The Massacre of the Acqui Division, also known as the Cephalonia Massacre, was the mass execution of the men of the Italian 33rd Infantry Division Acqui by the Germans on the island of Cephalonia, Greece in September 1943, following the Italian armistice during the Second World War. About 5,000 soldiers were massacred and others drowned. A very different version of the events have been proposed by the Italian researcher Massimo Filippini, the son of an officer of the Acqui Division. Filippini has come to the conclusion that about 2,000 Italian soldiers were killed, in combat and by summary execution, by the Germans.
The Italians launched their invasion of Greece in October 1940, but they were pushed back into Albania by November, and the Germans had to come to their aid in April 1941. Following the decision of the Italian government to negotiate a surrender to the Allies in 1943, the German Army tried to disarm the Italians during Operation Achse. On 13 September the Italians of the 33rd Acqui Infantry Division resisted, and fought the Germans on the island of Cephalonia. By 22 September the last of the Italian resistance surrendered after running out of ammunition. A total of 1,315 Italians were killed in the battle, 5,155 were executed by 26 September, and 3,000 were drowned when the German ships taking the survivors to concentration camps were sunk by the Allies. It was one of the largest prisoner of war massacres of the war, along with the Katyn massacre, and it was one of many atrocities committed by the 1st Mountain Division (German: 1. Gebirgs Division).
|Massacre of the Acqui Division|
The island of Cephalonia
|Location||Cephalonia, Ionian Islands, Kingdom of Greece|
|Date||21–26 September 1943|
|Deaths||5,155 prisoners of war|
including Gen. Antonio Gandin.
|Perpetrators||German Army (Wehrmacht)|
1st Mountain Division
104th Jäger Division
Gen. Hubert Lanz
Maj. Harald von Hirschfeld
Since the fall of Greece in April–May 1941, the country had been divided in occupation zones, with the Italians getting the bulk of the mainland and most islands. The Acqui Division had been the Italian garrison of Cephalonia since May 1943, and consisted of 11,500 soldiers and 525 officers. It was composed of two infantry regiments (the 17th and the 317th), the 33rd artillery regiment, the 27th Blackshirt Legion, the 19th Blackshirt Battalion and support units. Furthermore, its 18th Regiment was detached to garrison duties in Corfu. Acqui also had naval coastal batteries, torpedo boats and two aircraft. From 18 June 1943, it was commanded by the 52-year-old General Antonio Gandin, a decorated veteran of the Russian Front where he earned the German Iron Cross.
The Germans decided to reinforce their presence throughout the Balkans, following Allied successes and the possibility that Italy might seek accommodation with the Allies. On 5–6 July Lt Colonel Johannes Barge arrived with 2,000 men of the 966th Fortress Grenadier Regiment, including Fortress-Battalions 810 and 909 and a battery of self-propelled guns and nine tanks.
After Italy's armistice with the Allies in September 1943, General Gandin found himself in a dilemma: one option was surrendering to the Germans – who were already prepared for the eventuality and had begun disarming Italian garrisons elsewhere – or trying to resist. Initially, Gandin requested instructions from his superiors and began negotiations with Barge.
On 8 September 1943, the day the armistice was made public, General Carlo Vecchiarelli, commander of the 170,000-strong Italian army occupying Greece, telegrammed Gandin his order, essentially a copy of General Ambrosio's promemoria 2 from Headquarters. Vecchiarelli's order instructed that if the Germans did not attack the Italians, the Italians should not attack the Germans. Ambrosio's order stated that the Italians should not "make common cause" with the Greek partisans or even the Allies, should they arrive in Cephalonia.
In the case of a German attack, Vecchiarelli's order was not very specific because it was based on General Pietro Badoglio's directive which stated that the Italians should respond with "maximum decision" to any threat from any side. The order implied that the Italians should defend themselves but did not explicitly state so. At 22:30 hours of the same day Gandin received an order directly from General Ambrosio to send most of his naval and merchant vessels to Brindisi immediately, as demanded by the terms of the armistice. Gandin complied, thus losing a possible means of escape.
To make matters even more complicated Badoglio had agreed, after the overthrow of Mussolini, to the unification of the two armies under German command, in order to appease the Germans. Therefore, technically, both Vecchiarelli and Gandin were under German command, even though Italy had implemented an armistice agreement with the Allies. That gave the Germans a sense of justification in treating any Italians disobeying their orders as mutineers or franc-tireurs, which, at that time, the laws of war considered unlawful combatants subject to execution on capture.
