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March 18, 2014

World War II reprisals against partisan attacks are now considered war crimes

Filed under: World War II — furtherglory @ 10:15 am

There were two famous reprisals, perpetrated by the Germans during World War II: the reprisal at Oradour-sur-Glane in France, and the reprisal against Italian partisans at the Ardeatine Caves in Italy.

Reprisals were legal during World War II, although a reprisal is no longer legal in today’s world.  Partisans were illegal combatants during World War II.  The Germans used legal reprisals, during World War II, as an effective way to stop the illegal fighting by partisans.

Now all that has changed; the legal reprisals, which were done by the Germans in World War II, are now called “war crimes.”  Anyone who was present during a legal reprisal can now be put on trial in a German court, as a war criminal. One of these war criminals was Erich Priebke, who was present during the legal reprisal at the Ardeatine Caves.

This quote is from the website of Pamela L. Fiedler, which you can read at

Does society allow the lunacy of yesterday to become today’s exception and tomorrow’s routine? In my previous blog “The Eyes of Truth” I shared a link to an article written by Klaus Wiegrefe titled: “How Postwar Germany Let War Criminals Go Free.”   It outlines the spring of 1944 and the Ardeatine Caves near Rome, Italy. Taken five at a time, 335 men were herded into these caves by Nazi troops. An SS Officer by the name of Erich Priebke was the man who crossed the names off the list, before the innocent victims were forced to kneel prior to being shot. As the bodies piled up, the next group had to climb over. When the act of genocide was complete, the SS blew up the caves.

What a difference 70 years makes!  A reprisal is now called an “act of genocide.”

Here is how Wikipedia describes this same reprisal:

On 23 March 1944, a column of the German 11th Company, 3rd Battalion, S.S. Police Regiment ‘Bozen’, was attacked by an ambush of Partisans while marching and singing. The attack was carried out by 16 partisans of the Communist-dominated resistance organisation Gruppo d’Azione Patriottica (“Patriotic Action Group”) or GAP. An improvised explosive device was prepared consisting of 12 kilograms of TNT packed in a steel case. This was inserted into a bag containing an additional six kilograms of TNT and TNT filled iron tubing. Although reported as having been thrown from a building, the bomb had actually been hidden in a rubbish cart, pushed into position by a Partisan disguised as a street cleaner, while others acted as lookouts. The fuse was lit when the police were forty seconds from the bomb. The blast caused the immediate deaths of 28 SS policemen and at least two civilian bystanders, one of whom, Piero Zuccheretti, was an eleven-year old boy. More would die over the next few days.

All sixteen Partisans — some of whom fired on the German column — succeeded in melting away into the crowd unscathed.[5].

In today’s world, the Partisans who fought illegally, blowing up German soldiers who were marching, are heroes. The Germans, who fought legally, on the battlefield, are the bad guys.


  1. Killing a whole group of people mercilessly ( many of whom were not involved in military attacks) is called a war crime. Partisans were trying to escape and save others from genocide. The Nazis illegally invaded land. The Partisans were trying to liberate their homes. How is that in any way illegal? Go join some neo Nazi group if you want reciprocation of your dumb views.

    Comment by Frankie — December 26, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

    • In my blog post, I put a link on the word “reprisal.” Did you neglect to click on the link to learn the meaning of the word reprisal? Reprisals were legal at one time, but that has now changed. You missed the whole point of my blog post.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 27, 2015 @ 7:46 am

    • Here is the meaning of the word reciprocate:

      I don’t believe that I could get reciprocation of my dumb views by joining a neo-Nazi group, but I will give it a try. Can you recommend a suitable neo-Nazi group for me to join?

      Thanks for your advice.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 27, 2015 @ 8:00 am

  2. Reprisals against unconnected civilians was NOT made legal under the Geneva Conventions. It was assumed by the civilized nations creating the Convention that the murder of civilians unconnected with military operations would be spared in future wars. The fact that the Wehrmacht relied so heavily on horrific ratios of 1:10 or 1:100 executions of local civilians for the actions of partisans is an established face of the war in the former Yugoslavia, Poland, Italy and USSR. While Western Europe did not experience as much violence, I am surprised you limit yourself to only France. The German actions in Belgium and Netherlands, especially during 1944-45 are well attested. In one town, Putten, 600 civilians were killed. It shocked Dutch opinion. Similar actions were almost happenstance normal in occupied Serbia and the East.

