Source:Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume VIII. USGPO, Washington, 1946/pp.572-582
Report of British War Crimes Section of
Allied Force Headquarters
The British War Crimes Section of the Allied Force Headquarters has investigated fulIy a number of cases of German reprisals for partisan activity in Italy, committed between April and November, 1944. In addition it has been established that information received from many sources on a further large number of atrocities committed between March 1944 and April 1946, is substantially correct.
A study of all these cases reveals that there is a striking similarity in the facts. The incident invariably opens the killing or wounding of a German soldier or soldiers by partisans; reprisal activity is then initiated either by the troops immediately on the spot or in more serious cases, by the arrival of definite units and formations specially detailed for the purpose. There is no taking of hostages in the normal sense of the word, but a number of people are selected haphazardly from the local population and are killed by shooting or hanging, whilst whole villages or certain farms or houses are destroyed by fire. In a number of cases an announcement is then made to the population that the action taken was a reprisal for the death of a German soldier and will be repeated should further attacks on Germans take place.
A typical example is the Civitella atrocity, one of those cases. which has been completely investigated. Partisan Bands had been operating in the area, attacking lone German lorries and motor cycles. On June 18th, 1944, two German soldiers were killed and a third wounded in a fight with Partisans in the village of Civitella. Fearing reprisals, the inhabitants evacuated the village but when the Germans discovered this, punitive action was postponed. On June 29th, 1944, when the local inhabitants were returning and were feeling secure once more, the Germans carried outs well organized reprisal, combing the neighbourhood. Innocent inhabitants were often shot on sight. During that day 212 men, women and children in the immediate district were killed. Some of the dead women were found completely naked. In the course of investigation, a nominal roll of the dead has been compiled, and 'is complete with the exception of a few names where bodies could not be identified. Ages of the dead ranged from 1 year to 84 years. Approximately 100 houses were destroyed by fire; some of the victims were burned alive in their homes.
On December 16th, 1942, Keitel issued an order relating to the combatting of Partisans. This order was captured in Crete.( A copy, with English translation, is annexed hereto and marked 'A').
On June 17th and July lst, 1944, Kesselring issued orders on this subject. (Copies, with English translations, are annexed hereto and marked 'B' and 'C'). Document 'B' was found at Kesselring's H. Q., after the surrender of the German Forces, whilst Document 'C' was found amongst the records of the Ortskommandatur, Castiglione dei Popli, Nr. Bologna. Other evidence of the issue of this second order to German formations has been found.
A comparison of Documents 'A', 'B', and 'C' makes it clear that Kesselring's orders were in accordance with a policy laid down by the Supreme Command. Documents are held proving that this general policy was dictated to lower commands in the German Army in Italy.
Evidence has been found to show that a large number of the atrocities in Italy was committed by the Hermann Goering Parachute Panzer Division. Notable offenders also were l Parachute Division, 16 SS Panzer Grenadier Division and 114 Light Division.
The orders of the German Command were, made known to the local population in a series of notices which were exhibited in towns and villages throughout German-occupied Italy and were published in newspapers. (A specimen copy o f a typical Notice to the inhabitants of Covolo is annexed hereto and marked 'D'.)
In the cases on which reliable information is held, it is considered that a conservative estimate of the number of persons who met their deaths at the hands of the German soldiery, is more than 7,500 men, women and children ranging in years from infancy to extreme old age. In the Ardeatine Caves case in Rome, alone, 335 men were shot. Many other reports have not yet been substantiated, but it is certain that the total of innocent Italian civilians who were killed in such reprisals is very much greater than the number given above.
Sources of information on which this report is based
1. 127 German official documents collected by A. F. H. Q.
Enclosure to 3rd Copy.
Subject: Combattings of Partisans.
Reports have been submitted to the Fuehrer, that individual members of the armed forces participating in the fighting against partisans, have subsequently had to account for their actions in combat.
The Fuehrer has therefore ordered:
Signed : KEITEL.
For the correctness of the copy of a copy
Certified Copy Signed .
Oberkriegsgerichtsrat d. Lw.
17th June 1941.
