Why was it an issue?

How did senior German officers justify their actions in north Italy in 1944? 2

This extract comes from a voluntary statement (6th March 1946) by Heinrich von Vietinghoff, German commander of the 10th army corps that fought on the Gothic Line in Italy in 1944-45. He also briefly deputised for Kesselring as commander in chief. In the same statement he said that within the occupying German army the credibility of Italians was considered to be so poor that their martial courts would not base their judgements on the testimonies of Italians. Practically this meant that the courts would only have followed through on allegations laid by a German soldier against his comrades.

If there were frequent partisans' attacks in a district then special combing out operations were undertaken. After detailed reconnaissance, the suspected districts and inhabited places were surrounded without warning according to a preordained plan and a search for partisans was carried out. This often led to battles in places where the partisans defended themselves. Because of reduced forces available to us, we were forced to use heavy artillery, tanks etc. Thus it was impossible to avoid losses among the civil population. The population who were not aware of these circumstances, then talked of ‘reprisals against innocent civilians’. In fact that was absolutely not the case.”

This extract comes from a voluntary statement by General Frido von Senger und Etterlin (5th March 1946), who succeeded Lemelsen as commander of the 14th army corps. He was not a fanatical National Socialist. In fact he was reputed to be unpopular amongst the High Command and was known to have disapproved of the “cleaning operations” in north Italy.

If there were frequent partisans' attacks in a district then special combing out operations were undertaken. After detailed reconnaissance, the suspected districts and inhabited places were surrounded without warning according to a preordained plan and a search for partisans was carried out. This often led to battles in places where the partisans defended themselves. Because of reduced forces available to us, we were forced to use heavy artillery, tanks etc. Thus it was impossible to avoid losses among the civil population. The population who were not aware of these circumstances, then talked of ‘reprisals against innocent civilians’. In fact that was absolutely not the case.”