The Memory of Villa Freiberg
Until the day she died, the infamously stingy Rosemary Severini lived by herself in Villa Freiberg. With no friends or family, the villagers could only gossip about the inestimable art collection that her wealthy grandfather was said to have amassed.
So when, upon Rosemary’s death, local architect Elisabeth is called to create a foundation of the villa, she is ill-prepared for what she finds: a house filled with rubbish, not a trace of art.
It turns out that the Villa is shrouded in secrets, like the divided Freiberg family, who found refuge in Tyrol, a no-man’s land between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Elisabeth is determined to unravel Rosemary’s past, starting with the few clues she left in a locked trunk: a gold ring and photographs of a nameless child, born with a handicap. Memories of sibling love linger in the dusty rooms and lead Elisabeth to a clinic in Innsbruck, where the horrors of Aktion T4 were perpetrated in the name of a perfect race.
NB: The events of Villa Freiberg and the figure of Rosamaria Severini are inspired by the restoration of an important period villa in Merano whose history is intertwined with that of the South Tyrolean community.
The historical context in which the story takes place is above all the years between 1943 and 1945 when, in the aftermath of the armistice Hitler established the “Alpenvorland”, an area of operation in the provinces of Norther Italy, Bolzano, Trento and Belluno, which was unofficially annexed to the Reich and enthusiastically welcomed by the German speaking population eager to free themselves from Italian Fascism and forced Italianization. The arrival of Gestapo orders gave rise to a regime of terror that led to raids and the implementation of the racial laws in the Jewish community.
Many Tyrolean’s were deported to Hall Clinic near Innsbruck, one of the focal points of Aktion T4, the Euthanasia Project aimed at eliminating the mentally handicapped, genetic degenerates and anyone who differed from the established cannons.
France (Fleuve éditions)