Ducati’s Small But Significant Role In WWII

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Ducati is obviously known for its beautiful motorcycles and storied racing history. Of course, many Ducatisti across the globe have created their own memories aboard Borgo Panigale‘s most cherished product. However, this story about Ducati’s involvement in the second world war is an emotional tale about the lengths taken to save the lives of a few Italian soliders.

Recently posted on Ducati’s website, this story comes courtesy of Giulia Pasetti. Her grandfather, Alberino Cristofori, was drafted into the Italian army during the war, where he was subsequently taken prisoner by Nazi forces. What happens next is truly amazing, and is told below in Pasetti’s own words.

Dear all,

Forgive me if I take up a little of your time to tell you this story that regards your company and my grandfather. I write to you on behalf of my mother who, now in her eighties, found the badge that I attach here (see picture above).

We come from the Province of Ferrara, my grandfather originated from this area and we still live here, but for work reasons he had to move to Venezia Giulia (this was what it was called at the time) where he met my grandmother and where my mother Caterina and one of her two brothers were born. Drafted for the Second World War, my grandfather was deployed in the anti-aircraft unit in  Bologna and, as I have written, was taken prisoner in the Borgo Panigale countryside.

It was September 8, 1943, the day of the armistice, and my grandfather, Alberino Cristofori, a gunner in Borgo Panigale, was already planning his return home with his comrades. However, on September 9th the Nazi soldiers took them prisoner with the intention of sending them to Germany. They took them, gathered them up and set off; they were going to leave from Bologna station.

The group of gunners that my grandfather belonged to was made up of military men in their thirties or older, grown-up and expert, while the Nazi soldiers “accompanying” them were all very young, inexperienced and perhaps also starting to have their doubts. Thus, during the walk to Bologna many Italian soldiers managed  to slip away into the woods, while others played for time, using any excuse to stop even if the walk had only just begun. During one of these breaks, an old lady who was passing by and who had understood the situation, said to my grandfather: “Go to Ducati!”

So he and some of the others managed to escape from the Nazis and, incredibly one way or another, even by passing right through some homes, reached the factory. Here our soldiers found an organization “turning round” fugitive Italian soldiers. In the space of a few minutes they were stripped of their uniforms, dressed in Ducati overalls and put in front of machines while an employee prepared their ID badges using photos provided by the soldiers themselves, probably by removing them from their own identity document.

The Nazi soldiers arrived a few hours later to make an inspection, because they suspected that the fugitives had concealed themselves inside the Ducati Factory. They saw workers at the machines, each in possession of a badge showing a recruitment date of one year previously and, unable to prove that the Italian soldiers who had escaped them were among the workers, they left and my grandfather and his comrades were free.

Having been disguised as Ducati workers, with documents validating their identification as part of the workforce, he and the other fugitives that had been helped to hide then returned to their homes. Although his time in Ducati only amounted to one day, he always kept the memory of this adventure alive, passing it on to my mother who did not have any tangible proof until last July when she found the badge that I attach here.

My grandfather, having escaped from Bologna, reached relatives in Ferrari who put him up for the night, he got rid of his military uniform and returned to Cernizza Goriziana where he lived with my grandmother, my mother and his youngest son.

Shortly after came the drama of the “foibe”, literally the diggings, and there was another escape, but that is another story. Perhaps my mother will tell you it when we have the chance to meet.

This is the story that my mother wanted me to tell you, to express her gratitude to the then Director of the factory and to the staff that helped my grandfather and his comrades, aware that things have changed at Ducati since then. It is simply an Italian story about an Italian brand.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and once again thank you very much for your interest.

Best wishes.

Giulia Pasetti and Caterina Cristofori. 

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