Rocca Enrico (1895-1944) 

19/03/2020

"No one is a prophet at home": this maxim fits well with Enrico Rocca. Although the people of Gorizia were proud of their fellow-citizen in the 1920s and 1930s, few people remember him today, also because his professional activity took place in Milan and Rome, so much so that it happens to be mentioned as "via della Rocca" the street in the district of Montesanto that bears his name.

So who was Enrico Rocca? He was born in Gorizia on January 10, 1895, in the house in Via Ascoli where his family lived. His father, Ettore, was originally from Ferrara; his mother, Bice Gentilli, was the nephew of Rabbi Salomon Gentilli. Even though he was born in Gorizia, then Austrian, Enrico maintained his father's Italian citizenship, and from an early age he felt the desire to see his city reunited with Italy, as a logical conclusion to the Risorgimento wars in which his uncles from Ferrara had also fought.

During his university studies in Venice, in 1914, he was a fervent interventionist, also founding a weekly magazine called "La Guerra" (The War), and as soon as Italy entered the conflict he volunteered. He was wounded on the front of Gorizia and on Mount Cucco, bringing a permanent disability to his right arm.

His vocation for journalism led him to the "People of Italy", where he met Mussolini. He was therefore a first-timer fascist, one of the founders of the Fasci di combattimento, believing in the need for social renewal of the movement; but already with the advent of fascism in power Rocca detached himself from it, dedicating himself exclusively to the activity of journalist, special envoy to the Italian colonies and abroad, and theatre critic. He held prestigious positions: he was director of "Roma futurista" and head of the cultural page of "Il Lavoro fascista", and collaborated with various newspapers. He was also a translator from German: he translated several works by Stefan Zweig, to whom he became a close friend.

He published a war diary entitled Sei mesi di sole, a collection of short stories (Il mio cuore all'asta), Avventura sudamericana (the account of the "Italian cruise" that the regime organized in Latin America), Panorama of radio art, on the potential and problems of the new medium. Even if his profession had taken him far away from Gorizia, Enrico Rocca was always linked to his city: he frequently returned there, collaborated with some articles in the newspapers of Gorizia, he was a point of reference for his fellow citizens. It was in the Roman house of Rocca that Emilio Michelstaedter died, assisted by him as a brother. Enrico Rocca was influenced by the great Carlo Michelstaedter: references in this sense, even if not explicit, are frequent in his writings. Rocca's "pre-eminent" merits protected him for some time from racial laws: from 1938 to 1942 he was one of the ten Jewish journalists who could still publish their articles, even if only by signing them. Then he also lost that privilege, and dedicated himself to writing his History of German Literature from 1870 to 1933 and the diary La distanza dai fatti, also known as the Diario degli anni bui, which came out posthumously after the war. He returned to work on 25 July 1943, called to direct "Il Lavoro italiano", and then, after the armistice, conducted a political column on the anti-fascist radio in Naples. Returning to liberated Rome, he committed suicide on 20 July 1944.

It is right to remember this Goritian who lived far from Gorizia, who loved his "candid city", the "small homeland of those who called themselves Gorizians because they didn't want to be Slavs and Italians couldn't be", a city in which, however, he wrote, "I wouldn't have spiritually survived"; fascist and anti-fascist always in the most uncomfortable moments, a Jew who had turned away from Judaism as an adolescent, a war volunteer who had bitterly noticed the difference between the Italy he had dreamed of and the one he had found himself living in. In him we find the doubts, contradictions and difficult choices of the many intellectuals whose conscience prevents them from voting entirely for one side: perhaps also for this reason his figure is still little known

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