The horrific past of the Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Italy celebrates the Festa della Liberazione on 25 April.

Italian premier Mario Draghi will pay a visit to the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome on the morning of 25 April, as part of his official duties to mark Liberation Day, a national public holiday in Italy.

However not many people are aware of the Museo storico della Liberazione di Roma, one of Rome's least-visited museums, and the horrors that once took place inside its windowless walls.

Located on a nondescript side street in the city's S. Giovanni neighbourhood, the three-storey museum is housed in what was the Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi occupation of Rome in the second world war.

Comprising prison cells and torture chambers, Rome's Liberation Museum documents the persecution of Jews and Italian resistance figures, or partigiani, interrogated here by the SS from 1943-1944.

The museum places a particular focus on the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre when some of the 335 victims were taken from the prisons on Via Tasso before being murdered in a quarry near the Appia Antica.

Amidst the horror of the museum are touching messages, about life and freedom, scrawled or carved into the walls of the cells, often written by prisoners in the last hours of their lives.

Today this bleak building contains archive photographs and Gestapo documents as well as personal items belonging to the victims of the Nazi massacres at Fosse Ardeatine and Forte Bravetta.

The building's history

Built in the late 1930s, the building was used initially as the cultural office of the German embassy in Rome, however in September 1943 it became the base of the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo), an agency of the SS, led by Herbert Kappler.

The building's location was also near the wartime headquarters of the Nazi Gestapo at Villa Wolkonsky, today the residence of the British ambassador to Italy.

Kappler transformed the building on Via Tasso into a prison, its rooms turned into cells, and by January 1944 all its windows had been walled up to facilitate the imprisonment, interrogation and torture of its prisoners.

An estimated 2,000 people passed through its doors until the Liberation of Rome on 4 June 1944 when the people of Rome broke into the jail and freed the prisoners who had not been taken and murdered by the retreating SS.

Becoming a museum

The apartments occupied by the SS were donated to the Italian state in 1950 by Princess Josepha Ruspoli in Savorgnan di Brazzà, who stipulated that the rooms be used as a permanent museum.

The Museo storico della liberazione di Roma was inaugurated in 1955 by Italian president Giovanni Gronchi and was opened definitively in 1957.

Visiting the museum

The museum has been closed recently under Italy's covid-19 restrictions but is expected to reopen in the coming days.

Entry is free but donations are encouraged for the museum's upkeep. For full visiting details, in English, see museum website.

General Info

Address Via Torquato Tasso, 145, 00185 Roma RM, Italy

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The horrific past of the Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Via Torquato Tasso, 145, 00185 Roma RM, Italy