Leopoldo Gasparotto

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Leopoldo Gasparotto with the Alpini

Leopoldo Gasparotto (born December 30, 1902 in Milan , † June 21, 1944 in the Fossoli transit camp ; called Poldo ) was an Italian politician , anti-fascist and martyr of the resistance. As a mountaineer and explorer , he undertook first ascents in the Alps and on trips abroad in the Caucasus and Greenland . As the right arm of Ferruccio Parri (who later became Prime Minister and Senator for life) in the Partito d'Azione (Pd'A = action party, which existed from July 1942 and 1946), he helped found the first Lombard formations of the Giustizia e Libertà (right and freedom). He then worked as a commander ( partisan leader ) of this unit of the Resistance . In December 1943 he was arrested, tortured and taken to the Fossoli concentration camp (near Carpi), where the German National Socialists killed him on June 21, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the gold medal for bravery .



The son of Luigi Gasparotto and Maria Biglia came from a democratically oriented family. His father was a member of parliament and minister before Italian fascism came to power in 1922 and one of the founders of the Partito Democratico del Lavoro (Democratic Party of Labor), Italian defense minister , member of the Constituent Assembly of the Italian Republic and senator after World War II .


Leopoldo Gasparotto passed his classic Abitur at the Liceo Berchet in Milan and was enrolled at the Università Commerciale Bocconi in the academic year 1921/1922. He then went on to study law at the Università degli Studi di Milano , which he completed in June 1926 with a thesis on unfair competition in industrial society. However, Gasparotto's staunch anti-fascist beliefs were known. After the student representation at the university had already been dominated by the fascists through the GUF (fascist group of the university) and the Milan professional organization through the fascist union, which had the largest proportion of practicing lawyers behind it, Gasparotto was unable to identify himself as as an independent lawyer.

He therefore worked in his father's office - a criminal defense lawyer - in via Donizetti, where the family lived until 1935, as a civil lawyer. The father could not warm up to the extreme sporting activities of his son. He found it unsuitable and not conducive to the chosen legal profession.

Military and anti-fascism

Gasparotto did his military service with the rank of lieutenant in the reserve of the mountain artillery . The passionate mountaineer and profound mountain expert became a trainer at the Alpini mountain troop school in Aosta . There he found himself in the midst of the Italian mountaineering and skiing elite of the 1930s and 1940s: Giusto Gervasutti , Renato Chabod, Emilio Comici , Jean Pelissier, Carletto Negri, Emanuele Andreis, Luigi Perenni and the sergeant Ugo Tizzoni (1938 first direct ascent to Pointe Walker over the Walker pillars of the Grandes Jorasses with Riccardo Cassin and G. Esposito).

Despite his anti-fascist attitude, Gasparotto was not a member of organized resistance groups. However, in these years up to the Resistance, he cultivated stronger ties to like-minded anti-fascists and activists, including General Luigi Masini . In 1935 he married Leila Colombo, called Adele within the resistance movement , which shared his political views and supported him in his conspiratorial activities. They lived with his father in the same house on Via Melegari.


Because of his mountaineering achievements, Leopoldo Gasparotto was appointed a member of the Club Alpino Accademico Italiano . Gasparotto made a name for himself with first-time routes in the Lombard Alps ; Several challenging routes - including an ascent to Monte Rosa or the Fissura Gasparotto to the Piramide Casati in the Grigna Group - were dedicated to him.

In August 1928 he made the first serious attempt to conquer the north face of the Walker pillar in the Grandes Jorasses with the Himalayan experienced Alberto Rand Herron and Piero Zanetti and the guides Armand Charlet and Evariste Croux . However, the rope team could not get past the first main block and had to turn back due to insufficient equipment (lack of crampons).

In 1929 Gasparotto and the Austrian Hugo Tomaschek succeeded in climbing the Elbrus for the first time in the Caucasus . A summit of the Elbrus massif is named after him.

