Cephalonia Massacre

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
User avatar
Max
Member
Posts: 2260
Joined: 16 Mar 2002 14:08
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Cephalonia Massacre

Post by Max » 30 Sep 2002 00:54

German prosecutors are preparing to bring charges of murder against 11 former Wehrmacht officers over the massacre on the Greek island of Cephalonia of 5000 Italian prisoners of war during WWII.
New evidence has been found in East German Stasi archives and in disclosures in two recently discovered diaries.

Source : The Age - Melbourne

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 14957
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 30 Sep 2002 16:09

I remeber when I visited Cephalonia some 8 years ago I only found 2 Italian graves amongst many British, which covered may centuries.

Obviously with the recent film version of Captain C's Mandolin this massacre issue is in the limelight.

User avatar
Roberto
Member
Posts: 4505
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 15:35
Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Post by Roberto » 30 Sep 2002 17:50

Cheshire Yeomanry wrote:I remeber when I visited Cephalonia some 8 years ago I only found 2 Italian graves amongst many British, which covered may centuries.


CEFALONIA MASSACRE
( September,1943 )
Almost unknown outside of Italy, this event ranks with Katyn as one of the darkest episodes of the war. On the Greek island of Cefalonia, in the Gulf of Corinth, the Italian ‘ACQUI DIVISION' was stationed. Consisting of 11,500 enlisted men and 525 officers it was commanded by 52 year old General Antonio Gandin, a veteran of the Russian Front where he won the German Iron Cross. When the Badoglio government announced on September 8, 1943, that Italian troops should cease hostilities against the Allies, there was much wine and merriment on Cefalonia. However, their German counterparts on the island maintained a stony silence and soon began harassing their Italian comrades, calling them 'traitors'. The German 11th. Battalion of Jäger-Regiment 98 of the 1st. Gebirgs-Division, commanded by Major Harald von Hirschfeld, arrived on the island and soon Stukas were bombing the Italian positions. The fighting soon developed into a wholesale massacre when the Gebirgsjäger troops began shooting their Italian prisoners in groups of four beginning with General Gandin. By the time the shooting ended 4,750 Italian soldiers lay dead. But that was not the end for the Acqui Division, some 4000 survivors were shipped off to Germany for forced labour. In the Mediterranean a few of the ships hit mines and sank taking around 3,000 men to their deaths. The final death toll in this tragic episode was 9,646 men and 390 officers. Major Hirschfeld was later killed during the fighting in Warsaw in 1945 after he was promoted to General. General Hubert Lanz, commander of the Gebirgsjäger troops, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. He was released in 1951. In the 1950s, the remains of over 3,000 soldiers, including 189 officers, were unearthed and transported back to Italy for proper burial in the Italian War Cemetery at Bari. Unfortunately, the body of General Gandin was never identified.


Source of quote:

http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/massacres.html

Emphasis is mine.

User avatar
Max
Member
Posts: 2260
Joined: 16 Mar 2002 14:08
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Post by Max » 01 Oct 2002 04:10

A bit more on the renewed charges

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2002%2F09%2F29%2Fwmass29.xml&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=264307

This link may not work for everyone, so just in case.



Germans face charges over massacre on 'Corelli island'
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
(Filed: 29/09/2002)

German prosecutors are preparing to bring charges against 11 former Wehrmacht officers allegedly involved in the massacre of 5,000 Italian prisoners of war on the Greek island of Cephalonia, which featured in Louis de Berniere's novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

The killings during the closing stages of the Second World War were one of the most brutal atrocities perpetrated by regular German soldiers in Nazi-occupied Europe, but none of the culprits has been brought to justice. An inquiry in the 1960s was dropped through lack of evidence.

The state prosecutors in Dortmund said last week that they had reopened the Cephalonia file after an interval of more than 30 years because of fresh evidence contained in East German Stasi archives and disclosures in two recently discovered war diaries.

As a result they are planning to bring murder charges against the former Wehrmacht officers, now aged between 79 and 92, who were alleged to have taken part in the killings.

The massacre of the Italian troops was prompted by Italy's decision to pull out of its alliance with Nazi Germany in September 1943 after the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Italian troops stationed on the Greek island of Cephalonia resisted subsequent German demands that they surrender and fought a week long battle with a Wehrmacht invasion force.

