Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi (Bologna 1898–Rome 2 July 1962), was an Italian Fascist soldier, politician and lawyer. He played (with the nickname "Conde Rossi") a prominent role in organising the Falangist conquest of the island of Majorca during the Spanish Civil War.
Born in Bologna in 1898, Bonaccorsi was a fanatical and idealistic fascist from the first moment he met Benito Mussolini after World War I. In 1922 participated to the March on Rome as leader of the fascists from Bologna. He graduated at the prestigious Universita di Bologna as attorney in 1928, and soon started to work as a lawyer defending Italian fascists. In the early 1930s he married and had 3 children.
His moment of glory came when Mussolini sent him to the Balearic Islands at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. In Majorca, having arrived in August 1936, he was known as 'Conde Rossi', a name that derived from his red beard. There, he was soon able to "galvanize" the nationalists who obtained a huge victory at Manacor against the Republicans thanks to him.
Gilberto Oneto, an Italian journalist, wrote the following about Bonaccorsi and the Italians in Majorca:
The nationalist revolt, suppressed in all of Catalonia, has happened successfully only in the island of Mallorca, but the Republicans are going to occupy it. The Italian government has a strong interest (not just strategic) for the Balearic Islands. Action is needed urgently. Need someone skilled enough, smart, determined and ruthless, and they remember the beefy bolognese squadrista Bonaccorsi. On August 26, 1936 he landed at Palma, calling himself Count Aldo Rossi ("Conde Rossi" or el Conde de Leon y Son Servera for Spanish). Resolutely takes command of the disorganized local nationalist forces, puts together 2.500/3.500 men between soldiers, legionaries of Tercio, volunteers, soldiers of the Guardia Civil and Falange, and deals with strong decision against the Republican forces (6000 to 10,000 men) landed 10 days prior to Manacor, commanded by General Alberto Bayo, a theorist of guerrilla warfare and the future "ideal teacher" of Fidel Castro. With the support of the Italian airforce on September 3 Bonaccorsi defeats the Republicans who begin a disastrous retreat that ended on day 12. After the victory of Manacor Bonaccorsi appoints himself military commander and inspector general of all the troops, creating the "Dragones de la muerte". On 20 September with 500 men he landed in Ibiza, camouflaged. He also takes Formentera and Cabrera. Only Minorca remains in the hands of the Reds, protected by a secret agreement between Italy and England. Bonaccorsi then starts to do the "pacificacion" of Majorca, "cleaning" the island from marxists. George Bernanos describes the nearly 3,000 executions of communists done by Bonaccorsi's Dragones de la muerte, but he did not see the early violence (nearly 1,500 nationalists and priests killed only in Majorca) of the marxists done before the arrival of Bonaccorsi. In reality, the Bonaccorsi murders were only 700 (or 1500, as reported by the Italian consul in the Balearic islands), but this was enough to create huge complaints from France and England (even if in Majorca the civil war deaths were in percentage nearly one tenth of those happened in continental Spain). The pressures were such, that he was forced -by diplomatic missions- to be returned to Italy on December 23, 1936. Additionally, Mussolini did not like the Bonaccorsi boasting that Italy was to remain forever in Majorca.[this quote needs a citation]
In Oneto's opinion, the Italians only supported (initially, when Bonaccorsi landed in the island) the possibility of promoting a semi-independent Majorca (under Italian influence) in case of Republican victory in the Spanish Civil War. But with Franco's victory, they understood that this project of "partial" independence was impossible.
The antifascism writers made a lot of critics against Bonaccorsi. George Bernanos wrote about the Dragones de la muerte created by Bonaccorsi. It was a squadron of young majorcan fighthers fully armed who fought hard during the battle of Porto Cristo (Manacor) when the Republicans were defeated, but later were responsible of many murders of communists. According to Bernanos's eye-witness report Bonaccorsi was "well to the fore in all religious manifestations" and "He was usually supported by a chaplain picked up on the spot, in army-breeches and top-boots, a white cross on his chest and pistols stuck in his belt".
On the other side, the clergy of Majorca was always very grateful to him. The Baleric Islands Archbishop José Miralles y Sbert always praised Bonaccorsi, even with the same Francisco Franco (who gave him the Spanish Grand Cross of Military Merit with Red Decoration). Even the "Correo de Majorca", the local newspaper, wrote gratefully in February 1937 as a last salute that "we will forever remember your heroism and will give to our descendants the memory of what you did for us"
In February 1937, Bonaccorsi was promoted to "General of the Blackshirts" (Console delle Milizie fasciste) and sent to Málaga front with Italian corps (CTV). He never returned to Mallorca. Later was sent to Italian Ethiopia, where he complained to Mussolini about the dire conditions of the Italian Empire in case of war.
Finally he was a prisoner of war from 1941–1946; after the war he resumed his legal and political activities, and defended German General Otto Wagener, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for atrocities he had committed in Rodi during World War II. Bonaccorsi was a candidate for the Italian Social Movement in 1958.
He died in 1962 in Rome. The Italian newspaper Il Secolo d'Italia praised him with a funeral article, which noted that he was one of the few military commanders who received medals for combat valor from three countries (Italy, Spain and Germany).
Medals and decorations
Bonaccorsi received three medals of honour for combat in 1936 Spain:
- Silver Medal of Military Valor (Medaglia d'argento al valor militare)
- Military Order of Savoy (Cavaliere dell´Ordine militare di Savoia)
- German Iron Cross (Croce di Ferro di I classe)
He was welcomed and praised again in 1957 by Franco, receiving the Spanish nickname Cruzado en camisa negra (blackshirt crusader).
- Bonaccorsi declaration at Manacor
- Canosa Romano: Mussolini e Franco
- Georges Bernanos, A Diary of My Times, p. 101-106 Boriswood:London 1938
- Bonaccorsi is described in Georges Bernanos's A Diary of My Times. Bernanos: "Of course the new-comer was neither a general nor a count, but an Italian official belonging to the Black Shirts. One morning we saw him disembark his scarlet racing-car. First he called on the military governor appointed by General Goded. A few days later the Colonel Ramos Unamuno and his staff commissioned by General Goded, falls in some doubts and Conde Rossi was in charge of the Phalange. In black robes, with a huge white cross on his chest, he tore round the villages, driving his racing-car himself; other cars, crammed with men armed to the teeth, strove to keep up with him in a cloud of dust. Accompanied by the alcalde and the ever pistol armed priest Julián Adrover, in a strange mixed jargon of Spanish, Italian and Majorcan dialect, he announced the 'Cruzada'... this gigantic brute, asserted one day at the table of a distinguished lady of Palma—whilst wiping his fingers on the tablecloth—that he required at least 'one woman per day'. But the particular mission entrusted him was marvellously suited to his gifts: the organising of Terrorism. From that time, every night, gangs of his own recruiting commenced operations in the villages and in the very suburbs of Palma."
- Bonaccorsi medal from Franco
- Joseph Massot. "Vida i miracles del Conde Rossi" p. 229
- Joseph Massot. "Vida i miracles del Conde Rossi" p. 231
- Mario Lombardo. "Il crociato in camicia nera", Storia illustrata n°249, agosto 1978, pag 46
- Massot, Josep. Vida i miracles del Conde Rossi Editorial Serrador. Barcelona, 1988