Why was it an issue?

In 1949 the Geneva Conventions were amended to provide additional protection for civilians in times of war.

Because of what happened to civilians in many countries during World War II, the Geneva Conventions were re-drafted to take into account many of the war crimes that had been perpetrated. An entirely new section (Part IV) on the “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” was added.


Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 reads:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

So, were the people of Monte Sole, Sant’Anna di Stazzema, and the other towns and villages laid waste by the Nazis during their retreat through Italy in 1943-44 the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined by the existing laws of war at that time?