At 9:00 hours on 9 September, Barge met with Gandin and misled him by stating that he had received no orders from the German command. The two men liked each other and they had things in common as Gandin was pro-German and liked Goethe. Indeed, Gandin's pro-German attitude was the reason he had been sent by General Ambrosio to command the Acqui Division: fearing he might side with the Germans against the evolving plot to depose Mussolini, Ambrosio wanted Gandin out of Italy. Both men ended their meeting on good terms, agreeing to wait for orders and also that the situation should be resolved peacefully.
The two orders (1027/CS and 1029/CS) received by Gandin from the Italian Comando Supremo, ordering him to resist the German forces.
On 11 September, the Italian High Command sent two explicit instructions to Gandin, to the effect that "German troops have to be viewed as hostile" and that "disarmament attempts by German forces must be resisted with weapons". That same day Barge handed Gandin an ultimatum, demanding a decision given the following three options:
- Continue fighting on the German side
- Fight against the Germans
- Hand over arms peacefully
Gandin brought Barge's ultimatum to his senior officers and the seven chaplains of the Acqui for discussion. Six of the chaplains and all of his senior officers advised him to comply with the German demands while one of the chaplains suggested immediate surrender. However, Gandin could not agree to join the Germans because that would be against the King's orders as relayed by Badoglio. He also did not want to fight them because, as he said, "they had fought with us and for us, side by side". On the other hand, surrendering the weapons would violate the spirit of the armistice. Despite the orders from the Italian GHQ, Gandin chose to continue negotiating with Barge.
Gandin finally agreed to withdraw his soldiers from their strategic location on Mount Kardakata, the island's "nerve centre", in return for a German promise not to bring reinforcements from the Greek mainland and on 12 September, he informed Barge that he was prepared to surrender the Acqui's weapons, as Lt Colonel Barge reported to his superiors in the XXII Mountain Corps. However, Gandin was under pressure not to come to an agreement with the Germans from his junior officers who were threatening mutiny. The Acqui's detached regiment on Corfu, not commanded by Gandin, also informed him at around midnight 12–13 September, by radio communication, that they had rejected an agreement with the Germans. Gandin also heard from credible sources that soldiers who had surrendered were being deported and not repatriated.
On 13 September, a German convoy of five ships approached the island's capital, Argostoli. Italian artillery officers, on their own initiative, ordered the remaining batteries to open fire, sinking two German landing craft and killing five Germans.
- Join the Germans
- Surrender and be repatriated
- Resist the German forces
The response from the Italian troops was in favour of the third option by a large majority but there is no available information as to the exact size of the majority, and therefore on 14 September Gandin reneged on the agreement, refusing to surrender anything but the division's heavy artillery and telling the Germans to leave the island, demanding a reply by 9:00 the next day.
As the negotiations stalled, the Germans prepared to resolve the crisis by force and presented the Italians with an ultimatum which expired at 14:00 hours on 15 September.
On the morning of 15 September, the German Luftwaffe began bombarding the Italian positions with Stuka dive-bombers. On the ground, the Italians initially enjoyed superiority, and took about 400 Germans prisoner. On 17 September however, the Germans landed the "Battle Group Hirschfeld", composed of the III./98 and the 54th Mountain Battalions of the German Army's elite 1st Mountain Division, together with I./724 Battalion of the 104th Jäger Division, under the command of Major Harald von Hirschfeld. The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, in particular, had been involved in several atrocities against civilians in Epirus in the months preceding the Acqui massacre.
At the same time, the Germans started dropping propaganda leaflets calling upon the Italians to surrender. The leaflets stated:
"Italian comrades, soldiers and officers, why fight against the Germans? You have been betrayed by your leaders!... LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS!! THE ROAD BACK TO YOUR HOMELAND WILL BE OPENED UP FOR YOU BY YOUR GERMAN COMRADES".
Gandin repeatedly requested help from the Ministry of War in Brindisi, but he did not get any reply. He even went so far as sending a Red Cross emissary to the Ministry, but the mission broke down off the coast of Apulia and when it arrived three days later at the Italian High Command in Brindisi, it was already too late. In addition, 300 planes loyal to Badoglio were located at Lecce, near the southernmost point of Italy, well within range of Cephalonia, and were ready to intervene. But the Allies would not let them go because they feared they could have defected to the German side. Furthermore, two Italian torpedo boats, already on their way to Cephalonia, were ordered back to port by the Allies for the same reasons.