GHQ Staff, 10th Army; GHQ Staff, 14th Army; Army Group, V ZANGEN; General Plenipotentiary German Armed Forces in ITALY; HQ LUFTFLOTTE 2; German Naval High Command, ITALY; Supreme Head of SS and Police, ITALY; General i/ cTPT ITALY; Plenipotentiary of the Greater German Reich with the Italian Government, Ambassador RAHN; 10. Staff R. u. K.
Carbon Copies to: GOC in C SOUTH-WEST/ Chief Q Branch; GOC in C SOUTH-WEST/ H.Q. Staff;. GOC in C SOUTH-WEST/ H.Q.111; GOC in C SOUTH-WEST Chief Liaison Off (O. T. (2 copies)); GOC in C SOUTH-WEST OC Tech Tps; GOC in C SOUTH-WEST Gen i/ c Maint of Rlys in ITALY.
Ref: TPM GOC in C SOUTH-WEST Ia No. 4968/44 MOST SECRET dated 10th May 1944.
Concerning : New Measures in connection with operations against Partisans
1. The partisan situation in the Italian theatre, particularly in Central Italy, has recently deteriorated to such an extent, that it constitutes a serious danger to the fighting troops and their eupply lines as well as to the war industry and economic potential.
The fight against the partisan8 must be carried on with all mean8 at our disposal and with the utmost severity. I will protect any commander who exceeds our usual restraint in the choice of severity of the methods he adopts against partisans. In this connection the old principle holds good, that a mistake in the choice of methods in executing one's orders, is better than failure or neglect to act. Only the most prompt and severe han-dling is good enough as punitive and deterrent measures to nip in the bud other outrages on a greater scale. All civilians implicated in anti-partisan operations who are apprehended in the course of reprisals, are to be brought up to the Assembly Camps which are being erected for this purpose by the Quartermaster General C in C South-West for ultimate despatch to the Reich as workers.
2. The combat against Partisans consists of passive and ac- tive operation8 with centre of gravity on the latter. The passive combat consists of protection of important buildings of historic or artistic value, railways, and roads, as well as essential installations such as power stations, factories, etc.
Even these passive operations must be conducted within the local boundaries for example, Recce Troops will constantly guard the foreground of an installation to be protected.
Active operations will be conducted especially in Partisan over- run districts where it is vital to maintain the life-line of the Armed Forces. These Partisans will have to be attacked and wiped out. Propaganda amongst Partisans (as well a8 use of agents) is of utmost importance.
3. The responsibility for the entire operations against Par-tisans in the Italian theatre and the fundamental instructions for same continue to be valid with the following amendments:
GHQ 10 and 14 Armies are responsible for all operations against Partisans within their Army Sectors and Army Group V Zangen within the coastal belt to a depth of SO kms. The tasks entrusted to the GOC in C Operational Zone Adriatic Coast in connection with coastal defense (in accordance with Fuehrer Instruction No. 40) are not affected by this ruling. In the remainder of the Italian Theatre the Supreme Head of the SS and Police conduct8 the operation8 against Partisans on his responsi-bility, in accordance with my instructions. Details in connection with delineation of the 30 km wide strip along the coastal zone8 are to be settled direct between the Supreme Head of the SS and Police and Army Group V Zangen. The boundary between 14th Army, 10th Army and Army Group V Zangen Quercianella (North of Rosignano) -Certaldo-Figline-Sansepolora from there along road 73 to Fano (Road incl. to 10th Army)
4. Armed Forces for Operations against Partisans: Here one has to differentiate between:
(a) Military units (Police forces, Govt. Troops Bohemia and Moravia etc.) who are exclusively employed for active and passive operations against Partisans. These are subordinated to the Supreme Head of the SS and Police Italy.
(b) Task Forces and guard detachments: For this purpose Task forces are to be formed, armed and trained by withdrawn formations, staffs and units and these should be placed upon de-mand without any reservations, at the disposal of the local staff HQ, local Headquarters, combat commander, SS unit. Outside the Army sectors and the 30 km. wide coastal strip upon the re-quest of the Supreme Head of the SS and Police, they are to be utilized to the fullest extent for operations against Partisans in so far as the position and their other tasks permit.
The local command of operations, within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Head of the SS and Police, where units of the Wehr-macht are utilized as well, depends upon the proportionate strength of the Wehrmacht and Police forces employed. The responsibility for the general conduct itself rests with the Supreme Head of the SS and Police Italy.
