JCU Hosts Celebration for the 80th Anniversary of the Liberation of Rome During WWII

On June 4, 1944, the Allied forces, led by General Mark Clark, triumphantly entered Rome. The city, declared an “open city” to prevent further destruction, saw the entry of American, Canadian, and British forces without significant fighting. The event was greeted with great enthusiasm by the citizens, who hoped for a quick end to the war and a return to normalcy.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello (at the podium) in the Aula Magna Regina

As an American university in the heart of Rome, John Cabot was honored to host a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the city’s liberation on June 4, 2024. The event was organized by Rome’s first Municipality (historic center) in collaboration with the media company We the Italians and JCU.  

Historical notes

The liberation of Rome had immediate and long-term consequences. From a military point of view, it marked the first major European city liberated by the Allies, boosting the morale of the anti-Nazi forces and giving significant impetus to subsequent operations, including the Normandy landings two days later. Politically, the event accelerated the process of dismantling the fascist regime and the restoration of democratic institutions in Italy. King Victor Emmanuel III, who was associated with the fascist regime, abdicated in favor of his son Umberto II, paving the way for the institutional referendum of 1946 that would lead to the birth of the Italian Republic.

The liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944, was a pivotal moment in Italian and European history. It symbolized the end of the Nazi occupation of the peninsula and the beginning of a new era of hope and reconstruction. The determination of the Allies and the courage of the Italian Resistance were instrumental in this success. The memory of that day remains a powerful reminder of the importance of freedom and democracy, values for which many people sacrificed their lives.

The Commemoration at JCU

Guests included representatives from the first Municipality of Rome, Philip Brown (Economic Counsellor of the British Embassy in Rome), Luca Tritto (Liaison and Protocol Supervisor, Defense Attaché Office, U.S. Embassy in Rome), Lydia Cogo (PD Education Outreach Coordinator, Public Diplomacy Section, U.S. Embassy in Rome), and Lt. Col. Simon Rushen (Canadian Embassy in Rome). Holocaust survivor Gianni Polgar, the President of Rome’s Jewish community Victor Fadlun, and Lello Dell’Ariccia, President of Associazione Progetto Memoria, also spoke, as did JCU Professors Dario Biocca and Federigo Argentieri.

A video was projected with many unpublished photos and footage from the historical archives of the Istituto Luce. Right outside of JCU, three vintage cars (two jeeps and a 1946 Packard) were on display, thanks to the generosity of the Nicola Bulgari Foundation.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello said, “It is a great honor for John Cabot University to host this commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Rome. This was the first step in a redemption of Italian history that saw the birth of the democratic republic, rooted in the will of the Italian people never again to allow such tragedies to be repeated.”

“This anniversary represents a moment of great importance for our city and the entire nation,” said the President of Rome’s first Municipality, Lorenza Bonaccorsi. “Remembering the liberation of Rome means paying tribute to those who fought for our freedom and reaffirming the values of democracy and justice that still guide us today,” she added.

The Municipality’s Councilor for Culture, Giulia Silvia Ghia, said, “The liberation of Rome was a military event of great significance that made it possible to build a solid bridge with the Allies from which we still benefit mutually today. But it was also a powerful symbol of resistance and rebirth and, especially for women, the beginning of a path toward emancipation and full citizenship. Thanks to the recognition of the fundamental role of women, it was possible to obtain the right to vote in 1946 and their increasing participation in the political and social life of the country. It is our moral duty to preserve the memory of their actions and pass it on to new generations so that their example of courage, determination, and love of freedom will continue to inspire and guide our path to a better future.”

President of Rome’s first Municipality, Lorenza Bonaccorsi

“We are grateful to all the American soldiers who contributed to liberating our country,” said Umberto Mucci, President of the media company We the Italians. He stressed the importance of continuing to promote the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights for which so many men and women sacrificed their lives. In particular, he stressed the contribution of Italian Americans during World War II, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, many Italian Americans chose to fight for the United States, thus showing loyalty to their adopted country.

According to JCU history Professor Dario Biocca, it is essential to tell the story of the liberation of Rome so that new generations can understand and appreciate the past, to make it their own memory. He described the event as complex and significant, comparing it to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.


Victor Fadlun, President of Rome’s Jewish community, said that the liberation of the city was a “return to light” after six dramatic years of persecution. He recalled the terrible days of the deportation of Jews from the ghetto and all of Rome as well as the community’s role during the occupation and liberation.

Drawing on family memories, Federigo Argentieri recalled the deportation of the Carabinieri that took place to prevent them from opposing the deportation of civilians that led to the massacre at the Fosse Ardeatine. He then told stories of many intellectuals who were persecuted as a result of the racial laws and closed by remembering two movie directors who helped document Rome during the war, Carlo Lizzani, with films such as Fontamara (1980) and L’oro di Roma (1961), and Roberto Rossellini with the film Roma città aperta (1945).

From left: Philip Brown, Dario Biocca, Federigo Argentieri, Luca Tritto, Lydia Cogo, Gianni Polgar, Lello Dell’Ariccia, Giulia Silvia Ghia, Franco Pavoncello, Simon Rushen, Nicola Bulgari

Lello della Riccia, President of the Associazione Progetto Memoria, which is dedicated to telling the story of the Resistance and passing on the memory to new generations, pointed out that many Roman Jews were deported from the Ghetto by the Nazis, but most of the arrests around the city were made by the Italian fascist police. “During the war, many Italians remained indifferent to the persecution of Jews, while others actively collaborated with the Nazis. But there were also many Italians who opposed the fascist regime, including partisans and soldiers who refused to fight with the Germans and were captured and deported to Germany. The silence of the tortured and the actions of the righteous, people animated by humanity and generosity, were instrumental in saving lives,” said della Riccia.

Holocaust survivor Gianni Polgar, who had been hiding in a convent, remembers the liberation vividly. He noticed that something had changed when from his window he saw two American soldiers enter the convent, leaving their weapons outside in recognition of the sanctity of the place. By June 4, the Americans had arrived at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome. After several months, his family was reunited. Polgar still remembers his father’s voice saying, “We are free.”