In August 1933 he was the first to climb the Brenva flank in the Montblanc group, one of the highest rock and ice faces in the Alps (first to climb in July 1865: Adolphus Warburton Moore, George Spencer Mathews, Frank Walker, Horace Walker with the guides Jakob and Melchior Anderegg).

In 1934 he took part in the Bonzi-Gasparotto Greenland expedition as an explorer and mountaineer . While visiting Bonzi , Gasparotto, Figari, Martinoni, Sommi the south coast of Scoresbysunds and climb four peaks from 1700 to 1900 m, and gave them Italian names. The highest peak of the Watkins Mountains remained inaccessible.

Guardia Nazionale

After the landings and conquest of Sicily in July and August 1943 by the Allies, Benito Mussolini was deposed on July 25, under the impression of the looming failure. The new Badoglio government signed the Armistice of Cassibile on September 8, 1943 and the then Kingdom of Italy left the German alliance system. Units of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS occupied northern and central Italy, freed the imprisoned Mussolini on the Gran Sasso and installed him on September 23, 1943 as head of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (or Repubblica di Salò ) on Lake Garda. Together with Mussolini's Italian troops, they fought the resistance that was being organized in Italy, the partisans of the Resistancea , with the toughest of means. Around 600,000 men of the regular Italian army were brought to Germany as military internees for forced labor.

Gasparotto went underground and actively supported the organization of the anti-fascists and activists in the good month between the ousting of Mussolini and the armistice of Cassibile. The political upheaval had inspired many young people for further activities in the not yet liberated part of Italy, among them the then 18-year-old Alfa Romeo worker Giulio "Nino" Seniga, whom a first internal liberation commission Alfa Romeo and Isotta Fraschini as the youngest leader chose.

Above all, Gasparotto pursued the idea of ​​a “Guardia Nazionale” (National Guard), which should oppose the invading German troops. At the side of “Alberto Martinelli”, who was later deported to Germany and who died, he tried to set up this paramilitary unit from the family villa in Varese and from the garage of the old house and studio in Milan that had been destroyed by bombing. The operation failed after the commander of the Milan military district General Ruggeri refused on September 8, 1943, to release weapons and to take part in the defense of the city against German troops. In the meantime the Germans had already occupied Porta Romana airport. Seniga hurried to the Alpha plant and, with the help of about a hundred workers, was able to equip the plant security with a few trucks and rifles. In the end, he escaped his arrest by the forces still loyal to the Mussolini by fleeing and abandoning the original goals.

Gasparotto secretly took his family to safety. On September 12th, he accompanied his pregnant wife and son to the Swiss border and in the following days brought his father abroad with his followers. He then finally dived underground. The second son Giuliano was born in 1944 in exile in Lugano, three months before Leopoldo Gasparotto was murdered.

Brigate Giustizia e Libertà

Gasparotto as brigade leader in the Resistance, September to December 1943
Goths and allied gains until December 1944

Leopoldo returned to Lombardy, where he took over the first military command of the partisan brigade Giustizia e Libertà (Justice and Freedom) for the Partito d'Azione PDA , a role that Leo Valiani assumed after his capture . Gasparotto had set up an informal network with the lawyer Barni and the notary Virginio Neri, which followed the movements and positions of the German troops invading Italy after July 25th. After September 8, it was even possible to take possession of the German defense plans for the Goths . After setting up the logistical infrastructure for the deployment of the brigades in the Pian del Tivano area , Leopoldo Gasparotto went to Val Brembana and Val Codera in the upper Lago di Como area, (including Colico and Chiavenna ) to organize the forces of the Italian resistance movement. Through his activities to build up the partisan groups in the Lombard mountains, the organization of the deliveries and the hiding of food and weapons and the constant change of residence in the region, he came into the focus of the fascist law enforcement forces supported by the German occupation forces. The meetings that were regularly held too openly and frivolously in Milan, most recently in the Palace of Justice, may have given him the opportunity to be arrested in Piazza Castello in Milan on the afternoon of December 11, 1943. Other sources think treason is likely; possibly both played a role.