Despite help for the Italians from the local population, including the island's small ELAS partisan detachments, the Germans enjoyed complete air superiority and their troops had extensive combat experience, in contrast with the conscripts of Acqui, who were no match for the Germans. In addition, Gandin had withdrawn the Acqui from the elevated position on Mount Kardakata and that gave the Germans an additional strategic advantage. After several days of fighting, at 11:00 hours on 22 September, following Gandin's orders, the last Italians surrendered, having run out of ammunition and having lost 1,315 men killed. According to German sources, the losses were 300 Germans and 1,200 Italians. 15 Greek partisans were also killed fighting alongside the Acqui.
The massacre started on 21 September, and lasted for one week. After the Italian surrender, Hitler had issued an order allowing the Germans to summarily execute any Italian officer who resisted "for treason", and on 18 September, the German High Command issued an order stating that "because of the perfidious and treacherous behaviour [of the Italians] on Cephalonia, no prisoners are to be taken." The Gebirgsjäger soldiers began executing their Italian prisoners in groups of four to ten. The Germans first killed the surrendering Italians, where they stood, using machine-guns. When a group of Bavarian soldiers objected to this practice they were threatened with summary execution themselves. After this stage was over, the Germans marched the remaining soldiers to the San Teodoro town hall and had the prisoners executed by eight member detachments. General Gandin and 137 of his senior officers were summarily court-martialled on 24 September and executed, their bodies discarded at sea.
Romualdo Formato, one of Acqui's seven chaplains and one of the few survivors, wrote that during the massacre, the Italian officers started to cry, pray and sing. Many were shouting the names of their mothers, wives and children. According to Formato's account, three officers hugged and stated that they were comrades while alive and now in death they would go together to paradise, while others were digging through the grass as if trying to escape. In one place, Formato recalled, "the Germans went around loudly offering medical help to those wounded. When about 20 men crawled forward, a machine-gun salvo finished them off." Officers gave Formato their belongings to take with him and give to their families back in Italy. The Germans, however, confiscated the items and Formato could no longer account for the exact number of the officers killed.
The executions of the Italian officers were continuing when a German officer came and reprieved Italians who could prove they were from South Tyrol as that region had been annexed by Hitler as German province after 8 September. Seeing an opportunity, Formato begged the officer to stop the killings and save the few officers remaining. The German officer responded and told Formato that he would consult with his commanding officer. When the officer returned, after half an hour, he informed Formato that the killings of the officers would stop. The number of Italian surviving officers, including Formato, totaled 37. After the reprieve the Germans congratulated the remaining Italians and offered them cigarettes. The situation remained unstable, however. Following the reprieve, the Germans forced twenty Italian sailors to load the bodies of the dead officers on rafts and take them out to sea. The Germans then blew up the rafts with the Italian sailors on board.
Alfred Richter, an Austrian, and one of the participants in the massacre recounted how a soldier who sang arias for the Germans in the local taverns was forced to sing while his comrades were being executed. The singing soldier's fate remains unknown. Richter stated that he and his regiment comrades felt "a delirium of omnipotence" during the events. Most of the soldiers of the German regiment were Austrians.
According to Richter the Italian soldiers were killed after surrendering to the soldiers of the 98th Regiment. He described that the bodies were then thrown into heaps, all shot in the head. Soldiers of the 98th Regiment started removing the boots from the corpses for their own use. Richter mentioned that groups of Italians were taken into quarries and walled gardens near the village of Frangata and executed by machine gun fire. The killing lasted for two hours, during which time the sound of the shooting and the screams of the victims could be heard inside the homes of the village.
The bodies of the ca. 5,000 men who were executed were disposed of in a variety of ways. Bodies were cremated in massive wood pyres, which made the air of the island thick with the smell of burning flesh, or moved to ships where they were buried at sea. Others, according to Amos Pampaloni, one of the survivors, were executed in full sight of the Greek population in Argostoli harbour on 23 September 1943 and their bodies were left to rot where they fell, while in smaller streets corpses were decomposing and the stench was insufferable to the point that he could not remain there long enough to take a picture of the carnage. Bodies were thrown into the sea, with rocks tied around them. In addition, the Germans had refused to allow the Acqui soldiers to bury their dead. A chaplain set out to find bodies, discovering bones scattered all over.
