Nazi Anti-Partisan Reprisals in Italy 1944

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Nazi Anti-Partisan Reprisals in Italy 1944

Post by David Thompson » 01 Nov 2003 03:16

For readers who may be interested in this subject, here is a reproduction of a British report and attachments, which was Exhibit UK-66 at the International Military Tribunal (IMT) war crimes trial at Nuernberg. The exhibit is reproduced in the 8-volume "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression" series, at vol. VIII pp. 572-582.
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Post by David Thompson » 01 Nov 2003 03:17

Part 2.
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Post by David Thompson » 01 Nov 2003 03:18

Part 3.
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Post by David Thompson » 01 Nov 2003 03:19

Part 4.
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Post by c.g. » 02 Nov 2003 00:34

IMT Exhibit document UK-066 summarizes the results of the war crimes investigations conducted in Italy by US Army and British commissions in 1944-1945. Following the Moscow Declaration of 30. October 1943 (war criminals to be brought to trial in the countries where the crimes had been committed) the Allied Command in Italy appointed War Crimes Commission (WCC) in summer of 1944 which investigated several cases of mass executions, reprisals and massacres of civilians in southern, central and northern Italy.

5th Army WCC investigated some 40-50 cases, the British SIB about 30. Their files are kept at the NARA, College Park, and at the PRO, Kew.

A few of those investigation files eventually led to the opening of war crimes trials in front of British military courts in Italy in 1946-1947:
Gen. Mackensen/Maelzer (Ardeatine case), in Rome in November 1946;
Gen. Crasemann (Fucecchio marshes case), in Padua, Jan.-May 1947;
GFM Kesselring (general responsibility in ordering and allowing war crimes to be committed), Venice, Febr.-May 1947;
SS Gen. Simon (Bardine, Marzabotto etc.), Padua, May to June 1947.

All the officers put on trial were sentenced to death first; later their sentences were transformed to imprisonment and later on released (the last to be released was Simon, Crasemann died in prison). Early in 1948 the allied policy in regard to the war crimes trials changed: supposed war criminals were no more tried by the British military courts but arrested and handed over to the Italian authorities.

In the following years War Crimes several trials took place in front of Italian military courts:
Herbert Kappler (Ardeatine), in Rome; Walter Reder (Valla, Vinca, Marzabotto cases) in Bologna; general Wilhelm Schmalz (Vallucciole, Civitella, Cavriglia, Bucine cases) in Florence; general Wagener et al. (Rodhos), in Rome [?]; capt. Strauch (Fucecchio marshes case). Among other former German and Austrian officers and soldiers brought to trial in Italy were: Dr. Josef Feuchtinger; SS-Uscha. Eduard Florin; SS-Hstf. Alois Schmidt; Kriegsmarine officer Waldemar Krumhaar. Some of the accused were aquitted by the military courts: Schmalz, Florin, Schmidt [?]. Others were sentenced to a few years imprisonment: Strauch, Wagener, Krumhaar, Feuchtinger and released in the 50es and early 60es. Only Kappler and Reder, responsible for the larger blood-baths, were kept in prison for longer periods of time.

Some other Germans were tried in absentia, like SS-Stbf. Alois Schintlholzer in the 80es.

Allied investigations constitute a significant part of the war crimes files that were “rediscovered” in Rome in 90es and are now pending in front of military courts or have been held in the past few years:
Trials against Erich Priebke (Rome), Theo Saevecke and Dr. Friedrich Engel (Turin), Otto Gall (Naples), Michael Seifert (Verona). A trial has recently started in Turin against a former army captain (Schubert), another is starting against former SS-Ostf. Johann Schiffmann in La Spezia (except Priebke, all trials in absentia). Among the cases still pending are supposed to be the Sant’Anna di Stazzema, Marzabotto and Civitella cases.

The results of the British and American investigations proved to be valuable even for today historical research. Recent studies on the war crimes committed in Italy tend to confirm the idea of the “notable offenders” as expressed in the British report.

