Military Wiki
Marzabotto massacre
Remains of the church of San Martino di Monte Sole
Location Marzabotto, Italy
Date 29 September - 5 October 1944
Target Civilians
Deaths ~ 770
Perpetrators SS-Panzer-Aufklärungsabteilung 16

The Marzabotto massacre was a World War II mass murder of at least 770 civilians by Nazis, which took place in the territory around the small village of Marzabotto, in the mountainous area south of Bologna. It was the worst massacre of civilians committed by the Waffen SS in Western Europe during the war.


In reprisal for the local support given to the partisans and the Resistance between September 29 and October 5, 1944, SS-Sturmbannführer Walter Reder led soldiers of the SS-Panzer-Aufklärungsabteilung 16 to systematically kill hundreds of people in Marzabotto. They also killed numerous residents of the adjacent Grizzana Morandi and Monzuno, the area of the massif of Monte Sole (part of the Apennine range in the province of Bologna).

Historians have struggled to document the number of victims: some sources report up to 1,830 victims; others estimate 955 people killed. Today, the Peace School Foundation of Monte Sole reports 770 victims. This number is close to the official report by Sturmbannführer Reder, who reported the "execution of 728 bandits". Among the victims, 45 were less than 2-years-old, 110 were less than 10-years-old, 95 were less than 16-years-old, 142 were over 60-years-old, 316 were females and five were Catholic priests.

Don Giovanni Fornasini, a parish priest and member of the Resistance, risked his life to protect the defenseless population from the Nazis during the massacres. By his courageous actions, Fornasini saved the lives of many of his parishioners, and managed to escape death. As he was burying the bodies of those killed in the massacre, which was forbidden by the Nazis, Fornasini was discovered by an SS officer. The officer accused Don Fornasini of crimes committed in the Marzabotto area. When Fornasini confessed to having helped the villagers avoid execution, the officer shot and killed him. On October 18, 1998, Cardinal Biffi opened in Bologna the process for the beatification of Don Fornasini and two other priests (Ferdinando Casagrande and Ubaldo Marchioni), considered the "martyrs of Sonnenberg". Today Don Fornasini is remembered as "the angel of Marzabotto". A memorial commemorates him in the cemetery of San Martino di Caprara, together with four other priests killed by the SS in the area.


  • The British tried SS General Max Simon for his part in the massacre. He was sentenced to death, later changed to life in prison. Simon was pardoned in 1954 and died in 1961.
  • The Americans arrested SS Major Walter Reder, an Austrian national, in Salzburg, and passed him to the Italians via the British. In 1951 he was tried in an Italian military court in Bologna. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the military prison at Gaeta. He was released in 1985 and died six years later in 1991.
  • In 1998, on the 54th anniversary of the massacre, the German President Johannes Rau made a formal apology to Italy and expressed his "profound sorrow and shame" to the families of the victims of Marzabotto.
  • In January 2007, 10 of 17 suspected former SS members were found guilty in absentia by an Italian military tribunal in the north Italian town of La Spezia. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre. The Italian media reported that the 10 were also ordered to pay roughly €100 million to the survivors and relatives of the victims. Seven suspects were acquitted.[1]

In popular culture

  • L'uomo Che Verrà (2009) tells the story of the local Italian people, partisans and the Marzabotto Massacre. It has won numerous awards. It features Raffaele Zabban playing Don Giovanni Fornasini.

See also



  • Marzabotto: The Crimes of Walter Reder - SS-Sturmbannführer, by Christian Ortner (Vienna, 1985)
  • Silence on Monte Sole, by Jack Olsen (New York, 1968) ISBN 0-213-17794-3
  • Don Giovanni Fornasini, Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d'Italia

External links

Coordinates: 44°18′37″N 11°13′11″E / 44.31028°N 11.21972°E / 44.31028; 11.21972

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