(c) Each local Commandant is responsible for the safeguard-ing of his locality and immediate surroundings and this applies as well to operations against Partisans. The military local HQ areas are to be subdivided into security sectors, to be placed under the order of the leader of the Armed Forces, SS or Police, which-ever is the most suitable for the task. He is fully responsible for the security within his sector. All shock troops, task forces etc. are at his disposal upon request from the local Heads. Rapid ac-tion guarantees surprise and success. Such security Comman-dants are especially to be appointed along the main reinforcement routes within the Army Sectors and the 30 km. wide coastal strip by the Armies or Army Group V Zangen with definite tasks allot-ted to them. Within the rest of the area, the security command-ers are to be allocated b y the Supreme Head of the SS and Police in collaboration with Army Group V Zangen and the Plenipoten-tiary General. They will take their orders in this district from the Supreme Head of the SS and Police, notwithstanding their belonging to part of the Armed Forces.
(d) Operations against Paratroopers will be undertaken in addition to operations against Partisans.
5. The protection of the following lines of communication is of primary importance:
The relative needs of the various installations and buildingsof artistic and cultural value to be guarded along the railway lines is to be agreed upon on the one hand by the Armies, Army Group V Zangen, the Supreme Head of the SS and Police and on the other hand by the General i/ c Transportation, in direct consultations. The safeguarding of the buildings of artistic and cultural value along the roads within the Army Sectors and the coastal strip are the responsibility of the Armies or Army Group V Zangen, outside these limits the Supreme Head of the SS and Police Italy assumes responsibility. In this connection he is to be in close contact with the G. O. C. in C. South West/ General i/ c Pioneers.
6. So far as security of essential installations is concerned (Power Stations, Pumping Stations, Industrial undertakings etc.) G. O. C. Tech. Troops and the Staffs R. u. K. is to have liaison directly with the Supreme Head of the SS and Police Italy or the Armies or Army Group V Zangen.
7. To further security of the Appenines the Armies are to post, commencing forthwith, reinforced units, Field units, road blocks, etc. in accordance with operational instructions "Alarich". These are to be located along the main passes and principal lines of re-inforcement. 8. The Supreme Head of the SS and Police Italy is requested to submit by 25th June to G. O. C. in' C South-West, a map (scale 1: 500,000) with markings showing location of his security sec-tors, security troops, local security sectors, Local Commandants (Operations against Partisans) etc.
Signed : Kesselring
G. O. C. in C. SOUTH-WEST
(Signed) [ ?]
TOP SECRET. KR WAAJ/ C 00104/ 06 l/ 7 1210
In my appeal to the Italians I announced that severe measures are to be taken against the Partisans. This announcement must not represent an empty threat. It is the duty of all troops and police in my command to adopt the severest measures. Every act of violence committed by partisans must be punished immediately. Reports submitted must also give details of counter measures taken. Wherever there is evidence of considerable numbers of partisans groups, a proportion of the male population of the area will be arrested and in the event of an act of violence being committed, these men will be shot. The population must be in-formed of this. Should troops etc. be fired at from any village, the village will be burnt down. Perpetrators or the ring leaders will be hanged in public. Nearby villages to be held responsible for any sabotage to cables and damage inflicted to tyres. The most effective counter measure is to recruit local patrols. Members of the Fascist party will not be included in any of the reprisals. Suspects will be handed over to the prefects and a report sent to me. Every soldier will protect himself outside villages by carrying a fire-arm. District Commanders will decide in which towns it will also be necessary to carry fire arms. Every type of plunder is forbidden and will be punished severely. All counter measures must be hard but just. The dignity of the German soldier demands it.
Platzkommandantur 11/ 1012 Abt. la Prov. 83/ 44 g. Kdos.
Above mentioned copy is sent for acknowledgement.
The Commander of the district of Covolo announcesthe folllowing :
For every member of the German Armed Forces, whether military or civilian, who is wounded, Fifty men, taken from the place where the deed was committed, will be shot. For every soldier or civilian killed, One Hundred men also taken from the locality of the crime, will be shot.
In the event of more than one soldier or civilian being killed or wounded, All the Men of the District Will Be Shot, the Houses Set On Fire, the Women Interned and the Cattle Confiscated, Immediately.