With the beginning of the Italian campaign in July 1943 and after the
amphibious landings in Salerno and Bari in the September of the same
year, the Allied Powers start their slow and tortuous advance through
the peninsula. Generals are optimistic about capturing Rome before
Christmas, but the German war machine is recklessly underestimated.
Since the beginning of the Autumn of 1943, the generals of the
German army have realized defensive lines to slow down the Allies
and prevent the notorious American bombers from reaching the hearth
of the Reich. Despite expectation, the “soft belly of Europe”, as
Churchill dubbed the Bel Paese, soon turns into an apocalyptic
scenario that resembles the Great War for the brutality of the clashes,
the morphology of the battlefields, and weather conditions. The
attackers are nailed to the battlefield because of the innumerable
difficulties that hinder their advance, forced to fight meter by meter,
dearly conquering and passing an infinite series of hills, mountains,
and small valleys tenaciously defended: the Gustav Line. This German
defensive line is a system of interconnected stations spanning from the
Tyrrenian Sea to the Adriatic Sea, for over 200 km. It includes not
only caves, gun emplacements, anti-tank trenches, and reinforced
concrete bunkers but also massifs, rivers, and valleys, all expertly
fortified, that cut Italy in its narrowest point. Although Rome is only
about 100 kilometers far, getting through this ingenious military apparatus
will still take many months. General Albert Kesselring, the commander of
the Army Group in Italy, decides to include Montecassino and its
millenary monastery in the new defensive system, for both strategic and
propagandistic reasons.
In the Autumn of 1943, 80-year-old Abbott Gregorio Diamare agrees to
transfer the treasure and the art pieces guarded in the ancient Benedictine
monastery. Artifacts of priceless historical, archaeological, and
documentary value, including the Treasure of St. Gennaro, secretly

relocated into the religious complex at the beginning of the war in hope of
finding there a safer location. The rescue operation is led by two officers
of the Hermann Goering Division and requires the use of Wehrmacht
vehicles. Although the action is meant as a humanitarian mission, with a
more critical retrospective look, it turns out to be a well-organized theft.
Instead of heading to Rome, where it was meant to go, the treasure moves
north, but the intervention of General Fridolin Von Senger Und Etterlin,
the commander of the 14th Panzer Corps and in charge of the German
defense, establishes the transfer to the agreed site. Only one truck refuses
to obey the order. As a matter of fact, the operation saves the treasures of
the Abbey from destruction.