    I’m truly surprised you are defending this. Few Americans or British are proud of the firebombing raids; they are controversial. Why you would spend time justifying massacre of civilians by emphasizing the ‘singing’ of an occupation army is beyond me. If you hate the partisans, hate the partisans. They were combatants and fully committed themselves to war and its inherent dangers. Random civilian farmers who had the ill-luck of being born non-German did not deserve death. I am very glad reprisals are no longer allowed under the Geneva Convention.

    Comment by Dave — October 23, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  3. In the once famous Free Fire Zones in Vietnam meant you could take reprisals against any civilians you encountered.

    Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division, arrived in South Vietnam in December 1967. Though their first three months in Vietnam passed without any direct enemy contact, by mid-March the company had suffered 28 casualties involving mines or booby-traps, which caused numerous body injuries and five deaths…On the eve of the attack, at the Charlie Company briefing, Captain Ernest Medina told his men that nearly all the civilian residents of the hamlets in Sơn Mỹ village would have left for the market by 7 a.m., and any who remained would be NLF or NLF sympathizers.[21] He was asked whether the order included the killing of women and children. Those present later gave different accounts of Medina’s response. Some, including platoon leaders, testified that the orders as they understood them were to kill all guerrilla and North Vietnamese combatants and “suspects” (including women and children, as well as all animals), to burn the village, and pollute the wells.[22] He was also quoted as saying, “They’re all V.C., now go and get them”, and was heard to reply to the question “Who is my enemy?” by saying, “Anybody that was running from us, hiding from us, or appeared to be the enemy. If a man was running, shoot him, sometimes even if a woman with a rifle was running, shoot her.”[23]:310 At Calley’s trial one defense witness testified that he remembered Medina instructing to destroy everything in the village that was “walking, crawling or growing”.[24]

    Comment by fnn — March 19, 2014 @ 8:32 am

  4. While there are problems with both ends of the spectrum, moral equivalence is intellectual bankruptcy. For one thing the Germans were occupying a part of Italy (yes I know you will argue there were some “Ethnic Germans” so in your book it was ok) That said you had an occupying force, and SS whose main charge (when they weren’t rounding up Jews) was to keep the local population in check. Simply put the Germans war a uniform and were thus targets of the enemy. On the other hand the “reprisal” was to find 10 innocent individuals for every SS Nazi Officer Killed. Make no mistake this was a message to partisans in the area that any act of uprising would be met with swift and disproportionate justice. They rounded up innocents, prisoners and random people who the Nazi’s thought looked suspicious, and since they didn’t have enough people, they finished off the quota with some Jews who were marked for death anyway.

    I thought your readers should read the rest of the Wikipedia description;


    Preparations for the reprisal

    German troops and Italian collaborators round-up of civilians in front of the Palazzo Barberini, Rome in March 1944.

    The German police attaché and commander of the Security Police in Rome, SS Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler was on the scene soon afterwards to supervise the investigation. That evening he was summoned to the headquarters of the German Armed Forces Commandant in Rome, Luftwaffe Generalmajor Kurt Mälzer, who had decided that the killings called for reprisals.

    They agreed that the execution of ten Italians for each German policeman killed was a suitable ratio. Mälzer, who also proposed burning down part of Rome, passed this on to General Eberhard von Mackensen, the commander of the Fourteenth Army, whose jurisdiction included Rome. General Mackensen endorsed the recommendation. In turn, the staff of the German Commander-in-Chief South (Oberbefehlshaber Süd), passed this on to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). That night, Adolf Hitler authorized the reprisal, stipulating that it be carried out within 24 hours.[6] Commander-in-Chief South Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, considered this an order, one he interpreted as calling for the execution of Italians who had been previously sentenced to death. He was reassured by Kappler that sufficient prisoners were available.[7]

