New Study: Number of Casualties in Nazi Massacres in Italy Nearly Double as Previously Believed

During WWII, 22,000, including Italian Jews, were killed by the Nazis and their fascist allies, research funded by German government says.

Alvise Armellini
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Italian dictator and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on horseback salutes a review of fascists, Italy, October 1927.
Italian dictator and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on horseback salutes a review of fascists, Italy, October 1927.Credit: AP
Alvise Armellini

DPA - Nazi troops occupying Italy and their Fascist allies executed about 22,000 people, significantly more than previously thought, during World War II, a new historical study financed by the German government was due to reveal.

The Atlas of Nazi and Fascist Massacres in Italy was set to be presented on Wednesday at the Italian Foreign Ministry in a conference attended by the German ambassador to Italy as well as Italian historians involved in the research.

Isabella Insolvibile, one of the authors, told DPA the study of 5,300 incidents significantly raised the death toll. "Until now we had assumed that the victims were 10,000-15,000, but we have counted more than 22,000," she said.

Naples-based Insolvibile said she researched executions in her home region of Campania, where she documented 1,585 murders, all taking place between September and December 1943. "It is quite a considerable figure," she noted.

The total number of those executed includes both single executions and mass killings of Jews, enemy combatants killed after being captured and other civilians. Italian civilians, which make up the largest part of the death toll, were often targeted in retaliation for partisan resistance attacks on Nazi troops.

Civilian deaths and other brutalities attributable to anti-Nazi forces were not examined, as this highly sensitive topic was outside the remit of the research, Insolvibile said.

She explained that the study lists the names of the dead, barring a small minority of nameless victims, and, where possible, of executioners. The perpetrators of "most" recorded executions remain unknown, the historian said.

The material, complete with photographs and geographical locations, will be published online on Thursday, Italian Partisans Association ANPI, one of the organizations involved in the project, said in a statement.

The research was commissioned by the Italian and German governments in 2013, following tensions over a German court's refusal to prosecute eight former Nazis convicted in absentia in Italy for the 1944 killing of 560 civilians in the Tuscan town of Sant'Anna di Stazzema.

Italy entered World War II as an ally of Nazi Germany, but switched sides after the deposition of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. This was followed by bitter fighting between advancing Allied troops and partisans and retreating German forces, backed by dogged Fascists.

In an article for an ANPI magazine in March, Insolvibile said research could help overcome a painful past, but Germany's refusal to go after Nazi criminals tried in Italy "was a deep wound that no investment in research or remembrance could mend autonomously."

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