In the final years of World War II, German military reprisals against the Italian Resistance movement horrified Northern Tuscany with the brutal annihilation of a mountain village. Seventy-five years may have past, but the memories of what happened linger.
The Italian Resistance Movement, or simply the Resistenza, opposed the occupying German forces and the Italian Fascist regime in the later years of World War II, and the largest contingents of partisans, partigiani, operated in the mountainous districts of the Alps and the Apennines.
Men and women seized weapons where they could find them, but with scarce resources and terrible living conditions, took to guerrilla warfare, with mobility and knowledge of the land being the keys to their success. They relied on the local populace for support and supplies, bartering or leaving promissory notes for food, blankets and medicines.
This relationship was one the Nazis tried to break with the brutal reprisal policy of killing 10 Italians for every German killed. In 1944 they were carrying out systematic reprisals against the population, such as in the Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre featured in Miracle at St. Annaby Spike Lee.
There was controversy following the film as to what instigated the massacre - Whereas Lee indicated the cause was a traitorous partisan, Italians maintain that due to the increase in the number of people fleeing from German military and sheltering in the mountains, on 26 July 1944 the Germans decided to order all Stazzema citizens to leave the village. Impossible to do so in a short time due to lack of means of transport, the order was annulled and the population remained with the understanding that they would not harbor partisans. Nevertheless, with the idea of breaking any connection civil populations may think of having with partisan in the area, on 12 August the 16th division of the SS surrounded the unsuspecting village and proceeded within a few hours to kill 560 people in cold blood.
The monument commemorating this horrible event overlooks the wooded mountains and contains a statue whose plaque says: "To commemorate its martyrs the entire Versilia raises this monument to express love and forgiveness. For this is the answer to the mad rage that destroyed as a flash of lightning 560 innocent people."