Franca Rame’s rape: Fascists, carabinieri and ‘a higher wish’ - Girolamo De Michele

Article on Italian state and police involvement in the rape and torture of a radical activist by fascists, translated by Struggles in Italy. Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

Submitted by StrugglesInItaly on June 7, 2013

On the 9th of March 1973 Franca Rame was abducted by five men and forced to get in a van where she was tortured and raped. Famously, Franca managed to talk about this aggression in a monologue called ‘Lo Stupro’ (‘The Rape’), which she included in the show ‘Tutta casa, letto e chiesa’. For a long time, Franca said she had been inspired by a news story, without revealing that she had in fact been the victim of the rape.

On the evening of 9th March 1973, on hearing about the rape, someone cheered in Milan – General Palumbo, captain of the Pastrengo division. ‘The news of Rame’s rape was wildly cheered in the barracks, the captain was exultant as if he had successfully accomplished a military operation. No, even more…’, according to Nicolò Bozzo, who would later collaborate closely with Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, and who at the time was on duty at the Pastrengo:

‘The news of Franca Rame’s abduction and rape arrived. It came as a shock to me, I experienced it as a defeat of justice. But amongst my superiors there was someone who reacted in exactly the opposite way. He was all happy. “About time”, he said. [...] He was at the top of the hierarchy: the captain of the “Pastrengo”, General Giovanni Battista Palumbo. [...] At the time I considered Palumbo’s reaction to be just a display of bad taste. I thought that the general was pleasantly surprised by that piece of news, nothing more. After all Palumbo was a peculiar character, he had been in the Social Republic, then had switched to the Partisans just before the Liberation. His right-wing leanings were no mystery. And at the “Pastrengo”, under his command, some extreme right-wing characters were to be found, the “silent majority” such as lawyer Dagli Occhi were at home there.’

In 1981, General Palumbo’s name was found in the list of members of the P2 Lodge, together with two high-ranking officers of the corps. According to Bozzo, ‘General Mino was the commander in chief [of the corps of carabinieri]. It is enough to read the report of the court of enquiry on the P2 to understand why he did not notice anything. He was not listed, but according to the report he was part of the system.’

In 1987-88, two fascists, Angelo Izzo and Biagio Pitarresi, revealed to Judge Salvini that the rape was carried out by a neofascist squad and, above all, that the order to ‘punish’ Franca Rame by raping her had come from the corps of carabinieri. As the ordinance of committal for trial of the investigation on neofascist subversion in the Seventies stated:

’Pitarresi revealed the names of the comrades involved in the rape: Angelo Angeli and, with him, “a certain Muller” and “a certain Patrizio” – neofascists involved in arms trafficking, double-crossers who would act as agents provocateurs in leftist circles and inform the carabinieri, misfits in touch with organised crime. Indeed, it was in this no man’s land where the state apparatus and terrorists met during the seventies that the idea arose to punish Dario Fo’s partner. Pitarresi said: “The action against Franca Rame was suggested by some carabinieri from the Pastrengo division. Angeli and I had been in touch for some time with the corps command.”’

A note by the former Head of Secret Service, Gianadelio Maletti, recounting a heated altercation between General Giovanni Battista Palumbo and Vito Miceli (who would himself later become the Head of Secret Service), supports the two informers’ testimony: ‘The former, Maletti’s note reported, during the fight had reproached him over “the action against Franca Rame”’.

Judge Salvini remarks:

‘The likelihood of some Pastrengo division officers’ involvement as advisors should not come as a surprise [...] the Pastrengo command had been heavily involved in the seventies in colluding with subversive structures and in throwing ongoing investigations off the track, for instance by covering up arms trafficking, by suppressing sources of information which may have led to discovering those really behind the massacre of neofascists Freda and Ventura.’

According to Nicolò Bozzo, however, General Palumbo himself was not primarily responsible for giving the order to rape Franca Rame, but rather he carried out a ‘much higher wish’:

‘Besides his political opinions, I remember that General Palumbo would often receive phone calls from the Ministry, from the Minister. I know he used to talk to the Minister of Defence and Home Affairs. It is normal practice for the Minister of Defence to call the commander of a division. But I don’t think a crime like this originates at a local level. It is true that when the rape was announced there were displays of joy in the barracks, but personally I cannot picture General Palumbo calling the terrorists and ordering or asking them to do this.’

In 1973, the head of government was Giulio Andreotti, with a centre-right majority whose goal, according to the Memoriale Moro [a series of documents written by the Red Brigades and by Aldo Moro and found on different occasions between 1978 and 1990], was to “divert popular forces, for ever, from access to the life of the State”. The Minister of Defence was Mario Tanassi, the Minister of Interior was Mariano Rumor.

More sources and information are here.

Original article was published on Carmilla.