The few soldiers who were saved were assisted by locals and the ELAS organisation. One of the survivors was taken heavily wounded to a Cephalonian lady's home by a taxi driver and survived the war to live in Lake Como. An additional three thousand of the survivors in German custody drowned, when the ships Sinfra, Mario Roselli and Ardena, transporting them to concentraion camps, were sunk by Allied air raids and sea mines in the Adriatic. These losses and similar ones from the Italian Dodecanese garrisons were also the result of German policy, as Hitler had instructed the local German commanders to forgo "all safety precautions" during the transport of prisoners, "regardless of losses".
The events in Cephalonia were repeated, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. In Corfu, the 8,000-strong Italian garrison comprised elements of three divisions, including the Acqui's 18th Regiment. On 24 September, the Germans landed a force on the island (characteristically codenamed "Operation Treason"), and by the next day they were able to induce the Italians to capitulate.
All 280 Italian officers on the island were executed during the next two days on the orders of General Lanz, in accordance with Hitler's directives. The bodies were loaded onto a ship and disposed of in the sea. Similar executions of officers also occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Kos, when the Italian commander and 90 of his officers were shot.
- Continue fighting on the German side
- Forced labour on the island
- Concentration camps in Germany
Most Italians opted for the second choice.
In January 1944, a chaplain's account reached Benito Mussolini after Aurelio Garobbio, a Swiss Fascist from the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino informed him about the events. Mussolini became incensed that the Germans would do such a thing, although he considered the Acqui division's officers, more so than its soldiers, as traitors. Nevertheless, in one of his exchanges with Garobbio, after Garobbio complained that the Germans showed no mercy, he said: "But our men defended themselves, you know. They hit several German landing craft sinking them. They fought how Italians know how to fight".
Major Harald von Hirschfeld was never tried for his role in the massacre: in December 1944, he became the Wehrmacht's youngest general officer, and was killed while fighting at the Dukla Pass in Poland in 1945. Only Hirschfeld’s superior commander, General Hubert Lanz, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment at the so-called "Southeast Case" of the Nuremberg Trials for the Cephalonia massacre, as well as the participation of his men in other atrocities in Greece like the massacre of Kommeno on 16 August 1943. He was released in 1951 and died in 1982. Lt Colonel Barge was not on the island when the massacre was taking place. He was subsequently decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his service in Crete. He died in 2000.
The reason for Lanz’s light sentence was that the court at Nuremberg was deceived by false evidence and did not believe that the massacre took place, despite a book about the massacre by padre Formato published in 1946, a year before the trial. Because there was doubt as to who issued what order, Lanz was only charged with the deaths of Gandin and the officers. Lanz lied in court by stating he had refused to obey Hitler’s orders to shoot the prisoners because he was revolted by them. He claimed that the report to Army Group E, claiming 5,000 soldiers were shot, was a ruse employed to deceive the army command in order to hide the fact that he had disobeyed the Führer’s orders. He added that fewer than a dozen officers were shot and the rest of the Acqui Division was transported to Piraeus through Patras.
In his testimony, Lanz was assisted by affidavits from other Germans such as General von Butlar from Hitler's personal staff, who was involved in the Ardeatine massacre. The Germans were with Lanz in September 1943 and swore that the massacre had never taken place. In addition, for reasons unknown, the Italian side never presented any evidence for the massacre at the Nuremberg trials. It is speculated that the Italians, reeling from armistice terms highly unfavourable for their country, refused to cooperate with the trial process. Given the circumstances the court accepted Lanz's position that he prevented the massacre and that the event never happened. Consequently, Lanz received a lighter sentence  than General Rendulic for his misdeed in Yugoslavia, who was released in late 1951 nevertheless, after only three years of imprisonment.
Lanz's defence emphasised that the prosecution had not presented any Italian evidence for the massacre and claimed that there was no evidence the Italian headquarters in Brindisi had ever instructed Gandin and his Division to fight. Therefore, according to the logic of the defence, Gandin and his men were either mutineers or franc-tireurs and did not qualify for POW status under the Geneva conventions.