The Italian resistance was broken after the island was attacked by Stuka dive-bombers. Adolf Hitler ordered that no prisoners should be taken on the island, so the surviving Italian troops were rounded up and slaughtered as retribution for their country's "treachery".

The village of Troianata on Cephalonia was one of at least five locations on the island where the mass killings were carried out. Spiros Vangelatos, a 75-year-old retired English teacher and Cephalonian resident, witnessed the slaughter of about 600 Italian troops outside the village as a boy of 16.

The Italian troops were being held in the village school. Mr Vangelatos said that they expected to be sent back to Italy and spent the night before their murder singing sentimental songs of home.

The following morning they were marched out of the school into a field next to the village and mown down by Wehrmacht machine-gunners.

"Bits of bodies, clothing and lumps of earth were hurled into the air as the machine guns danced on their tripods. It lasted no longer than about three to four minutes," Mr Vangelatos said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

"The dying soldiers collapsed over each other next to a wall at the edge of the field." The villagers were then forced to dump the bodies in a well.

Mr Vangelatos's testimony forms part of the evidence supplied by six surviving Cephalonian residents who witnessed the murders. Last week their names were sent to the Dortmund state prosecutor as potential witnesses in the case.

Others on the island such as Stavros Niforatos, a doctor now aged 95, recalled how he passed a ravine full of butchered Italian troops after delivering a baby in one of the island's homes. "They [the Germans] had slit the Italians' throats with knives," he said. "It was as if they had slaughtered a herd of sheep."

About 3,000 Italian troops avoided the initial German round-up by hiding in caves on Cephalonia while the Wehrmacht laid waste to the island by burning and plundering homes.

Once they were captured they were put aboard ships which were to take them to prison camps in Germany, however the vessels hit mines after leaving harbour and sank.

Those who survived the shipwrecks were taken to the Eastern Front and forced to serve as labourers. Many ended up as Russian prisoners of war after Germany was driven back by the Red Army. More than 200 Greek civilians and resistance fighters were also shot or hanged during the year-long Nazi occupation of the island that ended in 1944.

Attempts by Greek residents of Cephalonia to obtain compensation from post-war Germany for the atrocities committed were rejected by the German government in 1996 as not being in accordance with international law.

The state prosecutors in Dortmund now believe that they will have sufficient evidence to put some of the surviving culprits on trial.

Ulrich Mass, the state prosecutor who is leading the investigation, said he planned to visit Cephalonia this autumn to interview the witnesses.

Earlier attempts by Italy to prosecute the alleged perpetrators were dropped because of a clause in German law which stipulates that its citizens cannot be extradited to stand trial for crimes committed abroad.

Attempts to prosecute the culprits in Germany failed because of lack of evidence that could convict them of murder rather than manslaughter - a charge which automatically expires 15 years after the crime was committed.

"Most of the former Wehrmacht officers involved in the Cephalonia murders are dead and the remainder are very old," Mr Mass said. "We are nevertheless optimistic that we will manage to bring some before the courts before they die."



User avatar
Roberto
Member
Posts: 4505
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 15:35
Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Post by Roberto » 01 Oct 2002 13:22