    However, Kappler had only four prisoners sentenced to death in his Hausgefängnis (private prison) at SS headquarters in the German Embassy on 145 Via Tasso; plus 17 serving long sentences; 167 deemed “worthy of death”; and two to four civilians who had been rounded up in the Via Rasella area on suspicion of involvement in the Partisan attack. Kappler’s superior, SS Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei Dr. Wilhelm Harster, suggested making up the numbers from the 57 Jews also in Nazi custody. By noon on March 24, Kappler had a list of 271 victims, each with his crime listed against his name, except for the Jews, simply listed as “Jew”. But by this time the death toll of the Via Rasella bombing had risen to 32. (One more would die while the reprisal was under way; the death toll eventually reaching 42.) To make up the numbers, Questore Pietro Caruso chief of the Fascist police in Rome, offered some Italians from his Regina Coeli prison, one of whom, Maurizio Giglio, had been his own Lieutenant, before being unmasked as a double agent working for the American OSS in charge of radio communications with the Fifth Army.[8] Because of the time limit that Hitler had imposed, Mälzer and Kappler agreed that the victims would have to be shot in the back of the head at close range rather than by conventional firing squad.[9]


    The massacre was perpetrated without prior public notice in what was then a little-frequented rural suburb of the city, inside the tunnels of the disused quarries of pozzolana, near the Via Ardeatina. By mistake,[10] a total of 335 Italian prisoners were taken, five in excess of the 330 called for. On March 24, led by SS officers Erich Priebke and Karl Hass, they were transported to the Ardeatine caves in truckloads and then, in groups of five, put to death inside the caves.

    Because the killing squad mostly consisted of officers who had never killed before, Kappler had ordered several cases of cognac delivered to the caves to calm their nerves. The officers were ordered to lead the doomed prisoners into the caves with their hands tied behind their backs and then have them kneel down so that the soldiers could place a bullet directly into the cerebellum, ensuring that no more than one bullet would be needed per prisoner.

    Many were forced to kneel down over the bodies of those who had been killed before them because the cave had become filled with dead bodies. During the killings, the existence of the five extra prisoners was discovered, and it was decided to kill them anyway, in order to prevent news of the location of the place of execution from becoming known.[10] Some of the German officers involved in the massacre were horrified by the slaughter. One, who refused to shoot, was personally dragged to the execution site by Erich Priebke, who put his arm around the officer’s waist and forced him to kill his victim.

    Another, named Amon, testified at the trial of Kappler which was held in Italy in 1948;[11] saying that once he entered the cave and saw the piles of dead bodies, he fainted and was replaced by a comrade who pushed him aside and shot another victim.

    The massacre took most of the day and soon degenerated into a drunken shambles. Some of the victims’ heads were blown off by the shots; others were only wounded and may have survived until the explosions intended to seal the caves after the massacre was completed: one youth and his father were found in each other’s arms in a corner of the cave galleries which had not been filled with the debris under which most victims had been buried. Some crawled into corners to die.

    The bodies of the victims were placed in piles, typically about a meter in height, and then buried under tons of rock debris when German military engineers set explosives to seal the caves and hide the atrocity. They remained summarily buried and abandoned for over a year inside the caves. Families of the victims were notified with excruciating slowness by individual letter, if at all, a strategy of coverup and concealment – “Night and Fog” – designed to confuse, grieve, and intimidate surviving relatives, according to Robert Katz.[12] Only after the Italian capital was liberated by the Allies on June 4, 1944, were the bodies finally found, exhumed, and at last given proper burial. The scale and even the occurrence of this retaliation was unprecedented on Italian soil.


    Misconceptions about the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre abound. Foremost among these is the notion that the Partisans responsible for the Via Rasella attack were ordered to come forward and turn themselves in to the SS and wilfully declined to do so.[13] This stems from a fallacious belief (still cultivated by neo-fascist claims, despite their refutation by Alessandro Portelli) that the Nazis warned the Roman populace that a retaliation was imminent. The concept of “ten Italians for one German” is also frequently cited in making this argument, implying that the Partisans could or should have realized beforehand that their attack would cost 330 innocent Italians their lives. In fact, in the hours following the bombing, there were arguments among the Nazi leadership in Rome as well as between Hitler and his commanders as to whether 10, 30, or 50 Italians should be killed for every dead German, not to mention whether all or part of the city of Rome should also be burned.

