Eccidio di (Massacre of) Sant’Anna di Stazzema, Tuscany, Italy (Aug. 12 1944)
Today is the 70th anniversary of the St. Anna di Stazzema massacre.
The Allied advance from Southern to Northern Italy was blocked by the Nazis’ Gothic Line in the Italian front in 1944/1945, during the World War Two.
The Line followed the Apennine mountains from the Thyrrhenian to the Adriatic Seas; some Italian partisan forces fought behind the German front and made trouble for the supplies to the frontline. The 16. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division “Reichsführer SS” was ordered to solve the partisan troubles. Not finding any partisan (they seem to have already abandoned the area), the Nazis surrounded the little mountain village and the near hamlets and farms. All the area was full of refugees, that tried to escape the Allied bombings of the near cities. All the able-bodied men took shelter in the woods, to escape the deportation in German lagers or the slave-labour in Italy. Nazis and some Italian Fascist collaborators gathered kids, women and old men in several buildings and killed about 560 of them.
The Italians were considered traitors by Nazis, because of they have abandoned them after their armistice with Allies on Sept. 8 1943.
The commander of the SS Division, General Max Simon, was sentenced to death by a British court after the war for another slaughter, that took place in Marzabotto, some months later; the sentence was later changed to life imprisonment. Simon was pardoned in 1954 and released from prison and died free in 1961.
Most of the evidences of the slaughter were hidden after the war by some not-identified , to avoid involving Germany, now allied against USSR in the “Cold War” and they were rediscovered only in 1994.
Other massacres went before and after the Sant’Anna one.
Apart from the divisional commander Max Simon,no one was prosecuted for this massacre until July 2004, when a trial against ten former Waffen-SS officers and NCOs living in Germany was held before a military court in La Spezia, Italy. On 22 June 2005, the court found the accused guilty of participation in the killings and sentenced them in absentia to life imprisonment. Werner Bruss (b. 1920, former SS-Unterscharführer), Alfred Concina (b. 1919, former SS-Unterscharführer), Ludwig Goering (b. 1923, former SS-Rottenführer who confessed to killing twenty women),Karl Gropler (b. 1923, former SS-Unterscharführer), Georg Rauch (b. 1921, former SS-Untersturmführer), Horst Richter (b. 1921, former SS-Unterscharführer), Alfred Schoneberg (b. 1921, former SS-Unterscharführer), Heinrich Schendel (b. 1922, former SS-Unterscharführer), Gerhard Sommer, (b. 1921, former SS-Untersturmführer), and Ludwig Heinrich Sonntag (b. 1924, former SS-Unterscharführer). However, extradition requests from Italy were rejected by Germany.
In 2012, German prosecutors shelved their investigation of 17 unnamed former SS soldiers (eight of whom were still alive) who were part of the unit involved in the massacre because of a lack of evidence.The statement said: “Belonging to a Waffen-SS unit that was deployed to Sant’Anna di Stazzema cannot replace the need to prove individual guilt. Rather, for every defendant it must be proven that he took part in the massacre, and in which form.”The mayor of the village, Michele Silicani (a survivor who was 10 when the raid occurred), called the verdict “a scandal” and said he would urge Italy’s justice minister to lobby Germany to reopen the case.German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Georg Link commented that “while respecting the independence of the German justice system,” it was not possible “to ignore that such a decision causes deep dismay and renewed suffering to Italians, not just survivors and relatives of the victims.” (Source Wikipedia)
Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” (2008) is a fictional adaptation of the massacre
It’s worth to remember some of the victims and their age (of course bloodthirsty partisans):
- Anna Pardini, 20 days old
- Maria Tucci, 3 months old
- Maria Bonuccelli, 1 year old
- Maria Cappiello, 1 year old
- Ivana Federigi, 1 year old
- Claudio Gamba, 1 year old
- Maria Ghilardini, 1 year old
- Norma Mancini, 1 year old
- Mirta Federigi, 2 years old
- Piero Lencioni, 2 years old
Sometime I wonder what does the SS’s motto mean: “Meine Ehre heißt Treue" (My Honor is Loyalty) and to be honest with you I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of the word “Honor” after at least all the things that happened there.