The Greek island of Cephalonia is only 200 miles from the Italian coast at the mouth of the Golf of Corinth. On 8 September the Italian Acqui Division who were the garrison on the island greatly outnumbered the Germans, but the island was so close to the mainland of Greece that the Germans were in a position to send massive reinforcements quickly while the nearby airdromes on the mainland gave Germany air superiority. On Cephalonia the Germans committed a crime against humanity by massacring all the large Italian garrison when they surrendered after hard fighting. Only the military chaplains were spared, and if it were not for them it would be impossible to piece together the horrific story.
On 9 September, the first day after the Armistice, the German and Italian units remained in their positions amid a cold silence, although some German soldiers had joined in when the Italian soldiers rejoiced at the news of the armistice which they thought was the end of the war for them. At eight in the evening General Gandin commanding the Acqui Division received the order from his Italian superior General Vecchiarelli in Athens that his troops were to ‘cede’ all their weapons including artillery to the Germans, and would in due course be sent back to Italy by sea.
Gandin was amazed by this order because it contradicted the order sent by the Italian War Office from Rome during the preceding night to treat the Germans as ‘enemies’. He cabled to Athens that he rejected it because it contradicted the spirit and facts of the Anglo-American armistice (also it was partly indecipherable). In vain Gandin tried to contact the Italian War Office (which was en route to Brindisi from Rome) and Italian headquarters on the other Greek islands. A number of his more senior officers felt that it was ‘dishonourable’ to fight against the Germans, until the day before their allies. However, Captain Renzo Apollonio (who was strongly anti-Fascist and anti-German) and others warned Gandin that if the order was given to lay down arms, the bulk of the troops would refuse to obey. Apollonio was in touch with a band of Greek guerrillas and Greek officers, who offered the collaboration of a Greek battalion.
On the morning of 11 September the Germans put Gandin on the horns of a dilemma with an ultimatum: by seven in the evening he must make up his mind. He held a conference of senior officers, and consulted the chaplains. Both advised surrender. Gandin agreed with them, personally; but meanwhile he had at last succeeded in setting up radio communications with the Italian War Office in its new headquarters in Brindisi; and there had been skirmishes, initiated by the Germans, in which the Italians had suffered casualties. Gandin complained bitterly to the German officer who was negotiating the surrender, Colonel Barge, and as a delaying tactic asked for the negotiations to be carried out in future by a German of at least the rank of General. Then came news that Colonel Lusignani, in command on the neighbouring island of Corfu, had overcome German attacks and had the island under his complete control. Lusignani also reported that, on other islands, the Germans were disregarding their promise to repatriate Italian soldiers, sending them instead to internment camps in Germany. Stragglers who arrived in Cephalonia from the nearby island of Santa Maura confirmed this news.
On the morning of 13 September two motorized lighters full of armed German troops tried to enter the port of Argostoli. On the orders of Captain Apollonio, without consultation with Gandin, the Italian artillery opened fire and sunk one lighter; the other put up the white flag. The artillery, inspired by Apollonio, also opened fire on German positions on the island. Gandin ordered this artillery fire to cease while he reopened negotiations with the Germans. Then a German parliamentario (a bearer of a flag of truce) arrived by sea with a senior Italian air force officer who had gone over to the Fascists; they asked Gandin to leave his division on the island until it could be sent back to Italy, while Gandin himself was asked to take over the job of Chief of Staff with the new Republican Army. Gandin sent messages to all his units that negotiations were in progress with the Germans and that a settlement was likely in which the whole division could retain its weapons.
The next morning, 14 September, General Lanz commanding the German XXII Mountain Corps arrived by boat; he sent an angry telephone message to Gandin that firing at the German lighters was ‘an act of hostility’, and by the hand of Colonel Barge a signed order that the Acqui were to lay down their arms immediately. By now, after tortuous changes of mind, Gandin had decided to throw in his lot with Badoglio and the king. His staff told him that soundings taken among the troops revealed them to be almost a hundred per cent in favour of fighting the Germans. And, finally, a written order had arrived by sea from the War Office in Brindisi that the Acqui were to fight the Germans. According to the Italian official history, ‘By now an irresistible hatred of the Germans was growing ever stronger among the soldiers and their impatience had reached a point where it could not be curbed.’ Three Italian officers who tried to organise a surrender were shot by their troops.
During the morning of 14 September Gandin ordered his division to occupy positions from which they could launch an attack on the Germans, and told the Germans that hostilities would begin ‘at 9 a.m. on the 15th’ unless he received ‘a favourable offer’. At that moment came the ominous news from the island of Zante that General Paderni had laid down his arms and his 400 soldiers had been sent as ‘internees’ to Germany.
During the morning of the 15th German Stukas from the mainland made frequent bombing raids; they also machine-gunned the Italian positions and dropped leaflets threatening that any Italians taken prisoner while fighting would never see Italy again.
In their initial attack the Acqui captured 400 prisoners and the guns of a self-propelled battery, but the Stukas were causing serious casualties. German sea-borne reinforcements landed in the dark, and bitter fighting continued until the 19th, with the Germans gradually becoming superior in numbers and the Stukas devastating the Italian positions. Gandin asked Brindisi to send air and sea help to prevent the German landings, which were now taking place in daylight. The Italian War Office replied that this was ‘impossible’.
