Massacre of civilians at Sant'Anna di Stazzema
The SS soldiers broke into houses, schools and churches, shooting their victims with machine guns, throwing hand grenades into houses and setting fire to buildings and churches. They even continued to shoot into the growing mountain of corpses. The few who survived only escaped death because they were covered by the corpses of their relatives and neighbors, or were able to hide.
A few weeks earlier, on August 12, 1944, the same SS unit, as well as Wehrmacht (regular army) soldiers, had taken part in the massacre of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, which claimed 560 victims within just a few hours.
The description of these events provided by military historian Gerhard Schreiber in his book German War Crimes in Italy—Culprits, Victims, Prosecution indicates the cruelty and brutality of the actions of the Wehrmacht and SS troops:
“Wehrmacht and SS troops, as well as Italian SS men, moved on Sant’Anna in four directions of attack, carrying out several massacres on the way. In Vaccareccia, 70 people were locked in a stable and then murdered by soldiers with hand grenades and submachine guns, finally using a flame thrower. The entire village was reduced to ashes. The same happened in Franchi and Pero. Those unable to flee in time were pitilessly annihilated.”
“In Sant’Anna itself, Himmler’s armored infantry rounded up the inhabitants and those that had fled there in the square before the church, which was enclosed by a wall.”
Schreiber then describes what followed, “Since there was only one entrance to the square, the people were in a perfect trap. The murderers now began their work; afterwards, the mortal remains of 132 men, women, children and infants formed a mountain of corpses. Then the flame throwers were deployed, which is why so many of the dead could never be identified. As the troops finally left, moving down the valley to Valdicastello, the SS men, who then killed 14 in Mulino Rosso and six in Capezzano di Pietrasanta, left some 560 bodies behind. The authorities were only able to establish the identities of 390 of the dead, including 75 children aged 10 years or less. The youngest victim was aged three months, the oldest 86 years.”