The most significant set of documents in the Fry Collection, one richest in research potential, concerns the Paduan trial in the fall of 1945 against the remnants of security police irregulars and other hangers-on known as the banda (band) in the service of Major Mario Carità. As the Allies advanced towards the north, Carità and his mistress fled Padua, scene of his notorious unit's last operation. He was eventually found in a mountain hideout in the Alto Adige by an advance patrol of American soldiers and killed in a shootout in the dead of night.
The banda was perhaps the most infamous of the special units of semi-autonomous security police set up by the puppet Fascist regime reconstituted by the Germans after Italy left the war in September 1943. In Florence during the first half of 1944 (the Allies did not reach the city until summer) and later in Padua (until the liberation of the city in April 1945), Carità's gang, which included common criminals sprung from prison, waged a ruthless campaign of repression against Jews and opponents of the Fascist regime unfortunate enough to fall into their clutches. In sequestered private Florentine homes, and later in the magnificent Palazzo Giusti in Padua, the banda conducted sadistic, bloody interrogations.
In the period of its greatest power in Florence, the group numbered at various times from seventy-two to one hundred seventy-eight, and included informers, bodyguards, interrogators, militia, and stenographers, as well as chauffeurs, cooks, and mechanics; but the remnant that went on trial in Padua was reduced to only nineteen persons. Among them were Carità's young daughters, Franca and Elisa, who took pleasure in the violent proceedings of which they were willing spectators. Arrayed against them were eighty witnesses and survivors, including Prof. Egidio Meneghetti, rector magnificus of the University of Padua and one of the leading opponents of the Fascist regime in the city.
The sequel to the Paduan trial is murky. Although the defendants were sentenced to capital punishment or to long prison sentences, their eventual fate after lengthy appeals is unclear. Many former Fascists, at least those who did not receive summary justice at the hands of partisans at the very end of the war, eventually received amnesty from the government.
Even more curious is the silence in the historical record and in modern scholarship that reigns over the mountain of documentation contained in the trial. Despite the notoriety of the defendants, the heinousness of their crimes, and the passions that they had aroused (witness contemporary newspaper accounts of the proceedings exhibited here), the vast literature devoted to the fall of Fascism and its aftermath contains no reference to the Paduan trial of the banda Carità -- explicable, in part, if the trial records disappeared from Padua's judicial archives at a very early date. Clearly, the mysterious silence that has surrounded this documentation, as well as the drama of the subject matter itself, calls for careful study of the remarkable body of material preserved in Madison.
Opening document in the Paduan proceedings against the Banda Carità.