Here lies a mystery. On 9 September, over 300 Italian war planes with pilots loyal to the Badoglio regime had landed on the aerodromes of Lecce and Brindisi being the 8th Army lines. The pilots wanted to go into action immediately against the Germans. One Italian air force officer said afterwards to the author: ‘We asked for petrol and ammunition. Instead, we were told to fly our aircraft to Tunis, out of range of the hard-pressed Italian troops on Cephalonia.’ Meanwhile, Gandin had sent a motor-boat belonging to the Red Cross to Brindisi with details of the situation, requesting immediate help by sea and air, and more ammunition: after three days of fighting his dumps were nearly exhausted, whereas plenty of German supplies were coming in by sea.
No Italian ships intervened. Under the terms of the armistice they had mostly gone to Malta, far from the war zone. If some Italian destroyers had instead been sent to Augusta in Sicily, they could have intervened in Cephalonia. Allied warships were also available, but none were sent. However, on 19, 20 and 21 September the Allies allowed Italian fighter planes to make sorties to Cephalonia from Lecce. There were too few of them to have a real effect on the battle, but they shot down one Messerschmidt and machine-gunned German positions.
One Italian air force officer told the author at the time that the Allied Command was too frightened that the pilots would transfer their allegiance to the Germans to allow strong Italian air intervention over Cephalonia, and the Italian War Office suggestion of an Italian naval force under Admiral Bonetti was turned down for the same reason. Only on the 24th, a few hours after both islands had surrendered, did the Allies consent to seven Italian destroyers going to Cephalonia and Corfu.
On 20 September, reinforced German troops made a decisive attack supported by relays of Stuka bombers. Gandin’s troops fought until their ammunition was nearly exhausted, and at 11 a.m. on 22 September they put up the white flag. Just as they surrendered a signal came from the Italian War Office that all available Italian war planes would attack the Germans on Cephalonia while squadrons of US fighters and bombers would attack the aerodromes on the mainland from which the Stukas were flying. Ambrosio concluded his signal with praise for the valour of the Acqui. Had the Allies authorised such an operation a week earlier, the outcome might have been different.
The XXII Mountain Corps had received a special Führer order to massacre all the Italian soldiers who had fought on Cephalonia. As the German soldiers entered the positions of the surrendering Italians, they mowed them down with machine guns. General Lanz gave orders that all officers belonging to the Acqui except Fascists, those of German birth, doctors and chaplains, were to be killed. The Acqui troops not shot in cold blood in their positions were marched down to San Teodoro. There they were incarcerated in the ‘Cassetta Rosa’ town hall, next to a convent. The first to be shot was Gandin, followed by all his staff officers.
The German orders specified that the Acqui troops were to be shot just outside the town by detachments of eight German soldiers, each under an officer. Staff officers were to be killed singly; others in groups of two or three. Inside the town hall the chaplains administered the last rites, and one, Father Romualdo Formato, has written movingly of three officers who linked arms as they walked out to be executed, saying ‘We have been companions in life. Let us go together to paradise.’
According to the official Italian history, the soil of the island became a carpet of corpses. The Germans specified that the bodies must lie where they would not be seen by other German soldiers or civilians, and were not to be buried. Instead they were to be ‘ballasted’, put on rafts and sunk in the sea. The Germans compelled twenty Italian sailors to do this, and when they had finished they too were shot, to make sure they could not give evidence of this crime to the civilised world.
An official report from Lanz to Army Group E stated that 5,000 of the Acqui Division who surrendered had been treated in accordance with the Führer’s orders – that is, shot dead. Father Romualdo Formato’s published account details how 4,750 officers and men were shot dead, either at their posts under the white flag on the field of battle, or in San Teodoro.
Out of 12,000 Italian troops on Cephalonia on 8 September, 1,250 fell in combat and almost 5,000 were put to death by the Germans after the surrender; these included sailors and nearly 100 medical orderlies with Red Cross armlets. About 4,000 who had surrendered their arms without fighting were imprisoned in a barracks on the island; they received only starvation rations and were subjected to severe hardships. In October they were embarked on three ships destined for Greece, all three of which hit mines and sank as soon as they left port. The Italian prisoners shut up in the holds had no chance; the few who jumped into the sea were machine-gunned by the Germans to prevent them from escaping. The sea became a mass of corpses. About a thousand Italian soldiers who had managed to escape from the Germans after the surrender joined up under Captain Apollonio with the Greek guerrillas, and when the British captured the island in November 1944, 1,200 Italian soldiers (some of whom had escaped from other islands), who had fought with the Greek partisans against the Germans, were repatriated with Captain Apollonio to Bari on British and Italian ships. In Bari, they all volunteered to fight with the Italian Army of Liberation under the Royal flag.
A 22-page account of the appalling events on Cephalonia was sent to Mussolini at Salò (the document is marked ‘Seen by the Duce’). It was written by a Foreign Office official who stayed on the island during the fighting; he described the atrocities in lurid detail. To Mussolini’s eternal shame, he made no protests to the Germans after reading the document on 14 January 1944. Segenti was repatriated by the Germans via Berlin to Rome. His report made it clear that the Germans had no intention of treating the units who had fought against them as prisoners of war, and that after 'forced marches’, whole units were machine-gunned, together with all the Divisional staff’. According to him, only forty officers out of the 500 of the Acqui Division escaped execution, although a few more might have joined the guerrillas or disguised themselves as ordinary soldiers in the internment camps.


