The Project

In 2009 the Italian and the German governments established a joint historical commission (made of five Italian and five German members) to work on the critical analysis of history and the common experience during the Second World War. After the recommendations issued by the above mentioned Commission in December 2012 at the end of its mandate, the German government decided to finance a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing the history and the memory of the relationships between the two countries during the war including the creation by the German Foreign Ministry of a “German-Italian Fund for the future”. This project stems from that initiative and was promoted in conjunction with the INSMLI (National Institute for the History of the Italian Liberation Movement” and the ANPI (National Association of Italian Partisans). As a result it was possible to paint a complete picture of the violence perpetrated against civilians by the German army and its allied Fascists in Italy between 1943 and 1945.

The Atlas of Nazi and fascist massacres, which encompasses the findings of this research project includes a database and a wide collection of materials (documents, pictures, videos) on the retraced episodes, both available on the project web site.

The database lists and analyses all the massacres and the individual murders of civilians and resistance fighters killed in Italy after September 8, 1943 both by German soldiers and soldiers of the Italian Social Republic outside of the armed fights. These range from the first murders in the South to the withdrawal massacres committed in the days after the Liberation in Piedmont, Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige region.

The chronological and geographical data processing resulted in an accurate reconstruction of the Nazi war in Italy, which finally connects modes, authors, times and places of the violent crimes against the innocents all over the country.

The historical inquiry was conducted locally by more than ninety researchers who tapped in the results of previous studies of the same kind made in Apulia, Campania, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Piedmont and used three main national common sources: the data base of violent crimes perpetrated against civilians during the German occupation of Italy, established by the Joint Historical Italian-German Commission and based on the reports of the police reports stored in the Archives of the Historical Office of Army General Staff and the Historical Archives of the Carabinieri of Rome: the General Repository of war crime reports collected from 1945 by the Army Prosecutor’s office in Rome (illegally dismissed in 1960) found by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry while investigating on the reasons for the concealment of some files about Nazi-fascist crimes (14th Parliamentary term); the rulings and files of the judiciary proceedings debated at the Military courts during the last trial season (from 1994 until now).

More than 5,000 episodes were counted and listed in the database, each one of them was retraced and set in its specific time and war frame and (when possible) the identity of the victims and the perpetrators was established. Starting from some well-grounded historiographical assumptions – such as the presence of an ordering system that legitimated violence on civilians, massacres as the product of a racial expansionist ideology, the Nazi one, aiming at disrupting geographical borders as well as the social dimension of Europe – the research work showed the connection between the violence perpetrated against defenceless civilians and the goals set in space and time by the German army in Italy. These included the fight against groups of armed resistance fighters who were considered, especially the communist oriented ones, as the main promoters of an illegal and irregular gang war that recklessly exploited women and children for its own purposes; the punishment campaigns of political opponents; the exploitation of human and economic resources through roundups and deportations of civilians to forced labour camps; the cleansing operations carried out near the defensive and the withdrawal lines; the cooperation with administrative and repressive forces and structures of the Italian Social Republic, which sometimes also pursued its own massacre oriented strategy.

Paolo Pezzino presents the research project (Milan, December 13, 2013 )