Mario Fiorentini, Italy’s most decorated partisan, dies at 103 | International
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Mario Fiorentini was a partisan, a secret agent during World War II, a mathematician, and a geometry professor at the university. His fierce fight against Nazism and fascism in occupied Italy made him the most decorated partisan in the transalpine country and a symbol of Roman resistance. Despite this, he rejected politics once the war was over and devoted himself to mathematics. He died this Tuesday in his native Rome at the age of 103. Numerous organizations and authorities have bid him farewell with praise and thanks.
Fiorentini lived through two post-war periods and a full world war. He was born in Rome in 1918, when the Great War was ending, in a family of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father who in 1943 managed to escape deportation to the concentration camps by bribing a policeman in the Italian capital with jewels. The day his parents were arrested along with hundreds of others to be expelled from Italy to certain death at the hands of the Nazis, Mario managed to escape across the rooftops.
Shortly after, he began his political activity, collaborating clandestinely with Justicia y Libertad, a liberal-socialist movement with an anti-fascist base, and with the Communist Party. And he ended up directing, with less than 30 years, a group of partisan fighters, the ‘Antonio Gramsci’ Patriotic Action Group, which in a span of nine months liquidated three Nazi battalions in the convulsive streets of occupied Rome, among other feats .
Fiorentini also became legendary among the partisans for having escaped four times from different prisons run by the Nazis. In December 1943, he threw a hand bomb at a truck near a prison in central Rome where two future presidents of the Italian republic, Giuseppe Saragat and Sandro Pertini, were being held. According to the chronicles of the time, the purpose was to attack the Nazis, but also to make the two imprisoned anti-fascists feel that the resistance in Rome was still strong and active. Fiorentini escaped that feat on a bicycle, pedaling fast to avoid the bullets that the Germans fired from the prison windows.
The Italian State awarded him “for his brave actions” three silver medals for courage and three crosses for war merit.
He is also known for being one of the perpetrators of the Via Rasella attack, an action that the Roman resistance carried out in March 1944 against a regiment of the German occupation forces and which killed 33 German soldiers and two Italian civilians. In retaliation, Nazi troops murdered 335 Italian civilians the following day, in the Fosse Ardeatine massacre, personally ordered by Hitler.
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The British and Italian military courts that tried and sentenced the German officers responsible for the attack considered that the previous controversial attack on the Via Rasella was an illegitimate act, having been carried out by combatants who did not meet the requirements of legitimacy established by the Convention of the Hague of 1907. Instead, the Italian courts ruled that it was a legitimate act of war because it was attributable to the Italian State, at war against Germany at that time. “We had to attack the fascists and the Germans, make their stay in Rome unsafe. The allies were in serious trouble on the Anzio front, they were about to be cornered at sea, with catastrophic consequences for the war”, Fiorentini justified.
In the midst of the conflict, he fell in love with a fellow resistance fighter, fellow partisan Lucia Ottobrini, whom he married in 1945, the year of the liberation of Italy, and with whom he shared his life until she died in 2015.
Once the war was over, Fiorentini changed sides completely, rejecting the possibility of holding a political position or entering Parliament and decided to study mathematics, first self-taught and then specializing in algebra and geometry. He later undertook a career as a teacher at the Italian University of Ferrara that would take him through the most prestigious centers and institutes in the world.
In 2018, he wrote a book with Ennio Peres on math and math trivia for young readers titled Zero, one, infinity, amusements for the mind.
His death occurred in the middle of the electoral campaign, in the midst of a fiery climate in which the far-right Brothers of Italy formation, emerged from the embers of post-fascism, is leading all the polls.
Numerous personalities from politics and institutions, especially from the center-left, have praised Fiorentini’s contribution to the fall of the fascist dictatorship and the Nazi occupation in World War II, which favored the proclamation of the current democratic and republican regime. .
Fiorentini led a “life full of passion, of science, of love for freedom. We are losing a great Italian”, declared the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. “He distinguished himself in Rome in the fight against Nazi-fascism. He leaves us a great example of courage and humanity ”, pointed out the mayor of the Italian capital, Roberto Gualtieri, of the Democratic Party, heir to the communists and other leftist formations. Other exponents of the same formation, such as Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region, have also shown their condolences. “Our country loses a symbol of the Resistance. We will miss his strength and his ability to be an example for new generations. Today we are here, free, thanks to people like Mario”, he pointed out. The secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, has assured that his memory “will remain indelible” in the country’s history. The National Association of Partisans (ANPI) lamented the loss of “a great man, a great friend and a great example.”
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