Saturday, 4 February 2012

Atrocities of the Second World War

The court at the Hague has ruled; and individual citizens of Italy cannot act against the German State.  The ruling re-asserts the status quo and does more than reject the ruling of Italian courts: it requires that Italy should reinstate the law and prevent any further attempts, by these means, to recompense Italians for War  crimes.

Less coverage has been given to the statements of the Foreign Ministers of Italy and Germany who emphasize that further efforts are underway to ameliorate and expiate the brutal acts giving rise to the legal actions.

Civitella in Val di Chiana - the words release a roar of emotion and distress.  Even now.  But what happened there happened the length of Italy as Kesselring's armies retreated, betrayed from Berlin and suddenly in enemy territory as, during the Italian civil war,  Mussolini was overthrown and the Italian army fought with the Allies.  Unfortunately the long-term bitter opposition to Fascism, the partisans, rose too, behind German lines and, encouraged by Badoglio (who had changed sides without warning Italian forces, leaving them unready when German forces sought to disarm them)  attempted to assert their control over local territories.  Inevitably civilian populations paid the price of guerilla actions.

Worse, local fascists did not give up lightly and, using German punitive actions, pinpointed those for execution.  There was bitter anger against 'partisan' activity that resulted in the slaughter of whole villages, and the destruction of infrastructure and communities in larger settlements.   The assaults on retreating German troops were used to precipitate executions of political, class and personal enemies.

Nothing could sort out the morass of vicious score-settling after more than 20 years of violently authoritarian rule that went on then -  not now, not ever.   Of all the uses of religious belief and its rituals, perhaps ceremonies for the repose of the souls of victims, and of reconciliation between descendants of actors in the violence,  at least  these should be recognised.

Certainly the law  gives cold comfort and no respite.

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