The Germans justified their behaviour by claiming the Italians were negotiating the surrender of the island to the British. The German claim was not entirely unfounded: in the Greek mainland, an entire division went over to the Greek guerrillas, and in the Dodecanese, the Italians had joined forces with the British, resulting in a two-month German campaign to evict them.
An attempt to revisit the case by the Dortmund state prosecutor Johannes Obluda in 1964 came to naught, as the political climate in Germany at the time was in favour of "putting the war behind". In 2002 Dortmund prosecutor Ultrich Maaos reopened a case against certain persons responsible for the massacre. In his office, along with a map of the world, Maaos displayed a map of Cephalonia with the dates and locations of the executions as well as the names of the victims. No indictments or arrests resulted from Maaos' investigation. Ten ex-members of the 1st Gebirgs Division have been investigated, out of 300 still alive.
In the 1950s, the remains of about 3,000 soldiers, including 189 officers, were exhumed and transported back to Italy for burial in the Italian War Cemetery in Bari. The remains of General Gandin were never identified.
The subject of the massacre was largely ignored in Italy by the press and the educational system until 1980, when the Italian President Sandro Pertini, a former partisan, unveiled the memorial in Cephalonia. The massacre provided the historical background to the 1994 novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Despite the recognition of the event by Pertini, it was not until March 2001 that another Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, visited the memorial again, and even then he was most likely influenced by the publicity generated by the impending release of the Hollywood film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, based on the novel with the same name. Thanks to these actions today a large number of streets in Italy are named after "Divisione Acqui".
During the ceremony Ciampi, referring to the men of the Acqui Division, declared that their "conscious decision was the first act of resistance by an Italy freed from fascism" and that "they preferred to fight and die for their fatherland". The massacre of the Acqui Division is emerging as a subject of ongoing research, and is regarded as a leading example of the Italian Resistance during World War II.
In 2002 the Italian post issued the commemorative stamp Eccidio della Divisione Aqui.
The Presidents of Greece and Italy periodically commemorate the event during ceremonies taking place in Cephalonia at the monument of the Acqui Division. An academic conference about the massacre was held on 2–3 March 2007 in Parma, Italy.
Cephalonia's Greco-Italian Society maintains an exhibition called "The Mediterraneo Exhibition", next to the Catholic church in Argostoli, where pictures, newspaper articles and documents showcasing the story of the massacre are displayed.
Almost unknown outside of Italy, this event ranks with Katyn as one of the darkest episodes of the war." "The German 11th Battalion of Jäger-Regiment 98 of the 1st Gebirgs (Mountain) Division, commanded by Major Harald von Hirschfeld, arrived on the island and soon Stukas were bombing the Italian positions.
Πρέπει να σημειωθεί πως τα βιβλία για τη σφαγή των Ιταλών στρατιωτών της Κεφαλονιάς (η μεγαλύτερη σφαγή αιχμαλώτων του Β' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου), εκτός αυτού του Μπερνιέρ, είναι το ένα καλύτερο από το άλλο. Translation: It must be noted that the books about the massacre of the Italian soldiers in Cephalonia (the biggest massacre of prisoners of war in WWII), except the one by Bernier, are one better than the other.
Ο διοικητής της ιταλικής φρουράς, στρατηγός Γκαντίν, βρέθηκε τότε σε δίλημμα: να παραδοθεί στους Γερμανούς ή να τους χτυπήσει. Από το δίλημμα τον έβγαλαν οι φαντάροι του που αποφάσισαν να αντισταθούν στους Γερμανούς, οι οποίοι στη σύντομη μάχη που ακολούθησε είχαν βαριές απώλειες. Ομως, στις 22 Σεπτεμβρίου τα πυρομαχικά των Ιταλών σώθηκαν και στις 11 το μεσημέρι ύψωσαν λευκή σημαία.
