A “stiff” (secret message) by Sepp Mitterhofer, written in the Trento prison.

On toilet paper, Mitterhofer described being coerced by District Attorney Castellano and portrayed the abuse he suffered during interrogations.

Upon his release, Sepp Mitterhofer was able to smuggle this secret note out of prison himself.

“On January 20, 1962, I was interrogated by District Attorney Castellano on account of the report on abuses suffered in Bozen, and was given a cursory medical examination by a physician. I had to repeat the accusations I had made about the abuse. In response to his question as to why I had submitted the report so long after the abuses, I answered that it was because I hadn’t known that there was a deadline and also because, during my initial time[?] in the prison, I was, because of the abuse, still incapable of forming clear thoughts and was quite depressed.

Except for the bald patch on my scalp where they had yanked out my hair, there were no longer any signs of the abuse. The physician declared that after six months he could no longer definitively say, but that it was possible that my hair had been violently pulled out.

In Vicenza on about February 22, 1962, I was again interrogated by a President Debacis[?] about the abuses.

I had to repeat the details of the abuse. And also that five plain-clothes Carabinieri had beaten me – two of whom (Potzer and Schgör)[?] I could identify by name. I also stated that I had seen how Walter Gruber and Josef Innerhofer had come out of a room with swollen faces where I had earlier heard them writing and how I, too, was beaten. I had seen how Paul Pichler had collapsed from exhaustion. When I was admitted to the prison, I was not examined by any physician. I reported nothing because I had heard from the other prisoners that they had been thrown out when they told the physician that they had been abused. After the death of Höfler, I reported to the physician because I was still suffering from a slight flashing in my left eye which had resulted from a blow by the Carabinieri.

The physician said that he could see a small wound but was unable to say where it had come from, and I believe that he didn’t write anything down. Then I had to describe the two Carabinieri whom I had accused. That was all taken down. I was then examined by a dermatologist and an eye specialist from Vicenza. I don’t know what the findings were. The dermatologist said that I had a hair condition. I explained that, before my imprisonment, I had had small bald spots that got much bigger after the Carabinieri yanked on my hair. I reported to the physicians that I didn’t need an eye specialist because I didn’t feel much anymore. But he came anyway and didn’t seem to find anything.

On April 13, 62, I came to Bozen and was confronted with two Carabinieri who had beaten me (Schgör and Potzer)[?].

First came Schgör[?], I had to state what he had done to me.

The first night, he hit me in the face (left eye), kicked me with his shoes on the shins and buttocks. I was bounced around the room like a ball. There were 4 – 5 persons present, dressed in civilian clothes. He denied everything.

Then I was confronted with Potzer[?]. Accusation: Of them all, he was the one who hit me most, chiefly in the face. Together with other Carabinieri, he yanked out hair from my scalp. Together with that same person and a third person, he pulled up my arms behind my back. He threatened to beat me to a cripple if I didn’t confess what he wanted. He, too, denied everything. Both of them seems afraid and admitted that they knew me because they were the ones who had picked me up at home and had been present during the interrogations – but they claimed to know nothing about abuse. –

My statements were written down like this: First my accusation, then the statements of the accused, then my statement (that theirs were false and mine true). I signed the German-language statement and he signed the Italian one. During this and the next confrontation, besides the President and two secretaries, the head district attorney was also present. In answer to my question about whether I would also be confronted with the other Carabinieri, the President answered that he would decide on that, that it wasn’t so simple because I had been unable to name them. At that time, there were 300 Carabiniere in South Tyrol who had then been transferred to all over Italy. He couldn’t possibly get them all back. It was an enormous task and I should be patient, etc. He was trying to sound convincing and consoling. That was all six months after making a report against the Carabinieri. –

About a week later, I heard that we were going to come back to Trento right away. There were still four comrades from Trento and three from Verona who had come with me to Bozen to the confrontations. After that, I reported to the President and asked him to confront me with the remaining three Carabinieri.

They then told me the same old story – except that now he said that there were 1,000 instead of just 300 Carabinieri.

I said that in Meran there had been only about ten men in the group of abusers under the supervision of Captain Marzollo. He should know all of them. Additionally, most of them had signed the statements. The President now began to scream and howl – I understood very little because the interpreters didn’t translate it. I now had to make a statement describing the three Carabinieri (whose names I didn’t know).

Age 40 years, bald, remaining hair was dark, heavy set, 1.70 m tall.

Age 40 years, small rosy face, somewhat reddish hair, slim, 1.70 m tall.

Age 35 years, long black hair, robust build, a little over 1.70 m tall.

