a “South African medical officer” and then as an “African American man”. It was difficult to identify him because according to the racial laws during the fascist period, “every mixed-race man was considered a native, a non-Italian man”.
During his life, Giorgio Marincola and his sister often stated that many people considered them Italian in Somalia and Somali in Italy. But Marincola was feeling Italian. He fought for the country and its freedom and never cared about others opinion or judgment.
In 1953 Marincola was awarded the highest military honour in Italy, which is the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, in recognition of his sacrifice and his efforts for the country. In 1964, a street in Chiavazza, Biella, was dedicated to him and in August 2020, the Municipality of Rome decided to name a metro station in Rome after him.
What is now left of the Black Partisan is not much: a notebook with some of his notes and different memories of his friends. But in reality, Marincola with his sacrifice left much more than that to Italian history.
Giorgio Marincola, right, and Eugenio Bonvicini, left, in the Castle of Mongivetto in autumn 1944. (Marincola’s family archives)
Image: Change.org (link)
Rachele Momi is a graduate in Middle East Politics at SOAS and is currently studying Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region and cyber warfare.