Arandora Star, the sinking of eighty years ago remains a dark page in Italian-English history


Today marks the 80th anniversary of the tragedy of the Arandora Star, a British cruise ship converted as a means of transport for internees during the Second World War, which on July 2, 1940 was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine north-west of the Irish coast. The overloaded ship was headed for the Canada and mainly transported Italians residing in Great Britain.

The goal of the British government was to control or expel the citizens of the enemy powers resident in the United Kingdom to decrease the probability of any operations of espionage against the British government. In the shipwreck, 865 people died, including 446 Italians.

June 10, 1940, when Benito Mussolini he entered the war with the famous speech in Piazza Venezia, the rooted Italian community in Great Britain suddenly found itself considered a group of “dangerous strangers”. A not indifferent shock for Italians living in the UK for generations, emigrants across the Channel since the mid-nineteenth century to escape misery in search of luck and work.

Many of them were deported or imprisoned while others managed to escape to Italy. In the confusion of deportations and arrests, most of the Italians involved were mere merchants, workers, restaurateurs, waiters and other workers who were not necessarily tied to any political activity of the Italian fascist government. On the contrary, according to the documentary Dangerous Characters – The Arandora Star Tragedy, to many of the government officials fascist and of the Ovra who were in Great Britain at the entrance of Italy into the war, the return to the motherland was allowed.

The most emblematic example of this confusion is that of Decio Anzani, an anti-fascist militant from Forlì residing in Great Britain, among the members of the London section of the Italian League for Human Rights, who was in charge of giving political asylum to the anti-fascists. Anzani was deported with his compatriots and is among the victims of the sinking of the Arandora Star. Although Westminster has officially declared that the deportation of Decio Anzani had been a mistake, that of the shipwreck it remains a dark page of Italian-English history.

The British government has not given awards or compensation to the families of the victims and has not officially taken responsibility for the tragedy. While the Quirinale published a note from the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella to remember the tragedy and express closeness and solidarity to the descendants of the victims, n. 10 of Downing Street does not seem to have released any press release.

For these reasons it is important to remember every year this page of history little known and deepened by the general public, which reflects an even greater tragedy: the frequent fate of emigrants in the history of the world, which often, especially today, is not given political dignity, but above all human dignity.

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