A divided memory: the Ardeatine Caves Mausoleum*

Claudia Hassan

Abstract


All reflection on remembrance is closely linked with power, with institutional narratives of the past, with
national identities and with the representation of memory in the public arena. The identity of a group, a community, or
even a nation consists of fragments of memory of the past, that all together contribute to the creation of a history
expressed through cultural artefacts and remembrance events. These symbolic constructs overtime become consolidated
due to their being part of a certain past in public speeches. From this perspective, the production of commemorative
objects or sites has become the battle ground on which certain social groups, as carriers of different values and cultures,
clash in order to negotiate the social definition of reality. In Italy remembrance has not followed a linear path. In
occurrences of this concept often reference is made to memories that enter dialogue, merge and in many cases come
into conflict. Nowadays “divided remembrance” is a cornerstone in all talk about WWII, the Resistance and the Nazi
massacres. The paper describes an exemplary case of “divided memory”. It is a specific cultural artefact of
remembrance linked, as we shall see, with an example of “divided remembrance”; the Ardeatine Caves Mausoleum,
built on the site where on March 24th, 1944, 355 people were massacred. Through words, writings, architecture, art and
nature, the Ardeatine Caves provide a comprehensive remembrance test. I am interested in observing the memorial for
the Ardeatine Caves as a battlefield, in the public arena, where different social groups compete to assert their version of
divided remembrance as the truest and the most legitimate, while also defining their collective identity and that of
opposing groups. The Ardeatine Caves therefore still represent today a symbol of the conflict over remembrance and
history.


Keywords


Memory, Ardeatine Caves, Memorial sites

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