Supposedly elite units like the 16. SS-Pz.Gren., the Hermann Göring and the Para divisions were indeed responsible of most war crimes. 114. Jäger was among the “ordinary” Wehrmacht units one of the main perpetrators, along with 34. ID, 65 ID, 26. PD. 16. SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Reichsführer-SS was responsible for most of the atrocities that involved women and children (Sant’Anna di Stazzema (II./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 35 under Anton Galler), Valla, Vinca, Bergiola, Marzabotto (SS-Pz.Aufkl.Abt. 16 under Walter Reder). The number of the victims of the division run up to 2000 civilians killed, the most of them in two months, August and September 1944.

In March-May 1944 the Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung of Luftwaffe Panzer-Division “Hermann Göring” under Rittmeister von Loeben was detached for anti-partisan operations in the mountains of the Apennine. On March 18th 1944 136 male civilians were shot in Monchio, near Modena. Two days later, 27 men were killed in their villages together with their priest south of Reggio Emilia. In April, almost 200 persons were shot in two mopping-up operations around Florence. In Vallucciole, April 13th 1944, the „Hermann Göring“ soldiers massacred 108 civilians – mostly women and children. In May 22 civilians and partisans were shot south of Parma. From June 29th to July 11th about 650 civilians were shot in mopping up operations near Arezzo: 95 in Civitella (men), 60 in San Pancrazio (men) and 48 in Cornia (men, women, children); 97 men in Meleto, 75 in Castelnuovo, just to name the larger massacres.

Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1, as an example for 1st Para Diviison shot civilians in Barletta, Cerignola, Matera, Rionero in Vulture in September-October 1943 ans was most likely responsible for the Pietransieri atrocity on 21 november 1943.

114th Jäger-Division: Filetto (22 civilians shot, the reprisal is known as the „Defregger case“, after the responsible CO who became a Catholic bishop in Munich in the 60es), Onna in Abruzzi, Gubbio in Umbria (40 civilians shot as a reprisal after partisans attacked 2 officers and killed one), Sansepolcro in Toscana (numerous shootings of civilians during August 1944), Villa Madonna Dell’Albero near Ravenna on the 27 November 1944, 56 women, children, old persons killed.

C.G.

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Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2003 00:45

C.G. -- Thanks for the very informative and detailed post.

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Post by michael mills » 02 Nov 2003 04:31

The material posted shows that the killings of Italian civilians by German armed forces were not wanton, but a reaction to partisan attacks, sometimes carried out with the connivance of parts of the civilan population.

The reaction of the German armed forces is a common one among conventional forces faced with a guerilla-style war, in which the enemy hides among and is indistinguishable from the civilian population. One need think only of the British experience in Cyprus, or the French and United States expereince in Vietnam. The main difference is that the German armed forces openly proclaimed a policy of reprisals for partisan attacks, whereas other armies have tended to keep their reprisals secret, leaving them to the initiative of individual units, with the command of the armed forces simply closing its eyes.

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Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2003 06:03

Michael -- You said:
The main difference is that the German armed forces openly proclaimed a policy of reprisals for partisan attacks, whereas other armies have tended to keep their reprisals secret, leaving them to the initiative of individual units, with the command of the armed forces simply closing its eyes. (my emphasis -- DT)


I can't tell whether the Covolo proclamation is from a German or Italian district commander, but with that exception, what do you make of the "Top Secret" and "Most Secret" headings on the remaining German reprisal orders?

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Post by c.g. » 02 Nov 2003 11:48

Like other occupied countries in Europe, Italy experienced during its occupation by German troops mass executions of prisoners, reprisals and savage massacres. Their victims were partisans captured during mopping-up operations as well as thousands of civilians. The exact number of their victims is not exactly known. The more reliable estimates say about 10.000 civilians were killed in the course of those actions, but we lack of precise data on the partisans that were shot after their capture, although we can infer that their number was by no means smaller, probably larger (the total number of partisan losses in Italy – I don’t have the official data before me at the moment – is said to be around 20.000 men, including killed in action and probably those by accidents or sickness).

Occupied Italy experienced a conventional military repression with hundreds of single, group and mass executions of civilian men aged from around 16 to over 85 mostly in response to partisan attacks. However, most of those people had in reality nothing to do with the partisans. These actions were declared by the German troops reprisals and usually made officialy known to the local population; many of the persons killed were hostages, others were civilians captured from the villages near to where partisans had previously made an attack.

