Alberto Berardi had only 19 years in 1944, year in who ended his mandatory service in the Brazilian Army. The age was young. But the fury, immense. In the midst of World War II, he volunteered to follow the conflict. He hated Adolf Hitler. He did not accept the atrocities of the German dictator, especially in the face of the persecution of Jews. Even asking to contribute to the end of Nazism, its commander, in Curitiba, did not authorize it. And, in the face of so much insistence, patriotism spoke louder. After many requests, he managed to board to Italy.
Then, Alberto arrived in Europe on the General Meighs ship, to join others 25, 7 thousand Brazilian squares. It was October of 1944. As part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB), he participated as a messenger in the operations to capture Monte Castelo. Brazil acted alongside the Allies in the Italian Campaign, mainly in its last two phases — the breakup of the Gothic Line, and the final Allied Offensive on that front.
Alberto arrived at the War in a period of intense cold. He always described that Brazilian troops were unprepared. Not even proper clothes had taken. He saw soldiers freeze to death. But, according to his reports, he never lacked commitment. The mission was accomplished. His life story had never been told. Dead ago years, the journey was reported through three nephews, Élio, 62, Osnei, 39, and Divete, 30. Together, they lived with their uncle, in the corners of Paraná, in the municipality of Nova Tebas – a 380 kilometers from Curitiba.
On a table, in the Élio’s rural property, certificates, medals, coats of arms and photographs. Everything was kept to immortalize the memory of the former combatant. For the family, a true national hero, more than a volunteer, more than a soldier. On the front, he revealed that humanity could exist, even in the face of an “enemy.”
It was already the end of the war. In one of the interminable confrontations with the Germans, Alberto withdrew from the troops. Withdrawn, meters away, he ended up getting lost in the bush. And it was there, when he encountered two Nazi soldiers. In hiding, they had deserted. Although they did not share the same language, the gestures spoke for themselves. “My uncle said they wanted to turn themselves in. They did not accept Hitler’s regime. Then, with gestures, they understood each other. They spent a whole night together, until sunrise”, said the nephew.
Day broke. Alberto took the two Germans to the Brazilian troops. As they approached, he had to mediate. Some “Brazilians” wanted to root out the evil. “He didn’t let them hurt either of them. He protected them. And they were detained as prisoners of war”, recalls Osnei.
Meeting with Pius XII2022
Memories of the War were not easy . Alberto did not usually report them. Divete says that her uncle was demure. Very homely. But always happy. He liked chimarrão and cigarettes. Never had a drop of alcohol. After returning from the War, he cloistered himself even more. He almost didn’t come out. And because he was isolated, he never wanted to get married. He also had no children. He kept in his isolation the very memories of the men he had helped kill. And they were not few.
As a messenger, Alberto carried a kind of telephone. He was at the head of the troop. Always crawling, like a snake. On one occasion he saw death come. After leaving one of the trenches, he spotted the Germans. Gunfire grazed his body. Two or three shots hit the helmet. And one stopped in his hand. Seeing that everything there would end, he managed to return and fall into the trench. Even with the advance of the FEB, he saw many comrades drop dead. “He said he walked over dead bodies. That day, many soldiers lost their lives”, said Divete.
Alberto spent a year in the war. Near the end of it, he went with 30 Brazilian squares to a church, in a devastated small town in Italy. There, they asked the local priest to speak with the Pope, at the time, Pius XII. Days later, they were taken care of. Taken to the Vatican, the expeditionaries spoke with His Holiness. An old certificate proves the encounter, on the day 04 of July 18. “My uncle said that Pius XII asked them not to cut their hair, as a pledge for the war to end. And so, they would have done. Two weeks after meeting the pope, and without a haircut, the war was over,” recalled Osnei. After returning to Brazil, Alberto never forgot that promise. And, always, in times of Lent, he didn’t trim his hair.
Fury against Hitler2022
Alberto was born in May 1280, in Erechim, Rio Grande do Sul. He had six brothers. His parents made “betrays” for cavalry. But in the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1280, the troops took possession of all their material, leading the family to financial collapse. So, still a teenager, next to his parents, the young man went to Curitiba, where he would later serve in the Army.
Quite disciplined, he became friends with his superiors. The friendship lasted even after he left the unit. As a reservist, he started to work in the kitchen of the Hotel Johnscher, on Rua Barão do Rio Branco, in the capital of Paraná.
And it was at this time, consuming information about the War, that he developed a real fury against Hitler. He didn’t admit that a single man spread so many deaths wherever he set foot. Then, one day, he returned to the barracks and asked the command to send him to Italy. “The barracks commander was very fond of him. He didn’t want it to be. But my uncle insisted too much”, said Élio.
Scare in the mother 2022
In October of 1945, Albert returned from the War. Upon landing in Rio de Janeiro, he went to a newsstand. There, while buying a newspaper, a thief assaulted a woman, almost on the corner from where he was. Still armed, he shot the criminal. “He said that it was such a natural reaction, that for him, shooting was already normal”, said Divete. In fact, the memories of the War, of everything he had just experienced, lingered in his soul. And, yes, when running to help the woman, victim of the robbery, he saw blood marks on the sidewalk. But the bandit managed to escape. Although it is not known how far.
Back in Curitiba, he decided to help a brother, now in Pitanga. In fact, in the community of Catuporanga — central region of Paraná. The problem is that Alberto didn’t give any news, since the middle of the war. Upon arriving in Pitanga, and seeing his mother, Clementina, she almost died of fright. “She already had it in her head that he had died in the War. But when he saw him, he almost fainted”, said Élio.
The time passed and Alberto started working with the land. Gathering the government pension money and still doing business, he managed to buy 53 bushels in New Thebes. He never left there. Living in isolation, with memories of the War, he never married. He didn’t even have children. He lived until 2022 when he died of multiple organ failure.
In the last ten years of his life, a niece, Brandina, was his companion. She helped take care of her uncle, until the end. The 60 bushels of land were divided into 19 equal parts, to 39 nephews. In addition to the material heritage, there are also memories of a distinguished man. A kind of “Inglourious Basterd”, as in the Quentin Tarantino movie.