    As noted above, however, the first public news of both the bombing and the reprisal came at noon on the day after the attack, when the Germans issued an announcement, blaming “Badoglio-Communists” for the “crime” and spelling out for the first time the terms of the reprisal, with the chilling words at the end: “The order has already been carried out”.

    Although it is sometimes claimed that the reprisal victims were predominantly Jewish, only 75 of the 335 victims selected for death in the caves were Jewish, this having been a criterion for selection (because Jews were known to be marked for death anyway).[14] In fact, the victims comprised, in Robert Katz’s words, “rich, and poor, doctors and lawyers, workers and shopkeepers, artists and artisans, teachers and students, men and teenaged boys from every walk of life, and even a man of God to walk among them”.[15] The main concern of the SS had been speedy fulfillment of the quota. Some were residents of Via Rasella who were home at the time of the Partisan attack; others had been arrested and tortured for suspected Resistance and other anti-Fascist activities, while still others had been casually picked up on the streets or arrested at their homes on the basis of tips from fascist informants. The youngest of them was 15 years old.[16]

    Political prisoners included members of the GAP, the PA, and the Monarchist Clandestine Military Front of the Resistance (FMRC), which included many policemen. Members of the Bandiera Rossa (“Red Flag”) a dissident communist Resistance group, constituted the largest group. One political prisoner, Padre Pietro Pappagallo, was one of the models for the character of Padre Pietro in Roberto Rossellini’s pioneering neo-realist film Rome, Open City, filmed in 1944. Another, perhaps the most celebrated, was the aristocratic Colonel Giuseppe Montezemolo (age 44), who, after the flight of the King and Badoglio, had elected to stay and go underground in Rome, disguised in mufti as a professor or Ingegnere (engineer), to organize and lead the FMRC, representing the Badoglio Government, with which he had been in continual radio contact up until his arrest on January 25, 1944.[17]

    Colonel Giuseppe Montezemolo’s incredible courage under torture that included having his nails and teeth pulled out, became legendary. Another was General Simone Simoni, a war hero aged 64, who had endured torture with a blowtorch. The old soldier had replied to his captors, “My only regret is that I was not younger because there was so much more I could have done [for my country]”. Neither man ever talked or in any way betrayed their network.[18]

    Comment by Foodforthought — March 18, 2014 @ 11:43 am

    • What happened to the partisans who attacked the Germans, did they survive?

      Did they ever feel sorry for causing the reprisal, even when they knew that there would be one?

      Comment by DB — March 18, 2014 @ 11:56 am

      • They attacked the Germans on Italian Soil; that’s the point – the Germans had no business being in Italy!

        Comment by Foodforthought — March 18, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

        • Yeah right, jews have no right being in other people’ countries, but they are!

          Comment by DB — March 18, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

          • This was posted a year ago so you’re probably in jail or something now but I bet you don’t support Israel either. Jewish people would pretty much be in Israel now if anti Semites like you hadn’t created the diaspora. Jewish people can be wherever they want they are much more valuable to society than scum like you.

            Comment by Frankie — December 26, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

        • Partisans were illegal, because they were not fighting in uniform on the battlefield. Wars are legally fought against enemy soldiers on a battlefield.

          The Germans DID have business in Italy. This quote is from Wikipedia:

          Begin Quote:
          Italy quickly became a satellite of Nazi Germany, until in 1943 dictator Benito Mussolini was ousted and arrested by order of King Victor Emmanuel III, originating a long civil war. The northern half of the country was occupied by Germans and made a collaborationist puppet state (with more than 600,000 soldiers), while the south was governed by monarchist and liberal forces, which fought for the Allied cause in the Italian Co-Belligerent Army (at its height numbering more than 50,000 men), helped by circa 350,000[1] partisans of disparate political ideologies that operated all over occupied Italy.
          End Quote

          When the Italians ceased to be an ally of Germany, the Germans had a right to enter the country to fight against the Italians, who were now their enemy. BTW, there were Jews in Italy who were partisans, including Primo Levi, who was arrested as a partisan.

