Eight Rare Books to Italy
In the early 1940s, while preparing for the coming ground war, the University of Naples Library evacuated its collections from the city. A small quantity of the best items, about 14,000 volumes, were sent to the Church and Convent of San Francesco in Minturno, halfway between Naples and Rome.
The 339th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 88th Infantry Division, United States Army, discovered this repository at Minturno in late April 1944. The friars who had been watching over the books in their convent had fled when the building was hit by shells and the roof collapsed, leaving the books unattended. Irving Tross, a radio operator with the Battalion, picked up these eight books as a souvenir.
Nearly 70 years later, Mr. Tross's daughter, Ellene Shapiro, contacted the Monuments Men Foundation expressing her father's desire to return the eight books to Italy. While Mr. Tross did not know the history of the Minturno repository, he did recall that the crates had been marked "University of Naples." After examining the books and their various library stamps and contacting the University, the Foundation determined that the books Mr. Tross possessed were in fact part of the Library's collection.
On May 9, 2013 the Tross family officially turned over the books to the Monuments Men Foundation at a ceremony at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. Italian Consul General Hon. Adriano Monti attended the event. On May 29, 2013, the Foundation formally returned the books to the Republic of Italy at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Ambassador of Italy to the United States Claudio Bisogniero and First Counselor Cristiano Maggipinto.