Η δικαιολογία της γερμανικής Διοίκησης για τη σφαγή που έγινε είναι ότι οι Ιταλοί είχαν έρθει σε επαφή με τους ΄Αγγλους και έκαναν διαπραγματεύσεις μαζί τους για την παράδοση του νησιού στους Συμμάχους. Τους Καλοκαιρινούς μήνες, κατά τη διάρκεια της ναζιστικής Κατοχής. Translation : The German justification for the massacre that happened was that the Italians came in contact with the British and were negotiating the surrender of the island to the allies during the German occupation of Cephalonia in the summer of 1943. and "Ο Εισαγγελέας της γερμανικής πόλης Ντόρτμουντ εισάγει σε δίκη τους υπεύθυνους για τα εγκλήματα που διεπράχθησαν στην Κεφαλλωνιά σε βάρος της ιταλικής Μεραρχίας ΄Ακουι στη διάρκεια του Β΄ Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου. Στον τοίχο του γραφείου, του Ultrich Maaos, είναι αναρτημένοι δυο χάρτες. Ο ένας δείχνει την υφήλιο και ο άλλος απεικονίζει τη νήσο Κεφαλληνία, πάνω στον οποίο αναγράφονται οι ημερομηνίες σφαγής της Μεραρχίας ΄Ακουι από την Βέρμαχτ (Μεραρχία “Εντελβάις”), καθώς και ονόματα Ιταλών στρατιωτικών που εκτελέστηκαν όπως και οι τοποθεσίες που 4 πηγή: holocaust.gr σφαγιάσθηκαν. (Μια εβδομάδα διήρκεσαν οι εκτελέσεις. Ελάχιστοι Ιταλοί διεσώθησαν κι αυτό χάρη στην ανθρωπιά των κατοίκων του νησιού και στη δραστηριότητα του Ε.Λ.Α.Σ.).
That same day, military records show, the German Gen. Hubert Lanz reported from Cephalonia to Berlin: ‘Final mopping up... is under way. General Gandin and his staff were captured. Special treatment in compliance with Fuhrer Order.’
Historical Context: Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940 with 7 divisions of the 9th and 11th Armies. By 22 November, the Italians were pushed back into Albania. The Germans had to come to their aid. But when the Italian government decided to negotiate a surrender to the Allies, the German Army tried to disarm the Italians in what they called Operation ACHSE. On 29 September 1943, on the island of Cephalonia, the Germans fought the Italians of the 33rd "Aqui" Division. A total of 1315 were killed in battle, 3,000 were drowned when the German ships taking them to concentration camps were sunk by mines, and 5,325 were executed. In general, the Germans did not battle or massacre the Italians in other areas.
...the massacre of the Acqui division on the island of Cephalonia, the background to Louis de Bernières' Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was a cruel fact
...in about 30 pages, touching mainly upon several of the better known episodes, such as the massacre of the Acqui division in Cefalonia and Corfu, as well as the fate of several other military units
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will travel to the Ionian island of Cephallonia on Wednesday, where together with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano he will attend events commemorating the sacrifice of Italian soldiers of the 'Acqui' Division and Greek resistance fighters against the German occupation. Thousands of Italian soldiers of the brigade 'Acqui' who had surrendered to German occupation forces on the island in September 1943 after Italy's capitulation, were massacred by the Nazis. Two hundred Greek resistance fighters were also killed by the Germans. The two presidents will hold talks after the various ceremonies. Similar events were held in March 2001 in the presence of then presidents of the two countries Kostis Stephanopoulos and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
Media related to Massacre of the Acqui Division at Wikimedia Commons1943 in Greece
This is a list of events that happened in 1943 in Greece.33rd Infantry Division Acqui
The 33rd Infantry Division Acqui (Italian: 33ª Divisione Acqui) was a mountain infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The only difference between line infantry divisions and mountain infantry divisions was that the latter's artillery was carried by pack mules instead of the standard horse-drawn carriages. Italy's real mountain warfare divisions were the six alpine divisions manned by the "Alpini" mountain troops. The Acqui Division was formed in August 1939 from the parts of 14th and 11th infantry brigades, and mobilized for war in October 1939. It is notable for having been massacred with remarkable cruelty after surrendering to the Germans 21 September 1943. The main detachments of the Acqui division in the islands of Cephalonia and Corfu were officially dissolved 24 September 1943.7th Carabinieri Regiment "Trentino Alto-Adige"
The 7th Carabinieri Regiment "Trentino Alto-Adige" (Italian: 7° Reggimento Carabinieri "Trentino Alto-Adige") is a mobile unit of the Italian Carabinieri. The unit is framed within the 2nd Carabinieri Mobile Brigade and it is headquartered in Laives.Abele Ambrosini
Abele Ambrosini (Cercino, 1915 – Cephalonia, 21 September 1943) was an Italian partisan.Acqui Motorized Brigade
The Acqui Motorized Brigade was an infantry brigade of the Italian Army, based in the centre of the Italian peninsula. The brigade's name was one of the oldest of the Italian Army and connected the brigade to its original area of recruitment around the city of Acqui. The brigade was disbanded in 1996, but re-raised as a deployable division command in 2003 and elevated to full division with assigned brigades in 2013.Carrying the name of the Piedmontese city of Acqui the brigade's coat of arms was modeled after the city's coat of arms.Agia Dynati
Agia Dynati (Greek: Αγία Δυνατή, English: Saint Dynati) is the second highest Greek mountain of Cefalonia (1131 m.), after Mount Ainos (Mavrovouno). It is also the third highest mountain of the Ionian Islands after Ainos and Elati (Lefkada). Between the mountain's peaks are small tablelands, with one larger one named Falari. It is believed that Falari produces the best feta cheese in Greece.