Source of quote:

Richard Lamb, War in Italy 1943-1945. A Brutal Story, 1994 Da Capo Press New York, pages 129-133.

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 14957
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 01 Oct 2002 20:01

Thank you Max and Roberto for the additional material, tends to put to against some of the arguements going on in the When is a War criminal Not a war criminal since the Germans carrying out this atrocity were not in "Special" Units where they would have become accustomed to the nature of their work.

:D Andy from the Shire

User avatar
Kurt_Steiner
Member
Posts: 3960
Joined: 14 Feb 2004 13:52
Location: Barcelona, Catalunya

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 28 Nov 2006 13:09

Were those ex-officers finally judged? There was anything at all about it?

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 28 Nov 2006 14:02

The prosecution decided not to proceed in one of the cases, because the crime was judged as manslaughter, not murder, and the statue of limitations therefore applied.

http://zusammenleben-zio.de/modules.php ... age_id=756

All the best

Andreas

User avatar
Kurt_Steiner
Member
Posts: 3960
Joined: 14 Feb 2004 13:52
Location: Barcelona, Catalunya

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 28 Nov 2006 16:32

unglaublich, aber wahr...

Incredible, but true...

Thank you very much, Andreas!

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 08:45

In Kefalonia there is a war memorial near Argostoli, probably erected in September 1978. Six metal plates of the memorial give three information in both Italian and Greek language. One of the side plates lists places of fights in Kefalonia 13-22.9.1943 and the other states places of executions in Kefalonia 21-26.9.1943
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 08:47

Central plate of the memorial includes numbers of Italian casualties by categories.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 09:07

Next to the memorial there is an information board explaining events in September 1943 in Greek, Italian and English.

Comparing Italian and English versions one can notice that both texts are slightly different. For instance, the English version lacks a description of mass executions which is available in Italian:
La »tecnica« utilizzata dalla Wehrmacht per l'uccisione dei reparti Italiani che a mano a mano si arrendevano era quasi sempre la stessa: li disarmavano, li derubavano, li facevano marciare verso ipotettici luoghi di prigonia poi, lungho la strada in prossimita' di qualche dirupo, li falciavano con le mitragliatrici.

My translation into English:
The technique used by Wehrmacht for killing Italian detachments gradually surrendering was nearly always the same: they were disarmed, robbed, made marching towards the supposed places of imprisonment and then they were cut down by machine guns along the road near some cavity.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 09:14

Here's the text in English.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 09:15

Beside the texts there are three schemes explaining the course of actions.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

trekker
Member
Posts: 306
Joined: 16 Mar 2011 07:55

Re: Cephalonia Massacre

Post by trekker » 30 Jul 2012 09:19

Not far from the memorial there is a place with a memorial stone in both Italian and Greek saying in Italian:
In questa fossa vennero ammassate le salme di parte dei 136 ufficiali della divisione Aqui fucilati dai Tedeschi a S. Teodoro il 25-26.9.1943

My translation into English:
In this cave corpses were gathered of a part of 136 officers of the Aqui division shot by Gemans in S. Teodoro on 25.-26.9.1943.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”