skip to content

[This content is not available in "Englisch" yet] Die Massaker im besetzten Italien (1943–45) in der Erinnerung der Täter

Up to 70,000 Italians fell victim to the German occupation of Italy during the Second World War - more than 10,000 were killed in massacres and mass executions by German troops. The project "The massacres in occupied Italy (1943-45) in the memory of the perpetrators" deals with this dark chapter of German-Italian history and in particular names those military personnel, units and units that were particularly responsible for acts of violence against the Italian civilian population.

The aim of the project is to create scientifically sound, multimedia work and study materials on Nazi crimes in Italy. The focus is on the question of the perpetrators: What mentalities and psychological dispositions were formative? What biographical and social backgrounds did they have? What scope for decision-making and action did they have? What patterns of legitimization emerge?  The project sees itself as a contribution to multidirectional clarification: in Italy, the aim is to convey a differentiated and contemporary view of the perpetrators without generalizations and gross simplifications. In Germany and internationally, the project aims to help break the social silence surrounding the massacres committed between 1943 and 1945.

The project has been running since August 2019 and is funded by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the German-Italian Future Fund. It is based at the Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Cologne. The academic director of the project is the historian Dr. Carlo Gentile. The current second phase of the project "The Massacres in Occupied Italy (1943-1945)" will run from September 2022 to December 2023. The first phase was scheduled to run from August 2019 to December 2021.


The background to the project: Responsibility to remember

Both in Italy and in Germany, there is a great need for a scientifically sound examination of the Nazi perpetrators and their deeds. For decades after the end of the war, it was almost impossible for those affected in Italy to obtain reliable information from Germany about those responsible for the massacres. Among other things, this led to historically incorrect assessments in Italy. At the same time, the generation of war participants in Germany cultivated the myth of the Wehrmacht's "clean" war in Italy.

The memory of Nazi crimes is characterized by asymmetry: While much is known about the victims and the circumstances of their murder, the German perpetrators were long absent from public discourse. This makes it difficult for the victims' descendants to come to terms with the losses they suffered. This lack of remembrance policy gives rise to an obligation to provide information to the descendants of the victims - Germany has a responsibility to remember these victims to the communities, places and families affected.

The project aims to overcome the existing asymmetry by collecting information on the perpetrators and making it transparent. It thus makes an important contribution to promoting dialog and understanding between the two countries.

The external impact: addressing the target groups

Since the start, the project team has presented the topic to the public in a variety of ways. In addition to organizing their own events, team members have contributed to numerous seminars and lecture series. An international seminar ("War, violence and the image of soldiers, between private memories and public representation") took place at the University of Cologne in February 2020. The seminar "Tra racconti e silenzi di chi c'era, Le nuove generazioni davanti alle responsabilità dei Täter e i traumi delle vittime" was held online due to coronavirus, supplemented by on-site activities in Marzabotto. The first project results were presented there at commemorative events in 2021 in the presence of representatives of the victims' association. Further events as part of the commemorative events in 2020 and 2021 were scientifically accompanied or co-organized.

The Fondazione Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole is developing educational and training courses aimed at young people and teachers on the basis of project materials. The first Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole teacher training seminar took place in February and March 2022, with a second planned for 2023. In September of the same year, an international student exchange will take place at the Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole, involving the University of Cologne and the Università di Bologna.

The theater group Archivio Zeta in Bologna uses the first-person documents collected in the project to create podcasts aimed at an Italian audience.



    Dr. Carlo Gentile
    Udo Gümpel

Research assistants:

    Dr. Elena Pirazzoli
    Antonia Frinken, M.A.

Student assistants:

    Ann Völker
    Leonard Ludwig

Former employees:

    Dr. Francesco Corniani (research assistant)
    Dr. Matteo Cacco (research assistant)
    Aiko Hillen (research assistant)

Previous events:

a) International workshops and seminars:

War, Violence and the Image of Soldiers: Between Private Memories and Public Representation on February 27, 2020 at the Martin Buber Institute in Cologne.

Participation of Prof. Dr. Ben Shepherd (Glasgow Caledonia University), Prof. Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi (Fondazione Museo della Shoah/Universitá di Padova), Toni Rovatti (Universitá di Bologna) Lutz Klinkhammer (German Historical Institute Rome).

The conference report on the workshop was published on on 30.06.2020.


"Tra racconti e silenzi die chi c'era, Le nuove generazioni davanti alla responsibilitá dei Täter e i traumi delle vittime" on October 7, 14, 21 and 28, 2020, online event in collaboration with the Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole.

Participation of Prof. Giovanni Contini Bonacossi, Dr. Carlo Gentile (University of Cologne), Dr. Hans Christian Jasch (House of the Wannsee Conference), Gian Luca Luccarini (Association of Victims of the Nationalist-Fascist Massacres of Grizzana Marzabotto Monzuno 1944), Leonard Ludwig (University of Cologne), Dr. Elena Monicelli (Scuola di Pace di Monte Sole), Dr. Dunja Nanut (ANED Trieste), Dr. Elena Pirazzoli, Dr. Toni Rovatti (Universitá di Bologna).


To top of page