Up to 70,000 Italians fell victim to the German occupation of Italy in the Second World War. More than 10,000 were killed by German troops in massacres and mass executions. Starting on 4 May 2023, texts, photos, biographies of perpetrators, reconstructions of massacres, case studies, and videos on this dark chapter in the history of Germany and Italy will be available at www.ns-taeter-italien.org.
The website was developed in the framework of a project about German massacres in Italy during the Second World War (NS-Täter. Le stragi naziste nell’Italia occupata, 1943-1945 / NS-Täter. Die Massaker im besetzten Italien in der Erinnerung der Täter, 1943-1945), and designed in cooperation with the Berlin-based Lime Flavour agency. From its inception in August 2019, the project has been supported by the German Federal Foreign Office in the framework of the German-Italian Future Fund. Based at the Martin Buber Institute of Jewish Studies (University of Cologne), the project is directed by historian Carlo Gentile in collaboration with journalist Udo Gümpel, and the participation of the Fondazione Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole, and the theatre company Archivio Zeta. At present, the website is accessible in Italian and German but an English version will be soon available for the benefit of the broader public worldwide.
The project addresses different audiences including the general public, educational institutions, memorial sites, and museums. The perpetrators stand at the centre of the historical inquiry: What mentality and psychological dispositions imprinted their actions? What were their social-biographical backgrounds? What room for decision and action was at their disposal? What patterns of legitimation can be identified in their narratives?
The website hosts well-documented historical reconstructions of the Nazi massacres in Italy between 1943 and 1945, based on documentation extracted from forty archives in Germany, Italy, Austria, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. Such materials include ego-documents, records from the wartime and post-war periods, video recordings, and photos. The digitalisation of the sources is in progress. However, a part of the collection is already available online from the research database Invenio of the German Bundesarchiv. The website is divided into 5 sections:
The massacres: this section presents the stories of the massacres, each of which includes an interactive map, and a synthetic file about the judicial investigations and the people involved. Individual biographies of perpetrators as well as information about Wehrmacht and SS units are provided here along with case studies and the historical reconstruction of the massacres;
The perpetrators: this section provides a list of the Nazi perpetrators with their bios, synthetic personal record, historical info, and pictures;
The themes: this section embeds 4 further subsections: the trials for the Monte Sole massacres; memory; German deserters; and the memory of September 8, 1943 from the perspective of the Nazi perpetrators;
The sources: this section includes military and judicial documents, ego-documents, and pictures;
Educational projects: this section lists the activities aimed at handing down the memory of the historical past among the broader public.
“This is too much! It seems like I just get over one crisis and another occurs. I need to piece my soul together.” So blurted author Sieu Sean Do’s mother after the family’s harrowing and narrow escape into Viet Nam from the Khmer Rouge genocide in their native Cambodia. Sieu Sean’s memoir of the family’s journey from an idyllic childhood in rural Cambodia through the hell of the Killing Fields is his work through witnessing and storytelling to piece his soul together.
Sieu’s narrative of the family’s long ordeal is largely straightforward. He was a child and teenager during these ordeals, so we see them through the innocent boy’s eyes. The narrative piles incident upon incident as challenges, crises, betrayals, disappointments, abandonments, starvation, crimes, executions, and accidental deaths cascade not only upon this family, but all of Cambodia. Yet the story takes us to Cambodian traditions and intimately into his large extended family that, miraculously, survived together. As he summarizes at the end, “Our elders taught us well that we need to survive not just alone, but together.” Thus, as readers we have close encounters not just with the horrors of genocide, but the intimacies of a traditional Cambodian family and many traditional practices and folk tales that surround and support the survivors in their ordeals.
Humberto Ak’abal is a poet from Guatemala. These poems were written in K’iche and translated into Spanish by Humberto. Further translation from the Spanish into English was made by Miguel Rivera with Fran Quinn. All poems are extracted from the book by Humberto Ak’abal In the Courtyard of the Moon, Los Angeles, Tia Chucha Press, forthcoming in April 2021. We kindly thank the publisher for permission to publish these poems.
On 22nd June 1941, the German armies overcame the Russian resistance on the river Bug and started to penetrate in depth in Russia in a drunken state of exaltation. It was the triumph of the Blitzkrieg which many generals considered the only true form of military art, according to the legacy of Clausewitz and Schlieffen: the dimension of the attack was such that the commanders ignored what other units were doing, and the common motto was “forward, no matter what the others do”, in order to annihilate the enemy before this could strike back. For many a soldier this unstoppable advance was just a leap into the void, because after leaving the last villages of the Reich they found themselves alone in the vastness of an unknown land…
The letters sent from the front during WWII constitute a broad universe which we are just partially familiar with (tens of thousands of letters out of billions). Only a very small portion of the immense corpus of letters from and to the fronts has been published, which means that such a form of testimony constitutes an important but also distorted means of encounter with war. Do therefore letters constitute a good means for encountering war? Do people at home really come across war, when they read the letters received from their loved ones at the front?…
In an interview published in the newspaper El País
(April 17, 2015), José Palazón, president of the nongovernmental
organization “Prodein”, and winner of the XVIII Luis Valtueña
Humanitarian Photography Award, remembers a conversation that he had
with a prosecutor, twenty years ago, when he was denouncing the abuses
against immigrants in Melilla, the Spanish enclave on the North African
coast. Palazón complained that his efforts to gain visibility were not
getting anywhere, to which the prosecutor replied: “Look for evidences.
Take photographs”. Since then, it seems that Palazón has learned his
lesson and the photograph “Desolate landscapes”, which he submitted to
the Luis Valtueña photography competition has travelled around the
In all ages of human history, torture has represented a fear and a reality for prisoners of war. Soldiers captured in war can be the victims of the victor’s retaliation immediately after battle as well as far behind the front line, through interrogations for intelligence, forced-labour, brain-washing. In fact, torture is not only physical. George Orwell describes the perversion of psychological torture in his novel 1984 (1948) by means of the symbol of Room 101. Primo Levi, the well-known Auschwitz-witness, once wrote that “useless violence” in Nazi Lagers consisted in inflicting apparently aimless physical and psychological suffering in order to demolish the human dignity and resilience of captives…