Italian beer brews trouble with Polish community

The Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino. Photo: Shutterstock/LianeM

The tenant of the area near the Polish cemetery and monuments at Monte Cassino hill in central Italy wants to start production on a new beer called “Montecassino”.

The Polish embassy intervened at the local Benedictine abbey, which owns the area. Next week the embassy’s chargé d'affaires Agnieszka Hoppen-Klikowicz will meet with Italian deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio.

Italian media widely informed about the planned production of the beer, but none of them said anything about the cemetery and monuments of those who died at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Ms Hoppen-Klikowicz told Polish public radio broadcaster that tenant broke promises made two years ago. She added that for Poland the planned name of the beer is unacceptable, and embassy demands an annex to the agreement. “It should include entries about the free access to the monuments and details of economic activity conducted there, to ensure that the dignity of this place is not violated,” the Charge d’Affaires said.

The Union of Poles in Italy is preparing its own protest in this matter.

The beer is planned to be produced at the Albaneta hill, near Monte Cassino. According to Italian media, it will not be brewed at the scene of battle, but the deserted agriculture areas nearby.

Several years ago, Albaneta hill was leased to the local entrepreneur, who wanted to establish the agro-tourist facility and small brewery. The company supervising the production of “Montecassino” is Peroni, one of the biggest beer producers in Italy.

Battle of Monte Cassino

The Monte Cassino hill, along with the Benedictine abbey, represented the military fortifications at the Gustav Line which prevented the Allies from seizing Rome during the later stages of the WWII. The German defenses were first put to a test by non-Polish units, such as the Texas National Guard’s 34th and 36th Infantry Divisions operating under Gen. Mark Wayne Clark’s command as part of the Fifth Army.

However, it was only when the Polish units of General Władysław Anders stormed the hills of Monte Cassino in 1944, seizing the abbey under heavy German shellfire on May 18, that the German ranks were broken. In all, 923 Polish soldiers were killed in the fighting, with 2,931 wounded and 345 reported missing.

The Polish War Cemetery was established on the hillsides of Monte Cassino at the turn of 1945. It contains the graves of 1,072 soldiers. In 1970, the cemetery became the burial site of General Władysław Anders, the commander of the Polish 2nd Corps which captured the monastery hill in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.