Mafalda di Savoia, born princess of Italy, then of Ethiopia and Albania, became Langravia, owner of Hesse-Kassel by marriage. The second-born daughter of Vittorio Emanuele III and Elena of Montenegro, Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana, nicknamed Muti, was docile and obedient. He inherited from his mother Elena the sense of family, human values, passion for music and art. He spent his childhood in the family environment next to his mother and sisters Giovanna, Jolanda and Maria Francesca; the holidays took place in Sant'Anna di Valdieri, Racconigi and San Rossore with the participation of the whole family. During the First World War, with her sisters, she followed her mother in her frequent visits to the soldiers and hospitals, being so involved in the maternal activities of comfort and care for the troops.
He married Racconigi on September 23, 1925, with the German prince Philip, Langrave of Hesse-Kassel, son of the Landgrave Frederick Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who was for a few months in 1918 King of Finland and Karelia.
As a wedding gift they had a carnivorous plant and a farmhouse, located between the Parioli and the Villa Savoia, to which the spouses gave the name of Villa Polissena, in memory of the princess Polissena Cristina d'Assia-Rotenburg, second wife of Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy.
It was the period of the ascent in Italy of fascism, seen by Mafalda with sympathy. For the birth of his children, Hitler gave her the cross to merit (as to all the mothers of numerous offspring). Although not recognizing any noble title, the Nazi party assigned to her husband Philip a degree in the SS and various positions.
In September 1943, at the signing of the armistice with the allies, the Germans organized the disarmament of the Italian troops. Badoglio and the king moved the capital to the south, but Mafalda, who had left for Sofia to assist her sister Giovanna, whose husband Boris III was nearing death, was not aware of the dangers, perhaps for fear that she would inform her husband about the landgrave , which was under the command of the Führer. He then learned of the armistice while he was in Romania. She was informed on her return journey, at the train station in Sinaia, in the middle of the night, by Queen Elena of Romania, who had had the train stopped specially and had tried to make her desist from returning to Italy. Council that Mafalda decided not to follow.
After the funeral of brother-in-law Boris III, Princess Mafalda decided to return to Rome to join her sons and family, regardless of the risks: although she was the daughter of the King of Italy, and very close to her family of origin, she was also and above all German citizen, German princess, wife of a German officer, so sure that the Germans would respect her.
After Sinaia, the first stop was the Italian Embassy in Budapest. After leaving the train, on 11 September, the princess took a plane procured by Italian diplomats with destination Bari. But the plane stopped in Pescara. For eight days the princess stayed in Chieti, in a palace near the Prefecture.
By means of fortune, on 22 September 1943 he managed to reach Rome and just in time to see his children, guarded in the Vatican by Monsignor Montini (the future Pope Paul VI), excluding the major, Maurizio, who was already in Germany, as the father.
On the morning of the 23rd, she was suddenly summoned to the German command, for the arrival of a telephone call from her husband from Kassel in Germany. A catch: in fact, the husband was already in the concentration camp of Flossenbürg. Mafalda was immediately arrested and boarded on an airplane bound for Munich, she was then transferred to Berlin and finally deported to the Buchenwald Lager, where she was locked up in the hut n. 15 under a false name (Frau von Weber).
She was banned from revealing her secret identity (for scoffing the Nazis call her Frau Abeba). In the concentration camp, she was given particular consideration: she was occupying a shack on the edge of the field together with a former Social Democratic minister and his wife; he had the same food as the officers of the SS, much more abundant and of better quality than the other internees. Ms. Maria Ruhnan, Jehovah's Witness deported for religious reasons, was assigned as roommate; this was a very important figure for the princess, who dyingly asked that her watch be given as a sign of gratitude. "By putting her next to Mafalda, the SS were sure that, by questioning her, she would report everything the princess had told her." The regime, although privileged compared to that of other prisoners, was still hard: the life of the camp and the intense winter cold they tried it a lot. Despite the attempt to secrecy implemented by the Nazis, the news that the daughter of the King of Italy was in Buchenwald spread.
From the testimonies we learn that the Italian prisoners had heard of an Italian recluse and that an Italian doctor there had lent her help. It is also known that she ate very little and that when she could she made sure that the little that came to her was distributed to those who needed her most.
In August 1944 the Anglo-Americans bombarded the camp; the shack in which the princess was imprisoned was destroyed and she reported severe burns and various bruises all over her body. She was admitted to the infirmary of the German house of toleration in the lager, but without treatment her condition worsened. After four days of torment, because of the sores, the gangrene rose and an arm was amputated. The operation had a very long, disconcerting duration. Still asleep, Mafalda was abandoned in a brothel's room, deprived of further treatment and left to herself. He died bleeding, without having regained consciousness, on the night of August 28, 1944.
The opinion of Dr. Fausto Pecorari, a radiologist interned in Buchenwald, is that Mafalda has been intentionally operated late (albeit with a procedure in itself impeccable) to cause death. The method of exaggeratedly long or delayed operations had already been applied to Buchenwald, and always performed by the SS on high personalities whom it was desired to get rid of.
His body, thanks to the Bohemian priest of the camp, Father Tyl, was not cremated, but placed in a wooden coffin and buried in a mass grave. Only one number: 262 eine unbekannte Frau (an unknown woman). After a few months, seven Italians, already belonging to the marine director Giovanni Colaruotolo, Corrado Magnani, Antonio Mitrano, Erasmo Pasciuto, Antonio Ruggiero, Apostolo Fusco and Giosuè Avallone, all originally from Gaeta captured at the military depot in Pula, after September 8, 1943 they were deported to Weimar, where they remained until July 1945, when they were liberated by the Americans. In the vicinity of their camp, there was the Buchenwald concentration camp where, they had learned, was Princess Mafalda of Savoy, along with Jews and politicians. After the liberation, the sailors of Gaeta decided to go to the concentration camp of Buchenwald to look for the princess and locked up as she in the concentration camps Nazis, as soon as free, they were able to find her anonymous grave in a thousand and taxed to take an identification plaque.
Dr. Fausto Pecorari, immediately after returning to Trieste, went personally to Rome from the Regio Lieutenant Prince Umberto to communicate to him the sad news of the death by murder of Princess Mafalda.
Princess Mafalda rests today in the small cemetery of the Hesse, in the castle of Kronberg im Taunus near Frankfurt am Main.