I should also mention the large amount of executions of captured partisans, which, by 1939-1945 standards, although not legal, if they were not particularly heinous, were generally not considered war crimes by any combatant.
“Ordinary” Wehrmacht and police units were usually involved in actions of the above mentioned kinds.

On the other hand there were massacres of civilians of both sexes and of any age, mostly connected to large anti-partisan sweeps in the mountains. These actions were militarily organised, not just spontaneous acts of small units with no discipline or under weak or criminal commanders. They responded to general orders issued by Kesselring in early summer 1944 or to older ones, that were issued to the troops on the eastern front. The most brutal cases, as I had written before, were perpetrated by so called “real Nazi units”: the 16. SS-Pz.Gren.Div. “Reichsführer-SS”, which was responsible for most of the atrocities that involved women and children (Sant’Anna di Stazzema (II./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 35 under Anton Galler), Valla, Vinca, Bergiola, Marzabotto (SS-Pz.Aufkl.Abt. 16 under Walter Reder). This unit was a particular one, composed by barely 18 years old Waffen-SS soldiers (many of them conscripted), a large amount of ethnic Germans from Hungary, Rumania and Serbia led by experienced NCO and Officers, many of them coming from Theodor Eicke Totenkopf units and from the concentration camp SS (SS-TV Oberbayern and Brandenburg for exemples).
A similar case is the Vallucciole atrocity perpetrated by the Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung of Fallschirm-Panzer-Division “Hermann Göring” (after a partisan attack that killed a Lieutenant and an NCO and wounded another NCO reconnoitering near Vallucciole in civilian clothes an posing as runaway American POWs, the Abteilung marched into that area and shot on sight or executed any person met, 108 were killed in the village, 43 men, 43 women and 22 children).

Many killings were done in the main battle line by the fighting troops, usually in absence of any partisan activity. The case of the indiscriminate murder of over 100 civilians seeking refuge in caves and mountain huts near Pietransieri on 21 November 1943 probably perpetrated by units of the Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1 is one of them, but by far not the only one.

In some other cases you will find clear connections with Nazi ideological elements when the victims were Jews or Afroamerican POWs or when civilians captured for forced labour and found unfit were shot in batches by units of the “Reichsführer-SS”.

We had in Italy also – like in France 1944 and in Greece 1943-1944 – a mixture of classic military repression and ideologically motivated or at least influenced brutal massacres of civilians which were mostly perpetrated in the overall context of anti-partisan warfare. This can of course explain the brutality of many actions. On the other hand such large scale killings can never be considered an acceptable excuse for them. This was clear to the British military courts that sentenced Kesselring, Simon or Crasemann to death. These sentences cannot be dismissed as “politically motivated” or as “victor’s justice”. On the contrary, they based on overwhelming documentary evidence and plenty of witnesses, many of them German soldiers, which were gathered by competent and professional American and British law enforcement agents.

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Post by TH Albright » 03 Nov 2003 17:42

I applaud C.G. for his research on the Italian atrocities he documents; I didn't realize the extent of the HG Division's involvement in mass reprisals, wanton murder and anti-partisan sweeps. However, this shows the somewhat disproportionment amount of publicity which Waffen SS units have received for their involvement in identical crimes during anti-partisan operations. No histories of the HG division seem to mention these crimes! It seems that all German responses (by first line combat formations of the Heer and WSS) under Kesselring's direction were "of a piece" and perhaps not primarily ideologically motivated, but were extreme manifestations of traditional brutal and ham-fisted German approaches to partisans and irregulars. I concede that Max Simon and Walter Reder were Eicke products of the pre-war KL guard units and were ideologically inclined to ruthless behavior towards all enemies of the Reich (combatant and non-combatant alike; witness the SS-TV liquidations of "proscribed" classes of Polish civilians in 1939), but their experiences in the East with partisans were perhaps more critical to their attitudes by 1944. My point: while perhaps more inclined to ruthless behavior (usually a combination of ideological fervor and conditioned response based on combat "hardening"), the WSS response to partisan activity did not vary significantly from that of similar Heer units. Another case in point: Poland 1939. The LSSAH has been rightly criticized for its burning of Polish villages and indiscriminate reprisals in response to Polish insurgent activities during the opening days of the campaign. However, numerous Heer units also committed identical, and in some cases, worse excesses in the same vicinity under the same circumstances. One Heer unit murdered up to 600 Polish POWs at this time. Waffen SS combat war crimes have been rightly and voluminously documented, yet similar crimes by the Heer scarsely get mentioned (except on these forums!). I believe this has occured because Waffen SS crimes fit too neatly into conventional "cause-and-effect" analsysis of WSS ideological motivations and behavior (take Sydnor's more dubious attempts at explaining broad swathes of WSS criminality as a function of Eicke's camp indoctrination program). If WSS war crimes are put in the context of all similar German armed forces and Police war crimes, it muddies the analytical waters somewhat. All German combat formations seemed inclined to identical responses to partisan activity. Max Simon and Albert Kesselring were certainly different men from different backgrounds with different poliitical attitudes, but they were "in sync" with how to deal with partisans.

