A Via Crucis for our Time

The very graphic post by Debra Kolkka on the Massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema (see https://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/the-massacre-at-santanna-di-stazzema/) made me realise that there were several other “ecidii”, as the word gets translated into Italian, in Lucca province, the majority of which took place in the horrific final months of WWII when Italy was torn apart by civil war with the Nazis and Repubblichini (or adherents to Mussolini’s republic of Salò) on one side and the partisans and the allied forces on the other.

A student in one of my classes reminded me of the massacre at Vinca as her own grandmother, then a 7 year old at the time, told her what she’d experienced. The men had managed to get out of Vinca, which is up the valley from Monzone and thought that women and children would be untouched. Instead, her grandmother was one of the lucky ones who managed to save their lives by hiding in a cave without food or water for three days.This is the memorial to the mass murder in the local graveyard:


 Vinca is a marble quarriers’ village with also a substantial agricultural life. On the morning of 24th August 1944, and for the following four days, German soldiers from the 16 SS Panzergrenadiere-Division “Reichsfuhrer SS” under the command of Major Walter Reder, with the help of fascists belonging to the “black brigades”, murdered all those inhabitants of Vinca they managed to capture, and burnt the village. The total number of victims was 143.

The same Walter Reder and his boys had, just a few days previously at Bergiola near Carrara, killed 43 women, 14 children and 15 teenagers as a reprisal for the partisans killing a German officer.

Other massacres in our part of the world include the ones at Pioppetti near Montemagno, Fivizzano, Forno, Barine and Valla. I have yet to visit those places and pay my respects to the victims

What happened to Walter Reder? Was he accused of war crimes against humanity?  Reder was captured by the American in Bavaria shortly after the end of the war and extradited to Italy in 1948. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1951 but was released in 1980. In 1984 Reder, in all “fairness”, did send a written apology to the survivors of all those villages he’d terrorised. However, in 1986 he declared in an Austrian newspaper “I don’t need to justify myself” (!!!!). Reder died in Vienna in 1991. If there is such a place as hell may he burn in it!

To return to the biggest war crime committed here – that of Sant’Anna di Stazzema where the commander was gruppenfuhrer Max Simon and where 560 persons including 130 children, were murdered: I first visited the memorial to the victims in 2006.

There is a Via Crucis of much power leading up to the moving monument through a woodland path.

This is the actual memorial dominating a vast panorama stretching down to the Tirrenian sea.

Since 2007 a peace organ has been installed in the church of the village which saw so much inhumanity and a series of concerts is arranged every year. I hope one day to go there and hear the instrument which is built by Lucca’s best organ builder, Ghilardi, and is inspired by the German organs of Arp Schnitger.

Truly, it may be said that where war sows division, destruction and hatred, music spreads unity, reconstruction and love.

What will reunite the people in the ongoing holocaust of the Middle East I wonder?


7 thoughts on “A Via Crucis for our Time

  1. These atrocities need to be remembered. It astounds me that men, who must have had some family themselves, could do this to innocent people. As I said in my post, I hope they were tortured by visions of burning babies for the rest of their miserable lives.

  2. Destruction of what we are seeing gratuitously on a daily basis on TV the press seems only to minimise the impact of such atrocities maybe this was the driving force that fired up these killing machines of WWI and WWII. The Museum at Sant Anna di Stazzema tells the tale in all its gory detail as humans we do forget and the old cliche that history repeats itself is well documented in the various current 20th and 21st century wars around the world. I thought that we were exiting from the Kaliyuga hell mental state and entering a sort of Nirvana paradise on earth is it that matters have to get worse before they can get better and improve I wonder why this inhumanity to man what it is all about maybe we should not question men’s madness and insanity!

  3. Thank you for this moving account of what can only be described as an atrocity.
    I sometimes wonder how far we have really come. Sadly what these accounts show so clearly is that some individuals have little regard for their fellow human beings. Unfortunately there continue be atrocities carried out in other parts of the world by ‘soldiers’. This is why International Law is so important as it helps us to at least have the opportunity to hold to account those who commit atrocities today.

  4. Pingback: Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

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