Unpunished Massacre in Italy: How Postwar Germany Let War Criminals Go Free
Prior to World War II, the Ardeatine Caves were mined for the volcanic material known as tuff for use in cement production. But by March 24, 1944, production had long since ceased. On that day, torches inside the cave's corridors and hollows provided makeshift lighting. Outside, in the afternoon sun, trucks were hauling prisoners to the site -- a total of 335 men, the youngest of whom was only 15. They were all Italian.
The German occupiers wanted to avenge an attack that communist partisans had carried out a day earlier on a German police unit in Rome's Via Rasella. The victims of this retaliatory act were chosen at random. Most of them had been imprisoned in a Gestapo jail in the Italian capital or were being detained by the Wehrmacht, Germany's Nazi-era military. None of them had been involved in the attack....
[E]ven if it continues to be publicly commemorated to this day, neither German nor Italian officials had any interest in bringing its perpetrators to justice. Indeed, the only person to be punished for it was Herbert Kappler, the SS officer in charge of German police and security services in Rome during the war. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1948.
While researching why officials have been so reluctant to punish these crimes in the political archives of Germany's Foreign Ministry, Berlin-based historian Felix Bohr stumbled upon a spectacular set of documents, which he published earlier this week on an Internet portal for historians.
The documents entail an exchange of letters begun in 1959 between officials at the German Embassy in Rome and their counterparts at the Foreign Ministry in Bonn, Germany's capital at the time. With unprecedented clarity, the documents testify to how German diplomats and Italian officials cooperated in shielding the soldiers in Kappler's charge from criminal prosecution. As embassy adviser Kurt von Tannstein put it, the goal was a "putting (the affair) to rest, as desired by both the German and Italian side."...
comments powered by Disqus
- In words spoken hours before 9-11, hear Bill Clinton say why he could have, but didn’t, kill bin Laden
- Shipwreck Found Under World Trade Center Traced Back To Colonial Era Philadelphia
- Bob Dallek in the NYT gives a rave review of John Dean's history of Watergate cover-up
- Ex-President George W. Bush Authors Book About His Father
- Tears, and Anger, as Militants Destroy Iraq City’s Relics
- Why Benny Morris is both right and wrong
- Professor Ilan Pappé: Israel Has Chosen to be a 'Racist Apartheid State'
- History Professor: Convicted Cop Killer Mumia Should Be Celebrated Like Martin Luther King Jr. in Schools
- Robert Drew, Cinema Verite Documentarian, Dies at 90
- Rick Perlstein: “Ronald Reagan absolved America almost in a priestly role not to have to contend with sin. The consequences are all around us today”