The security forces brought Gasparott to Milan's San Vittore prison on charges of high treason and repeatedly tortured him in vain. Gasparotto did not reveal anything about the organization of the Italian resistance movement.

Gaetano De Martino describes in his“ Dal Carcere di San Vittore ai lager tedeschi ”(“ From the prison of San Vittore to the German camp ”) Gasparotto's arrival in prison: At the beginning of December an extraordinary group of people arrived: near the Castello castle in Milan Sforzesco had a dozen partisans arrested, almost all of them executives. That day in the corridor I saw the tall figure of friend Poldo Gasparotto return to his cell, his coat covered with blood from the head injuries caused by the flogging. I could approach him and exchange a few words with him, I could also slug him a little food. He was calm and spoke with a slight smile. No complaint about what had happened, and only a vague mention of the suitcases he feared had been confiscated (the three suitcases actually contained the plans of the Gothic position.

Camp Fossoli

Campo di Fossoli

From the Milan prison, Gasparotto came to Verona for a short time , where the SS interrogated and tortured him. On April 27, he and his companions were taken to the Fossoli concentration camp and tortured again. However, he still did not reveal any information, neither about his own partisan activities nor those of his comrades.

A Swiss friend living in Bellinzona provided a large sum of money on a bank in Lugano in order to bribe the camp guards and thus enable Gasparotto's escape. But when the contact person spoke to him, Gasparotto said that you could not leave the Fossoli camp thanks to staff bribed with money, but solely thanks to your own skills and with companions. The contact was later identified and arrested.

Leopoldo Gasparotto began to organize the escape of prisoners from the concentration camp. Michael Vaina mentions in his work Il crollo di un regime ( The overthrow of a regime ) that Gasparotto managed to maintain ties with the Emilian partisans despite the strict controls by the guards . So he could not only be warned early and informed of changing circumstances, a prerequisite for organizing the mass exodus. However, the other side learned of a planned outbreak and began to search specifically for the organizers.

Already at the beginning of 1944, the Fossoli camp served as a collection camp for political prisoners who were to be brought to the concentration camps Auschwitz , Bergen-Belsen , Ravensbrück , Buchenwald and Mauthausen . The first transports to the death camp began in February of the same year. This situation forced the partisan leader to curtail his plans for the mass exodus. This collective outbreak did not occur again: On June 21, 1944, the day before an announced transfer to Germany, Leopoldo Gasparotto was killed together with other prisoners.

The End

An SS unit that had arrived on the orders of the Gestapo chief from Verona, SS-Sturmbannführer Friedrich Kranebitter , fetched Gasparotto from the camp shortly after 1 p.m. The prisoner passed a thin, hidden notebook to his friend Ferdinando Brenna just in time. After his precious diary was saved, Leopoldo was tied up and loaded onto a car that drove away at high speed in the summer heat, followed by an SS man on a motorcycle. After a few kilometers the car stopped and Gasparotto was let go on a dirt road and struck down in the back with a machine gun sheaf (customary statement of the cause of death: shot while trying to escape ). He was only 42 years old.

Two weeks later, on July 12, the Nazi fascists, again on Kranebitter's orders, organized the so-called Cibeno massacre , in which they executed sixty-seven more camp prisoners with headshots. The prisoners Mario Fasoli and Eugenio Jemina were able to escape at the time. According to their statements, it was possible to reconstruct the events of those tragic days and the role that the partisan leader played in them.

One of many memorial stones


The gold medal of bravery, awarded posthumously after the liberation of Italy, is associated with the following dedication: "The long-time opponent of the fascist regime (even before the armistice of September 8, 1943) he organized the partisan movement in Lombardy. The later commander of the military Lombard formation (brigade) appointed "Giustizia e Libertà" ("Justice and Freedom"), showed as an example for all, in the most difficult moments of the struggle, cold-bloodedness and prudence. Ambushed by treason, he endured with great in San Vittore prison Suffering the cruelest torments and no information was snatched from him. Brought to the Fossoli concentration camp to be deported to Germany, he fought on fearlessly and tried to organize the escape and an attack on a German interpreter to save the prisoners from a slow death in the To save the cold. His suspected honorable act and cruelly murdered by Nazism. "

In addition to a primary school at the site of the Fossoli camp ( Carpi in the province of Modena ), a large number of streets in various places in northern Italy are named in honor of Gasparotto. The students of Liceo Berchet in Milan, where he studied, design and run a website under his name.