On this occasion, I also stated that Captain Marzollo had early on in Meran threatened me that if I didn’t confess what he wanted, he would bring me to Eppan and hang me up on one of the toppled power poles. Though I didn’t believe that, I feared that I would be subjected to more and worse abuse. Another time, he threatened to pull out my lung [?] (Potzer) [?] if I didn’t confess. He didn’t strike me, but frequently threatened. Together with two other Carabinieri and[?] take me home to fetch material. At that time, my father and my sister saw how I looked. My wife saw me two days later in the barracks. –

About a week later, I was confronted with Captain Derosa[?] of Meran. But I didn’t know why, because he hadn’t done anything to me. To be sure, he had been present briefly at several interrogations, but I no longer knew if he had seen how I had been beaten. I said that he would have to know the three Carabinieri (gave a description). He said that he had been present at the interrogations only infrequently and briefly, and that’s why he didn’t know them, and besides he had far too much on his mind back then. A little later, in response to the question by the President as to whether anyone was abused in Meran, he said: He was always present during the interrogations and had seen and heard none of that. The President then said that if that were so, there was no need for a confrontation. That’s when I got mad and screamed: Two young people have already died, some still have signs after nine months, that there were witnesses who saw us afterwards, and still it was being claimed that these were all lies. There followed a heated exchange of words. Derosa smiled again and again quite scornfully. –

A few days later, I was confronted with Marzollo. He grinned scornfully and denied everything, admitted to having driven me home, but otherwise I had enjoyed exceptionally good treatment. He could no longer remember the names of his underlings from back then. Marzollo and the President discussed several matters concerning me and the events of that time, most of which I didn’t understand and which wasn’t translated for me. –

On April 29, I was confronted with First Lieutenant Manucci[?] of Meran. I was surprised and asked why – He had done nothing to me. They said because he had been present when the material was picked up and thus knew what had transpired. Because I had disputed Marzollo’s version of the events. He described the drive and had to admit that I was right in most points. But he claimed that they had been quite generous with me because I had been permitted to speak with my relatives, was allowed to drink several gulps of coffee, wash my face, use the toilet. I did do those things, but they had first threatened me that if I told my relatives anything about the abuses, I would live to regret it! In answer to the President’s question as to whether he had seen any abuse, he assumed an innocent demeanor and denied everything. He also claimed to be unable to remember the Carabinieri who were in Meran back then. None of the three officers was willing to remember – ridiculous! I realized very clearly that efforts were being made to prevent a confrontation with the right persons at all cost. They were probably afraid that the Carabinieri might accidentally let slip something. The President once told me what I could expect from the whole matter, asked me if I thought that the Carabinieri were so stupid and would admit to the abuses. I was surprised, but continued to insist on the confrontations. The President showed me a list of the names of the Carabinieri who had been in Meran at that time (suddenly there were only about 10). I demanded that I be allowed to see them so that I could pick out the right ones.

So there was this one (Jungnoto?) who fit the description of number 2. Together with Vignolo (no. 1), he had beaten me in the third night, placed me in front of the quartz spotlight for hours, and forced me to stand at attention on my toe-tips for one and a half hours until I became lame. A guard was posted in front of me who would strike me with his rifle if I made the slightest movement. He denied everything, but admitted to being present during the interrogations. –

The next one was Vignolo (no. 1). Same accusation as above. Threatened to have me beaten to death. He was also present when my arms were pulled up behind my back and had often carried out the interrogations and was therefore present at other times when I was abused. He, too, denied everything. Admitted that he attended the interrogations and said that there was a normal light in for illumination in the room. Had no knowledge of a quarts spotlight.-

I was not confronted with the last one (no. 3) who was present when my arms were pulled up, my hair was pulled out and who beat me with his fists until I lost consciousness. Why? Was transported away the next day.

I was told several times that I was the accuser and that the Carabinieri were the accused, but I unfortunately cannot affirm that. The investigations (confrontations) were, after all, conducted in such a way as to cast doubts upon and nit-pick my statements whereas all of the statements made by the Carabinieri were immediately believed. They attempted to get me to contradict myself. I was also threatened with the fact that slander was punishable by two years of imprisonment. Though there were two interpreters present, when the President lost his composure (which was frequently the case), not everything was translated. One interpreter told me that my hair would have fallen out anyway (very consoling!). The other said: If I had done those things that I did in Austria or Germany, I would have been immediately executed!

The others and I immediately recognized that they wanted to avoid the confrontations at all cost. Not all of the confrontations were carried out. The Carabinieri were hardly interrogated – there was absolutely nothing like a cross-examination. Further, they indicated to me that there was a big difference between my statements and that of the Carabinieri since I was only a prisoner. –

On the day that Gostner Anton died (January 7, 62), I made a statement that he had shown me the signs of the abuse he had suffered. Old wounds on his abdomen had re-opened, burn marks on his forehead, and constant tearing of the eyes (because of the quartz spotlight).

Josef Mitterhofer

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