          Comment by furtherglory — March 18, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

        • Foodfor…wrote: “They attacked the Germans on Italian Soil; that’s the point – the Germans had no business being in Italy!”

          The Champion of historical distortion on the road again. 😉

          Had the Americans and British any right to be in Italy, Morocco, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Greece, Austria Germany, etc? Yes, they had. Because they were Jewry’s armies. The Chosenites’ Golems have all rights, don’t they?

          Comment by hermie — March 20, 2014 @ 2:33 am

    • Allied Reprisals against Germans: Food for thought
      German newspapers rarely carry articles about reprisals threatened or implemented by the western Allies at or after the end of the war. However, the Stuttgarter Zeitung, for example, reported that the French had threatened reprisal executions at a ratio of 1:25 even in the event that shots would be taken at their soldiers at all, regardless of the actual outcome. On April 4, 1992, the Paderborner Zeitung reported an incident where the Americans had taken harsh revenge for the death of their General Maurice Rose, who had been shot in regular combat: 110 German men not involved in the event were killed. Probably there are a great many more such examples, where harsh reprisals or unlawful acts of revenge were inflicted on the German population. We know very little today about conditions prevailing from 1945 to 1947, especially in West Germany, since these actions on the part of the victors were never prosecuted. The Germans were forbidden to prosecute because of a law that is still in effect today, and the victors, naturally enough, had no particular interest in such prosecution. The fact that East and Central Germany saw some dreadful excesses is somewhat more fully documented, on the other hand, since this was in the interests of the anti-Communist western powers.

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 18, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

      • Thanks for giving us this information. I did not know this, but I suspected that there might have been incidents like this.

        Comment by furtherglory — March 19, 2014 @ 6:30 am

      • In early 1945, when the Nazis dared report some of the Allied atrocities in Germany, they were said to spur “hate for the Allies with false atrocity stories” in a “new hate campaign”, the biggest liars on earth said. Hilarious…

        Comment by hermie — March 20, 2014 @ 2:40 am

        • hermie
          The Death of General Rose and your evil SS-Nazis
          On 30 March 1945 the 507th Heavy Tank Breitkeil (wide front) Königtssiger Panzer Battalion, was attached to the SS-Regiment Holzer defending Hamborn and Paderborn with 15 of the King Tiger tanks of the 3rd Kompanie setting road blocks on both sides of the road in the west near Kuhlenberg. The Kompanie Kommander, Hauptman Wolfgang Koltermann, with five tanks of the 3rd Zug (platoon) was hidden in the woods in the high ground on the north side of the road defending the route to Kirchborchen and Hamborn Schloss. The 1st and 2nd Zugs (Platoon) with five tanks each were well hidden on the south side of the road blocking off the approach to Borchen.

          The 507th Headquarters Kompanie tank commanded by Wolf-Dietrich “Dieter” Jaehn was blocking the east end of the road to Dorenhagen and Eggeringhausen. The 2nd Kompanie, commanded by Hauptman Maximillian Wirsching was east at Busch and also hidden in the woods. It was comprised of nine King Tigers and 3 Feuerschutz Jagdpanthers (Tank Destroyers) blocking the road to Eggeringhausen. These three Kompanies set the ambush that totally destroyed the ill-fated assault on Hamborn by the US 3rd Armored Division’s Task Force Welborn; which also resulted in the death of its Division Commander Major General Maurice Rose.

          The Tiger 88 main gun was deadly at 1,000 meters. The American column with “Big Six” (General Rose’s code name) were less than 700-800 meters away and blindly approaching without sending out any reconnaissance patrols. They had no knowledge of their pending disaster about to occur. Koltermann could hardly believe his good fortune.
          The Germans (unsubstantiated) claim is that 100 young Waffen-SS prisoners were shot and killed by the US 3rd Armored Division the next day in retaliation for General Rose’s death. Quoted from “Das Kriegsende 1945 im ehemaligen Hochstift Paderborn” Page 19 by Waldemar Becker.
 Rose’s burial in Germany

          Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 20, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

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