  • Leopoldo Gasparotto: Su Monti e su colli ignoti nel Caucaso centrale. In: Revista del Club Alpino Italiano. 49 (1930), pp. 134-149.

The author of numerous illustrated accounts of mountaineering, climbing and expeditions also kept a diary of his experience of captivity:

  • Leopoldo Gasparotto: Diario di Fossoli. Bollati Boringhieri, 2007.


  • Enciclopedia: Gasparòtto, Leopoldo. Brief biography of Leopoldo Gasparotto in: treccani.it Enciclopedia Italiana; Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 52, 1999 (Italian)
  • Ruggero Meles: Leopoldo Gasparotto. Alpinista e partigiano. Verlag Hoepli, 2012, ISBN 978-88-203-4843-4 . (Italian) book review
  • Leopoldo Gasparotto: Diario di Fossoli. Bollati Boringhieri, 2007.
  • Istituto Nazionale per la Storia del Movimento di Liberazione in Italia: Italia contemporanea. Volume 249.
  • Istituto Nazionale per la Storia del Movimento di Liberazione in Italia di Ravenna: Il ritorno alla vita e il problema della testimonianza: studi e riflessioni.
  • Paolo Paoletti: La strage di Fossoli: 12 luglio 1944. Ugo Mursia (ed.). 2004.
  • Leo Valiani, Gianfranco Bianchi, Ernesto Ragionieri: Azionisti, cattolici e comunisti nella Resistenza. Angeli, Milano 1971.

Web links

Commons : Leopoldo Gasparotto  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c see literature: Ruggero Meles: Leopoldo Gasparotto. Alpinista e partigiano.
  2. see literature: Leopoldo Gasparotto ; short curriculum vitae in the Enciclopedia Italiana
  3. a b c d e f g h i Weblink Pierluigi Gasparotto: Leopoldo Gasparotto About his father (Italian)
  4. Storiaxxisecolo
  5. see web link Franco Fucci: Aosta l'università della montagna
  6. The alpine officer Luigi Masini, who had already been awarded during the First World War, became director of the Scuola di Specializzazione Alpina in 1928 , helped found the mountain troop school in the Aosta Valley in 1933 and was later its commander. Back in the combat of World War II, he went to the ceasefire Cassabile in the Resistance and led military combat troops of the Brigate Fiamme Verdi
  7. The Club Alpino Accademico Italiano (CAAI) was founded in 1904 and took in the members of the CAI who had made special contributions to guideless mountaineering. The initially independent association now represents a special section of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI), which takes care of the needs of extreme mountaineering.
  8. Richard Hechtel: One Hundred Years of Rock Climbing (PDF; 3.1 MB) DAV Bayerland
  9. Tour mention on Angelo Elli's website
  10. "Elbrus, the white mountain" on bergnews.com
  11. see "Illustratione Italiana", 1934, no. 43 and "Rivista mensile", CAI, 1935, pp. 186–192.
  12. Cambridge Journals: Italian Mountaineering Expedition to Scoresby Sound, East Greenland, 1934 Polar Record / Volume 2 / Issue 09 / January 1935, pp. 30–31, Cambridge University Press 1935.
  13. ^ Former President of the Faculty of Political Studies at the University of Milan
  14. a b Weblink Liceo Berchet: La storia di Poldo Gasparotto ( Memento of the original from October 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Website of the Liceo Berchet Milan about the life and work of Leopoldo Gasparotto (Italian) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.liceoberchet.it
  15. or on the 22nd (the sources contradict each other)
  16. ^ Dal sito della Presidenza della Repubblica