A Village Drowns

Graun in Vinschgau. Just after the Reschen Pass, a silent witness points out a tragedy which began in the 1920s. Passersby shudderingly look over to the church tower of St. Peter, which rises up out of the water of the Reschensee reservoir. A project which destroyed an entire village, the home and salvation of generations of South Tyroleans.

In 1920 the Italian government grants the authorization to raise the water level in the Reschensee Lake some five meters – an endeavour that would supposedly pose no threat for the villages Reschen and Graun. But soon, a big company takes over the commission and the managers’ plans shock the local residents: the water level is to be raised 22 meters, which would result in the literal sinking of Graun. By way of a fraudulent misrepresentation, the residents are tricked into not raising any objections and, although illegal, the government in Rome empowers the company to carry on with its plans. But after the occupation of Northern Italy by the Germans, the plans are stalled and the residents hope that the project will fall victim to the confusion of Second World War. But in 1950, the company drowns out all the hope of the families of Graun, in the literal sense of the word. Despite international protest, despite scientific evaluations and even papal objections by the church, who supported the courageous village pastor Alfred Rieper. On July 16th at 8 o’clock in the evening, the bells in the tower of St. Peter in Graun ring for the last time. Three days later the residents remove the church bell which dates back to 1505. On July 23rd, a Sunday, the church is to be demolished, an attempt which was only partially successful. Like a donjon, silent and uninhabited, the tower still stands as a memorial to the village.

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