Salvo D'Acquisto, the young hero who sacrificed himself for the innocent

by Federico Quagliuolo

At twenty you cannot die“, He exclaims in front of the tragedies that, in the daily news, involve young people.

Not too long ago, in the middle of the war, there were hundreds of young people sacrificed to their homeland. And this is precisely the story of the hero Unless Purchase, who at the age of 23 decided to sacrifice himself to save the lives of 22 innocent people.

Right next to hers monument in Piazza Carità, in a smaller street, there is also a plaque commemorating the death of Emanuele De Deo, a boy of twenty-two years who, in 1794, was the first Neapolitan to die in front of guns, trying to save his fellow citizens from the punishments of the republican conspirators: in a few meters of the streets of Naples, two different tombstones are a true hymn to the extreme emotions of the twenties.

monument Except D & #039; Purchase
the monument to Salvo D'Acquisto in Piazza Carità

Who was Salvo D'Acquisto?

In 1920, in a small house in the ancient village of Antignano, in the heart of the Vomero a boy was born, Salvo D'Acquisto, from a modest family of Sicilian origins who had moved a few years ago

Only two years had passed since the end of the Great War and, while the black shirts marched in Rome, Salvo played in the uncultivated fields of what would one day become Via Caldieri and frequented the Vanvitelli elementary school, walking with a torn leather satchel in one Via Luca Giordano still dotted with villas of the upper class lords. Just behind him, in the young Via Cimarosa, it was recently Lombardo Film was born, which would become Titanus in the future.

While the distant Germany devoured all his neighbors by annexing territories upon territories and the world was preparing for the apocalypse, Salvo D'Acquisto frequented the Giambattista Vico classical high school in the sparkling atmosphere of Vomero of the belle epoque and, for a short time, he also indulged his passion for music by attending the Conservatory.

Then at nineteen, in 1939, he found the path of destiny among the military, like many southerners. Italy had not yet officially entered the war, but Mussolini was no longer able to stall and the air of conflict was now inevitable.  

Except D & #039; Purchase of the Carabinieri
Unless D'Acquisto just enrolled in the weapon

A young man at the front

Except D'Acquisto celse the life of the policeman and, from the quiet countryside of Vomero, in a few months he was thrown by a volunteer in the sand of the Tripolitania, to fight a war that a Rome, initially, it was sketched as "from a few thousand dead to sit at the winners' table ". History will tell us that things did not go quite as per Fascist predictions.

War, for a soul of fire like that of young people like him, it was the way to solve all the injustices of the world. Salvo D'Acquisto volunteered in very dangerous and daring actions, until he fell ill with malaria and was repatriated to Italy.

He was stuck on a hospital bed for a few months, while the world outside exploded and the boy of just 21 could not tolerate his distance from the front: he took advantage of his free time to study and become deputy brigadier. Then, after recovering, he immediately wanted to return to the front. But the command chose for him a distant fraction of the Roman province, Torrimpietra, for a much simpler task than disastrous battles on the African front which, meanwhile, was becoming a bloodbath for Italians.

Except D & #039; Purchase in libya
Salvo D'Acquisto at the front, in Libya, in 1940

The Germans suddenly became enemies

Like any boy, Salvo D'Acquisto he dreamed of changing the world and he longed to be able to overcome the injustices of life: he wrote it with enthusiasm in one letter sent to parents: "I want relations between countries to be guided in the future by a spirit of peace and social justice“, He probably didn't even imagine the immense scope of his words, but he certainly believed it deeply.

It was the September 1943: the Mussolini government had recently been dismissed thanks to a clever move by Vittorio Emanuele III, who entrusted the old Pietro Badoglio to betray the Germans and ally with the Americans. So Italy fell in chaos, crumbling among the fascists of Salò to the North and the Americans to the South, than with the bombers they razed Naples to the ground and that, a Salerno, had established the new capital of Italy.

Tombstone Torrimpietra Salvo D & #039; Purchase
Plaque reminding Torrimpietra of the sacrifice of Salvo D'Acquisto

An unfair and violent fate

In the vicinity of Fiumicino, suddenly, a warehouse of the Guardia di Finanza exploded, killing two Germans who were inspecting.

The Nazi laws were clear: for every dead German, 10 innocent Italians would have been rounded up. Thus it was that a German commander burst into the building where Salvo was guarding and asked for the collaboration of the Carabinieri to discover the attackers, otherwise he would have killed 22 people at random by dawn the next day, as exemplary punishment.

The young man tried in every way to convince the officer that there was no need to punish the innocent, which it was clearly about an accident.

The German, however, was adamant: the next day he imprisoned some villagers, from 13 to 50 years old, and gave the order to to shoot them after a brief interrogation in which - obviously - the culprit did not emerge. 

Salvo D'Acquisto was also present. With the'imprudence of a boy, perhaps he did not even think about the consequence of his reaction: he preferred to sacrifice himself personallyrather than imagining himself as having survived the war but silent accomplice in the death of innocents. 

The SS handcuffed him, beat him, beat him and spat on him laughing in front of a young man now reduced to a larva under the boots of bullies. Witnesses stated that he was completely silent during the entire beating.

Except D & #039; Purchase fired by the Nazis
Except D'Acquisto shot by the Germans

The death

Salvo D'Acquisto often traded affectionate letters with parents, but he couldn't tell them either goodbye, because he was led in a hurry to the place of the shooting, stopped the German officer and he spoke to him: no prisoner could hear what was said in that brief exchange.

Meanwhile, the condemned were digging with their hands and a few spades a pit in the mud, with two Germans ready to shoot at the end of the work. Everything was ready when the officer ordered the release of all prisoners except Salvo D'Acquisto and the eighteen year old Angelo Amadio, believed to be a carabiniere like D'Acquisto.

The young Vomerese carabiniere was pushed in front of the executioners with a kick.

Standing, motionless, almost as if feeling no emotion, he kept his eye on the machine gun of the Germans to observe the bullet that would have torn his heart: he wanted to face death as a logical consequence of his choices, with a cynicism and an almost disturbing tranquility.

D'Acquisto, according to canonical historiography, told the Germans:If I die another hundred, I am reborn another hundred times: God is with me and I am not afraid! ".

Angelo Amadio was released because he was able to prove with a document that he was not a soldier. He remained the only witness of the story, and in an interview in 1957 he claimed to have heard a scream immediately before the shot:

Long live Italy!

Save Purchasing before shooting

The war ended on September 23, 1943, at least for him.

A gold medal for valor did not return the future canceled of a boy who, with his sacrifice, gave life to a thousand other people: the death of Salvo D'Acquisto was in fact a gift to be delivered to future children of the surviving prisoners so that, in new and free times, they could have the joy of loving, studying, living the life and worries of a young man whom D'Acquisto was never able to know.

The young carabiniere he was buried in 1947 in what remained of the church of Santa Chiara. Even today, like a true hero, he rests next to the tombs of the Kings of Naples, from Roberto D'Angiò to the whole Bourbon family.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Gold medal to Salvo D'Acquisto, 1947


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