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Historical Archives of the European Union

Recovered Altiero Spinelli correspondence deposited at the Historical Archives

In a 7 May ceremony at the Historical Archives, Carabinieri from the Cultural Heritage Protection Units of Florence and Udine handed over 21 documents from the correspondence of Altiero Spinelli. The rare letters were discovered in an investigation concerning the online auction of cultural property. 

08 May 2024

Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale hand over documents to the HIstorical Archives of the European Union

Officers from the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Florence and Udine handed over 21 historical documents to the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) on 7 May 2024. The documents consisted of correspondence between Altiero Spinelli and Italian institutions while Spinelli served as a European Commissioner. The officers delivered the letters in person to Dieter Schlenker, Director of the Historical Archives, for deposit in the private archives of Altiero Spinelli preserved at the HAEU.

The Carabinieri discovered and seized the important letters following an investigation launched in 2021, when military police became aware of the online auction of a rare typewritten letter bearing the signature the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aldo Moro, to Altiero Spinelli, dated 1 August 1973. As Italian Civil Code stipulates that the archives and documents of public bodies are subject to the regime of public property, such documents fall under the normative provision of cultural property belonging to the state or public entities, and cannot be sold.

The investigation led to the identification of a man from Pordenone who had put the letter up for sale, resulting in the issuance of a search and seizure order against him for the crime of receiving stolen goods. The man, a self-described afficionado of autographed letters, fully cooperated with the investigation and confirmed he had purchased the documents through e-commerce channels and at flea markets.

Military police stationed in the Udine Command subsequently executed the measure to seize the letter. In doing so, they discovered additional correspondence issued by ministries and other public bodies of Italian government. Of particular interest were 21 documents written by or to Altiero Spinelli whilst Commissioner in the then European Economic Community (EEC).

Well-known for his writings that influenced the post-war process of European integration, Altiero Spinelli is considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union. He is the author of the "Manifesto for a Free and United Europe," better known as the "Ventotene Manifesto," which he drafted in 1941 with Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni while confined on the Pontine island. He was a member of the Italian Republic and a member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1986.

After the seizure of the letters, the Carabinieri submitted them to the Historical Archives of the European Union for analysis. HAEU Director Dieter Schlenker, with archivist Andrea Becherucci, confirmed that the documents and signatures were certainly original, and, to their knowledge, never before released to the public or to any archives. Given the dates of the correspondence, the letters indeed are well placed in the Spinelli fonds at the Archives.

While it is clear the documents were misappropriated at some point in time, it is impossible to understand when and under what circumstances, given the time that has elapsed.

The effort to recover these documents by the Florence and Udine Command is organically part of the investigative coordination action aimed at combating cultural heritage crimes, which, in this case, allowed the recovery of valuable archival material of European importance.


Photo: Officers from the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Florence and Udine hand over 21 letters to the Historical Archives of the European Union. 

Last update: 08 May 2024

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