The stretch of mountain includes parts of the municipalities of Lixouri, Pylaros, Sami and Kranaia. At Agia Dynati, during the 16th century, the Holy Monastery of Panagia Thematon was built. Many traditional villages, such as Makriotika, Divarata, Poulata, are built in the mountains.
In mythology, Agia Dynati is believed to be the rock that Cronus threw to Earth, after Zeus gained power. Rhea, the wife of Cronus, gave him the rock covered with swadding-clothes to eat it, because Cronus had eaten all of her children. When Cronus swallowed the rock, he suffered. So, Rhea could birth his child Zeus in Crete without Cronus knowing it. When Zeus gained power, he commanded Cronus to throw the rock to the Earth and also the children he had eaten. The origin of the name "Agia Dynati" is unknown, as there is no Saint Dynati on the Orthodox calendar.
In Agia Dynati, members of the 33 Infantry Division Acqui were killed by Germans during the infamous "Massacre of the Acqui Division."Captain Corelli's Mandolin (film)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a 2001 war film directed by John Madden. It is based on the novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. The film pays homage to the thousands of Italian soldiers executed at the Massacre of the Acqui Division by German forces in Cephalonia in September 1943, and to the people of Cephalonia who were killed in the post-war earthquake. The novel's protagonists are portrayed by actors Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz.Caterina Boratto
Caterina Boratto (15 March 1915 – 14 September 2010) was an Italian film actress. She appeared in 50 films between 1936 and 1993.Cephalonia
Cephalonia or Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλονιά or Κεφαλλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (Κεφαλληνία), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece and the 6th largest island in Greece after Crete, Evoia, Lesbos, Rhodes, and Chios. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It was also a former Latin Catholic diocese Kefalonia–Zakynthos (Cefalonia–Zante) and short-lived titular see as just Kefalonia.
The capital of Cephalonia is Argostoli.Farsa, Greece
Farsa (Greek: Φάρσα) is a village on the island of Kefalonia, Greece, part of the municipal unit of Argostoli. It is situated on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Argostoli. Farsa is 2 km northwest of Davgata, 4 km northeast of Lixouri (across the gulf) and 6 km north of Argostoli. Records exist in the Venetian archives for this village since the early Venetian period (16th century). During World War II many Italian soldiers were posted there and it was one of the places that the Massacre of the Acqui Division took place. The 1953 Ionian earthquake damaged many buildings in the old village of Farsa but did not totally destroy it. The remains of the old village are visible today. Dr. Nicholas Zaferatos, an environmental studies professor in the Huxley College at Western Washington University has made a study with his students on the renovation of the old village. The entire population that time as well as other parts of the island were homeless and part of the population left Farsa.German war crimes
The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany ordered, organized and condoned a substantial number of war crimes in World War I and World War II respectively. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of Jews, Poles, and Romani were systematically murdered or died from abuse and mistreatment. Millions also died as a result of other German actions in those two conflicts. The true number of victims may never be known, since much of the evidence was deliberately destroyed by the perpetrators in an attempt to conceal the crimes.Harald von Hirschfeld
Harald von Hirschfeld (10 July 1912 – 18 January 1945) was a war criminal and general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany who commanded the 78.Volksgrenadier-Division during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Hirschfeld, the son of a Mecklenburg merchant, was largely educated and trained abroad, in South America, Spain, London, and Paris. On 23 October 1935, he joined the mountain infantry regiment 98 in Kempten. In September 1943, as a colonel in the 1st Mountain Division, he played a major role in the massacre of the Acqui Division, the murder of 5,155 Italian prisoners of war of the 33 Mountain Infantry Division Acqui in Cephalonia.On 15 January 1945, he was promoted to Generalmajor. On this day he was officially put in command of the 78th Sturm Division, which he had unofficially led since 26 September 1944. He was the Wehrmacht's youngest general officer. He was severely wounded during the Battle of Dukla Pass and died en route to the field hospital on 18 January 1945. He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant general on 10 February 1945. Hirschfeld was married to Sylvinia von Dönhoff, who later married the former fighter pilot Adolf Galland.Hartwig von Ludwiger