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 04 Nov 2003 18:25

c.g. wrote:IMT Exhibit document UK-066 summarizes the results of the war crimes investigations conducted in Italy by US Army and British commissions in 1944-1945. Following the Moscow Declaration of 30. October 1943 (war criminals to be brought to trial in the countries where the crimes had been committed) the Allied Command in Italy appointed War Crimes Commission (WCC) in summer of 1944 which investigated several cases of mass executions, reprisals and massacres of civilians in southern, central and northern Italy.

A few of those investigation files eventually led to the opening of war crimes trials in front of British military courts in Italy in 1946-1947:
crimes to be committed), Venice, Febr.-May 1947;...ect

SS Gen. Simon (Bardine, Marzabotto etc.), Padua, May to June 1947.....ect ect
C.G.


Marzabotto (probably the worst massacre) was not enlisted in the previous British document enclosed by David. It was incomplete.

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Post by c.g. » 05 Nov 2003 00:12

Thank you for your responses.
I agree with TH Albright in regard to the lesser attention generally given to war crimes perpetrated by Wehrmacht units versus Waffen-SS. On the other hand - as you see in the italian example - the dimensions of the crimes of the 16. RFSS-Division were not matched by any Wehrmacht unit, except HG, which had a different ideological background then ordinary Wehrmacht units. I have calculated that 20% of the 10.000 Italian civilians killed in anti-partisan warfare actions were victims of this SS Division, another 10 % at least was killed by the HG Division, maybe 5 % go to the 1, 2 and 4 Para. The remnant 65 % was killed by the other German units in Italy.
Regarding to the HG I think that it would be interesting to study the influence of men coming from Polizei-Regiment Wecke, a 1933 "All Nazi" police special unit used by Goering to annihilate the communist organisation in the Berlin area, on such units. Some later Para officers too came out of this police unit or were involved with SA acrivities in the "roaring" early 30es.

The officer in command of the Feldgendarmerie-Coy. of HG-Div., the unit that together with two HG-Alarmkompanien (Pauke and Vesuv) was massively involved in the killing of over 500 civilians near Arezzo in June-July 1944 (Civitella, San Pancrazio, Cavriglia, Bucine etc.), was a former Order Police officer from Hamburg, went to Poland in 1939 with Police-Batallion 101, then to Russia with Police-Batallion 305. In 1943 he was SS-Hstf. and became a Party member in 1937. I think you can safely consider him a politically committed men.

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Post by Rob - wssob2 » 05 Nov 2003 03:27

I applaud C.G. for his research on the Italian atrocities he documents; I didn't realize the extent of the HG Division's involvement in mass reprisals, wanton murder and anti-partisan sweeps.



Definitely! Thanks c.g. for sharing your research with us.


However, this shows the somewhat disproportionment
amount of publicity which Waffen SS units have received for their involvement in identical crimes during anti-partisan operations.


I think it's also the "sinister glamour" factor of the W-SS at work.


No histories of the HG division seem to mention
these crimes!


Actually, I haven't seen too many books written about the HG division. Given the unit's prominent role in the defense of Sicily and Italy, I'm surprised. But I'd also like to point out that although I know little about the unit, my understanding was that is was more ideological (i.e. imbued with "the National Socialist spirit") than equivalent Heer units due to its status as Hermann Goering's elite ground forces.


It seems that all German responses (by first line combat formations of the Heer and WSS) under Kesselring's direction were "of a piece" and perhaps not primarily ideologically motivated, but were extreme manifestations of traditional brutal and ham-fisted
German approaches to partisans and irregulars.


