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Prato-Ebensee

Twinning

On 27 September 1987, in the Coucil Hall of Prato's municipal palace, Mayor Lucarini of Prato and Mayor Rudolf Graf of Ebensee solemnly signed the twinning charter between the two towns. The ceremony was repeated at Ebensee in May 1988, and this time the charter was signed by Mayor Graf and by Claudio Martini, the new mayor of Prato. This town partnership had been the object firmly pursued by some of the few survivors (Roberto Castellani and Dorval Vannini above all), so that the two communities might engage together in a course of remembrance in the name of peace, brotherhood of men, respect of human rights, justice and solidarity.

This twinning has a strong historical and symbolic meaning, founding its roots in the II World War memories. It was strongly wanted by some ex-deported people in the Nazi concentration camp of Ebensee to ensure that the two communities could together carry on a memory path in the name of peace and respect for human rights.

In March 1944, many of the Nazi-fascists caught in the nearby Austrian town were deported during the general antifascist strike. They were taken to Florence and from there they would leave in the wagons plunged to Mauthausen from where they were transferred to the subfield of Ebensee. In the months of imprisonment in that Nazi concentration camp, many of them died of hunger, terrible hygienic and sanitary conditions, and the widespread violence used by them. In the lager the mortality rate was very high, and the Nazis did not spare any torture to anyone, making worked even seriously ill people. Even today, the field is considered one of the most horrible and cruel of the whole system of the Nazi lagers.
 

At the base of the twinning there is however a specific episode: near the Ebensee Mountains, the Germans had digged to deportees great galleries which they used as establishment to become the center of V2 ballistic missiles testing.

At the end of the war, with the American troops advancing, the Germans devised a diabolical plan: the galleries were filled with mines and explosives so that the Americans would be commanded to deported refugees inside. At that point, the mines would be blown up, and thousands of prisoners witnessing history would be dead inside the galleries.

However, members of the international clandestine organization had come to know (through several channels still unclear today) about the existence of a plan aimed to blow up tunnels with the detained prisoners inside them. For this reason, on May 5, 1945, deported people from the Ebensee camp refused to obey the order of the Nazi commander who ordered them to go inside galleries to escape. With advanced American troops and thousands of people who no longer obey orders, the Germans were forced to flee, and on 6 May 1945 the Ebensee lager was released.

Thanks to the moral sense and the humanity of those who circulated the information, including Dr. Rudolf Pekar, an aeronautics physician working in the concentration camp, thousands of lives managed to save themselves, and 18 persons of Prato succeeded to return in Italy.

Among them there was Roberto Castellani, founder of this association and one of the greatest promoters of twinning between Prato and Ebensee. In the years after the war, Castellani and other survivors felt the need to seek a human relationship with the inhabitants of Ebensee. They also asked the City of Prato to honor honorary citizenship for Rudolf Pekar for humanitarian reasons, which happened in 1984. In 1997, Roberto Castellani became an honorary citizen of Ebensee.

In 1987, therefore, the twinning between Prato and Ebensee was signed in Prato, and in 1988 there was the countersign to Ebensee. Just to not forget, the two municipalities have promoted two "twin" associations: in 1997, on the occasion of the decade, the Prato-Ebensee twinning association was founded. Through the association "Städtepartnerschaftsverein Ebensee", the town of Ebensee promotes and maintains twinning with Prato through various activities: exchanges with schools, activities with parishes, visits to orchestras and sports associations, and other visits of private nature. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the Ebensee Decade of the Twinning Agreement (1997) to reaffirm the principles of twinning and to set future goals.

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