What is the legacy?

“L’armadio della vergogna” – “The Cabinet of Shame”

In 1956 the Italian Christian Democrat Government decided to make no further attempt to pursue any German officers or soldiers who might have been responsible for war crimes on Italian soil. Here we have a letter from The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gaetano Martino, to the Minister of Defence, Paulo Taviani, stating this position. Taviani completely agreed with Martino's point of view. This letter was the beginning of the process of removing any evidence of Nazi war crimes in Italy that had not yet been pursued in the Italian courts.

 

Subsequently, the Military General Attorney Enrico Santacroce filed away a huge mass of detailed documents concerning all the investigations of Nazi crimes in Italy that had been carried out  from 1945 to 1956. They were filed away in what journalists later called  “l’armadio della vergogna” – “the cabinet of shame”.

 

I am convinced that the ones who committed such barbarian acts don't deserve any clemency. Anyway, as Minister responsible for our foreign policy, I cannot hide form the fact that a request for extradition presented to the Bonn government 13 years after the painful events  would create an unfavourable impression amongst German public opinion. Even more so when, for the most part, the charged senior military officers have already been prosecuted and sentenced by the allied courts soon after the war. I don't need to underline to you, who closely follows developments in Atlantic and European cooperation, what kinds of questions the Bonn government could raise about our initiative. This initiative would actually feed the polemics about the conduct of German soldiers, right at the moment when the German government is making a maximum effort to convince its public opinion and to overcome any resistance to the reconstruction of its Military Forces  which Nato is impatiently waiting for.’

 

Source: Letter of the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gaetano Martino to the Minister of Defence, Paulo Taviani, 10th October 1956, Rome. Taken from Franco Giustolisi, Gli scheletri nell'armadio, in Micromega, n°1/2000