The Context

1944-45 “aggressive retreat” by German forces along the Gothic line

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The puppet state, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI) also popularly known as the Salò Republic, led by Mussolini, played an active role in helping German occupying troops to fight every form of resistance which was developing in northern Italy. Along the Gothic Line German forces conducted a series of counter-insurgency operations, many of which were massacres of civilians carried out during so-called “cleaning operations”.

 

These massacres were not isolated reprisals. They were the result of a planned strategy to eradicate any kind of resistance, passive or active, in the occupied territories. No distinction was made between civilians and partisans. For this particular strategy, special orders were issued: the so called “Kesselring orders” of June-July 1944.

 

These included an ‘impunity clause’ whereby German soldiers would not be punished for any excesses perpetrated during counter-insurgency operations against partisans and those civilians that the occupying forces believed were sheltering partisans.