What is the legacy?

The trial at La Spezia: a symbolic act?

Historians on the Monte Sole trials...



The judicial history of the massacre at Monte Sole is emblematic from many points of view and represents three political phases.


The first one, the British trials in the 1940s where the main judicial focus is on identifying the responsibilities of the highest ranks and the criminal nature of the war waged by the Third Reich. Through this condemnation of the nazi regime and its conduct of the war, the victors of the war were automatically politically and morally legitimated. This focus left unsolved the problems of how it was possibile to concretely implement this policy of mass murder. Were the orders from above sufficient to explain why lower ranks were able to ferociously kill nearly 800 women and children in a few days?


The second phase, the italian trials of the 1940s-50s, could have answered this question by investigating how this intrinsically criminal military plan was practically implemented. But the focus was only on the criminal responsibility of one individual man, implementing his own criminal plan. The Reder trial possibly demonstrated the contradictions and inadequacy of the  military law. Condemning just one man, not as a criminal of war but as a criminal in war, by making him a symbol of the Nazi evil was the other face of the coin of the injustice represented by the abdication from any attempt to search for all the others responsible for war cdrimes, due mainly to the changes in the political agenda of the western powers.


The third phase had to wait a long time for a change in the political situation. In this phase the judicial focus was on those responsible for the implementation of the policy; those who contributed materially and morally to make this massacre possible. After the “architects” and the “bureacrats”, the “artisans” of the war crimes were called to answer for their actions. After the events of 1989, the fall of the wall in Berlin and the end of the Cold War,  it was finally possible to restore some justice. But the act was a purely symbolic one, even if judicially and morally relevant.


Pezzino, Baldissara, Il Massacro. Guerra ai civili a Monte Sole, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2009