A leading historian of the Resistance in Italy during the Second World War, Roberto Battaglia, described the actions of German forces after the Allied landings in southern Italy as ‘an aggressive retreat’.
There’is no zone of Tuscany along the important lines of communication where Nazi fury doesn't rage, rising in intensity as they move further north
Roberto Battaglia, Storia della Resistenza, Einaudi, Torino 1953
The justification for the violence and the reprisals against civilians was based on the perception that the partisan war was illegitimate and immoral, even a war crime against a regular army (based on one particular reading of the Hague Conventions). In addition, given the continuous military pressure on the soldiers - there is a long list of other factors leading to hostility such as the resentment against the italian “traitors”; the strong anti-communist ideologiy (the partisan is always presented as a “red”) and a raciast perception.......which was a step towards a dehumanization of the enemy which makes it easier to cross the threshold which inormally inhibits violent actions against those who are defenceless. The strongly negative perception of the partisan war and the anbiguous role of the civilians in it, was the basis used for legitimising the increased violence by the German military against civilians.
Pezzino, Baldissara, Il massacro. La guerra ai civili a Monte Sole, 2009
The conviction that one belonged to a superior race, not only spread among the high authorities of the National Socialist state, it also influenced military behaviour towards the italian people in a highly negative way and provoked irrational racism on a daily base. A scarcely defined racism, but still widespread, deeply rooted and easy to activate.Such feelings were exacerbated by hatred rooted in concrete situations. (..) After Italy left the war, this ideological disposiition contributed to a reduction in moral scruples about the practice of torture and even the massacre of talians in their thousands. In that period the relationship between italians and Germans resembled a relationship between a Herrenvolk (or master race) and a Sklavenvolk (or slave nation). This racism is......the key to understanding and explaining why the Wehrmacht, SS and Police reacted with disproportionate reprisals and more precisely with massacres of the Italian resistance.However, racist ideology is not the only factor.(..)
Gerhard Schreiber, Deutsche Krigsverbrechen in Italien, 1966, Muenchen
“The widespread forms of violence that were part of the conduct of the occupying troops must sometimes be considered as independent from rather than caused by the specific behaviour of the local population”
Enzo Collotti in Tristano Matta (a cura di), Un percorso della memoria : guida ai luoghi della violenza nazista e fascista in Italia, Istituto regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione, Milano, 1996