I think you're onto something here. There's a research paper or perhaps a book just waiting to be written about how counterinsurgency warfare as practiced by the WWII Third Reich was essentially a failure. It sought pacification by means of punishment and stability by means of severity,
but only provoked more instability and unrest.



My point: while perhaps more inclined to ruthless behavior (usually a combination of ideological fervor and conditioned response based on combat "hardening"), the WSS response to partisan activity did not vary significantly from that of similar Heer units.


Interesting. Have you read The German Army and Genocide: Crimes Against War Prisoners, Jews and Other Civilians 1939-44?


Another case in point: Poland 1939. The LSSAH has been rightly criticized for its burning of Polish villages and indiscriminate reprisals in response to Polish insurgent activities during the opening days of the campaign. However, numerous Heer units also committed identical, and in some cases, worse excesses in the same vicinity under the same circumstances.


Really I wasn't aware of this. I always thought that the
Heer behaved more "correctly" during the invasion of Poland, and it was the W-SS excesses in the face of Heer discipline that prompted some of the Army Generals to lodge complaints against the SS. Can you elaborate on specific examples of Heer crimes in 1939 Poland - for example the execution of 600 Polish PWs you mention?



If WSS war crimes are put in the context of all similar German armed forces and Police war crimes, it muddies the analytical waters somewhat. All German combat formations seemed inclined to identical responses to partisan activity.


Yes - which gets back to my point regarding the standard counterinsurgency practices as practiced by the Heer, SS and Polizei.
The tactical doctrine as practiced by all these different branches seemed to stress draconian punishment and exponential retribution as standard operating procedures.

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Post by TH Albright » 05 Nov 2003 13:43

Rob..my source for Heer atrocities in Poland is Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity (Modern War Studies) by Alexander B. Rossino. I browsed through the book the other night at Barnes and Noble and found it very compelling and well-reseached; I guess I must buy it soon!
It focuses on the early days of the Polish campaign and German military policies toward the Poles during the conduct of military operations. Most studies tend to concentrate on occupation policies and such after the campaign while assuming (by omission I think) that the Heer conducted the campaign in a "traditional" way and were aghast at the LSSAH "trigger happiness" and SS-TV excesses. Too simple. While there were voices raised against the SS-TV and Einsatzcommandos, the Heer was part and parcel to this "dress rehearsal" for another racial/cultural war in the East. An interesting fact: many Polish units disssolved or were cut off in the early days of the campaign and became partisan insurgents immediately thereafter (sounds familar doesn't it!); this precipitated the first round of atrocities by the Heer and LSSAH. Often the reprisals were taken out against the local Jewish populace. From what I read, I could see no difference in the way LSSAH and Heer formations reacted to the insurgents and local populace. Obviously all elements of the German armed forces at the lower command levels were imbued with a desire to exact revenge on the Poles, with Polish Jews being a particulary vulnerable outlet. I recommend this book highly. It shows that the SS did not operate in an operational or ideological vacuum in Poland.

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Post by c.g. » 05 Nov 2003 14:04

Your opinions seems to support my point regarding the coexistence of traditional military repression, what TH Albright defines "brutal and ham-fisted German approaches to partisans and irregulars" similar to the violence experienced by Belgium and north-eastern France in 1914 on which some recent studies (John Horne et al.) have focussed, and a chiefly ideologically motivated "exterminatory practice" of the 16. RFSS-Division.
Of course, there is a long tradition of brutal responses to partisans and irregulars which is by far not limited to the actions of the German armed forces. The armies of most other countries confined their massacres in XIX and XX Century to the theathres of the "colonial wars". It is an established fact that Italian troops in 1911 in Lybia and 1935 in Ethiopia conducted a brutal repression against the "indigenous" civilian population with large blood-baths (not to forget the massive use of poison gas bombs in 1935). Even in 1941-1943 in Jugoslavia and Greece was Italian repression a very bloody and brutal one.
In Italy 1943-1945 "exterminatory practice" against civilians (destruction of villages and murdering of the complete populations regardless of gender and age) was luckily enough mostly confined to the actions of the RFSS-Division and to some lesser extent GAF "crack units" like HG and (only in single cases) by the 1. Para division.

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