Hartwig von Ludwiger was a German general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. Ludwiger was responsible for numerous atrocities committed throughout the Balkans. After the war, he was convicted and executed by Yugoslavia as a war criminal.Italian resistance movement
The Italian resistance movement (Italian: Resistenza italiana or just la Resistenza) is an umbrella term for Italian resistance groups during World War II. It was opposed to the forces of Nazi Germany as well as their puppet state local regime, the Italian Social Republic, especially following the German military occupation of Italy between September 1943 and April 1945, though the resistance to the Fascist Italian government began even prior to World War II. The movement that rose among Italians of various social classes is also known as the Italian resistance and the Italian partisans (partigiani in Italian), and the brutal conflict they took part in is referred to as the Italian Liberation War (when referring to the part they took in the Italian Campaign against the Axis) or as the Italian Civil War (when referring specifically to the conflict with Italian Fascists). The modern Italian Republic was declared to be founded on the struggle of the Resistance.Military history of Greece during World War II
The military history of Greece during World War II began on 28 October 1940, when the Italian Army invaded from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek Army was able to halt the invasion temporarily and was able to push the Italians back into Albania. The Greek successes forced Nazi Germany to intervene. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, and overran both countries within a month, despite British aid to Greece in the form of an expeditionary corps. The conquest of Greece was completed in May with the capture of Crete from the air, although the Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) suffered such extensive casualties in this operation that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) abandoned large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war. The German diversion of resources in the Balkans is also considered by some historians to have delayed the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical month, which proved disastrous when the German Army failed to take Moscow.
Greece itself was occupied and divided between Germany, Italy and Bulgaria, while the King and the government fled into exile in Egypt. First attempts at armed resistance in summer 1941 were crushed by the Axis powers, but the Resistance movement began again in 1942 and grew enormously in 1943 and 1944, liberating large parts of the country's mountainous interior and tying down considerable Axis forces. However, political tensions between the Resistance groups resulted in the outbreak of a civil conflict among them in late 1943, which continued until the spring of 1944. The exiled Greek government also formed armed forces of its own, which served and fought alongside the British in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy. The contribution of the Greek Navy and merchant marine in particular was of special importance to the Allied cause.
Mainland Greece was liberated in October 1944 with the German withdrawal in the face of the advancing Red Army, while German garrisons continued to hold out in the Aegean Islands until after the war's end. The country was devastated by war and occupation, and its economy and infrastructure lay in ruins. Greece suffered more than 400,000 casualties during the occupation, and the country's Jewish community was almost completely exterminated in the Holocaust. By 1946, however, a vicious civil war erupted between the British and American-sponsored conservative government and leftist guerrillas, which would last until 1949.Palazzo Cesi-Gaddi war crimes archive
The Palazzo Cesi-Gaddi war crimes archive or armoire of shame (Italian: armadio della vergogna) is a wooden cabinet discovered in 1994 inside a large storage room in Palazzo Cesi-Gaddi, Rome which, at the time, housed the chancellery of the military attorney's office. The cabinet contained an archive of 695 files documenting war crimes perpetrated on Italian soil under fascist rule and during Nazi occupation after the September 8, 1943 armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces. The actions described in the records spanned several years and took place in various areas of the country, from the southern city of Acerra to the northern province of Trieste and as far east as the Balkans; it remains unclear, to this day, how the archive remained concealed for so long, and who gave the order to hide the files in the immediate post-war period.SS Oria (1920)
SS Oria was a Norwegian steamboat that sank on 12 February 1944, causing the death of some 4,095 Italian prisoners of war 21 Greeks and 15 Germans. This was one of the worst maritime disasters ever, probably the fourth worst loss of life caused by the sinking of a single ship in the world and the worst in the Mediterranean Sea.Timeline of World War II (1943)
This is a timeline of events that occurred during World War II in 1943.