Web Discovery Leads to Artifacts Stolen by Nazis

Web Discovery Leads to Artifacts Stolen by Nazis

The Carabinieri of the TPC Unit of Monza, during their routine checks of e-commerce platforms and sites specializing in the sale of works of art, came across numerous archaeological finds that were being marketed as part of the Pietro Fedele collection. These finds were previously preserved at the Tower of Pandolfo di Capodiferro. Interestingly, these valuable pieces were once part of an exposition at the Museum of Aurunca Civilization, which was established in 1926 by Pietro Fedele, who was then serving as the minister of national education. These artefacts were unfortunately looted by occupying troops during the tumultuous times of the Second World War.

In a concerted effort to piece together the events, the Carabinieri collaborated with officials and staff from Sabap and the Central Institute of Restoration. Their focus was particularly on the Pandolfo Tower of Capodiferro, a Lombard tower, which was bombed and levelled in 1943 by German occupation troops. However, not before it was thoroughly plundered. A similar fate befell other cities and cultural spaces like Milan, Montecassino, Pompeii, and the Royal Ferdinand Bourbon Bridge, along the Garigliano river, where the Germans had started the Gustav Line.

The tower of Pandolfo Capodiferro was given on lease to Pietro Fedele in the 1920s by the Municipality of Sessa Aurunca. Fedele was tasked with the restoration of the property and the creation of an archaeological museum, for a yearly fee of 200 lire. In 1926, Pietro Fedele incorporated the tower into his family’s coat of arms, despite the property being state-owned.

The museum housed a diverse collection of archaeological, numismatic and medieval finds across its four floors. Among the hundreds of artefacts in gold, silver and ivory, the collection also boasted a portrait of Giulia Gonzaga by Jacopo del Conte, ancient prints depicting the territories of Minturno, Gaeta, Fondi and Formia, a corner dedicated to Maria Cristina of Savoy and a library housing around 8,000 volumes. The journey of these artefacts was painstakingly reconstructed by the soldiers of the specialized unit.

The looting that took place in the autumn of 1943 by the German troops of the 15th Panzer Gran Division IC on behalf of the Kunstschutz saw a careful selection of artefacts being collected in numerous crates. Some of the looted artefacts were returned to Pietro Fedele’s heirs via the State Archives of Rome Sant’Ivo and Castel Sant’Angelo, where the assets were stored during the war. Post-war, the missing goods were the subject of a comprehensive investigation led by Rodolfo Siviero, the then plenipotentiary minister and head of the Restitution Committee. This investigation culminated in the publication of the volume ‘The work to be found. Repertoire of Italian heritage dispersed during the Second World War’ in 1995.

Presently, several archaeological finds, coins, medals and other materials related to the institutional activities carried out by Fedele during his tenure as Minister of Education remain unaccounted for. Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Marseglia, commander of the TPC Group of the Central North, returned over 200 finds from the Pandolfo Tower of Capodiferro to the superintendent of Sabap for the provinces of Caserta and Benevento.