A coloured bird’s eye view of the Albanese farmstead: The two-story stone building with the bright red roof lies in ruins. A staircase leads to the upper floor. Ranks of ivy grow on the walls.
The Albanese farmstead, where 15 people, mostly women and children, were killed. In total, 22 people died in the massacre of Caiazzo. © Udo Gümpel

13 October 1943 , San Giovanni e Paolo, district in the Caiazzo commune (Caserta province, Campan)

On the evening of October 13, 1943, during an American attack, Leutnant Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden of the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division believed he saw light signals coming from a nearby farmhouse. Along with two sergeants, he went to investigate, apprehending four men and a 14-year-old boy. Two women followed the group back to the company command post, where Lehnigk-Emden had all the detainees summarily executed upon arrival.

Shortly after, Lehnigk-Emden and the sergeants returned to the farmhouse. They threw grenades inside and then shot the survivors - six women and nine children and teenagers in total. That same night, the German troops withdrew northward from the area.

The next day, American forces advanced into Caiazzo and discovered the bloodbath.

Involved Unit

Grenadier Regiment 29 (motorized)


 Leutnant Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden



Investigations and processes

1943: First reports of the massacre submitted by the Anglo-American Psychological Warfare Branch; first American investigation.

1969-1970: Investigation by the Munich prosecutor’s office ends with termination of the proceedings. 

Jan. 1994: Koblenz regional court finds Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden responsible, but punishment is suspended under German statute of limitations. 

Oct. 1994: the Santa Maria Capua Vetere assize court sentences Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden and Kurt Schuster in absentia to life in prison.

Armed forces
This black and white photo shows a road winding through hilly terrain. Several cars and motorcycles are moving in opposite directions, in right-hand traffic.
German troops traversing the Volturno area. © BArch, Bild 101I-305-0654-15 / phot. Funke

The massacre

The American troops interrogated the German soldiers who had been involved in the massacre. In the process, the tension within the German unit, determining the behaviour of the individual soldiers, became apparent. The soldier Wilhelm May, a direct witness, gave a detailed account of what had happened.
  • The Volturno, a broad, meandering river, takes up the centre of the photo, winding through a hilly landscape. From left to right a bridge spans the river, however, it has been severely damaged and its middle has fallen into the river, making it unusable.
    A bridge across the Volturno river, destroyed in combat. © BArch, Bild 101I-305-0658-02 / Richard Opitz
  • In the foreground of this black and white photo two soldiers are standing left and right, facing each other and checking the documents of male civilians who are standing behind them. In the background, heaps of hay or straw and a low-rise building can be seen.
    German soldiers checking the documents of civilians. © BArch, Bild 101I-305-0674-04 / Fot. Schmidt
  • A map showing rivers, roads and settlements around Caiazzo. The positions of Grenadier regiment 29 at the time of the massacre there have been added manually.
    The positions of Grenadier regiment 29 at the time of the massacre of Caiazzo. © BArch, RH 20-10/67K
In the days following the massacre, reports about it and the responsibility of Leutnant Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden spread among the American soldiers. The war correspondent William H. Stoneman, who accompanied the troops to Caiazzo, was one of the first to take an interest in the case, writing an article about it in the Chicago Daily News on 18 Oct. 1943.

Investigations and trials

The complex legal situation regarding Germany's statute of limitations for wartime crimes compelled the Koblenz court to solicit expert opinions.
Protocol of the interrogation of Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden in American war capitvity, made on a typewriter. Lehnigk-Emden recounts that he was present at the Massella farmstead, then the headquarters of his unit, along with his supervisor, lieutenant Raschke. He asserts that, after having seen light signals from the Albanese farm, he informed his supervisor accordingly. Raschke then gave him the order to investigate and take any people present there to the command post.
Protocol of the interrogation of Wolfgang Lehnigk-Emden in American war captivity. Lehnigk-Emden recounts the events of the evening, when the massacre of Caiazzo took place. © Archiv der Militärgeneralstaatsanwaltschaft in Rom
The Koblenz court categorized the murder of women and children as first-degree murder under German law.
  • A close-up of the Albanese farmstead: the derelict building rises on a green meadow in front of a blue cloudless sky.
    The Albanese farmstead, where 15 people were killed by German soldiers. © Udo Gümpel
  • Coloured close-up of the walls of the Albanese farmstead showing bullet holes in the stone.
    Bullet holes in the walls of the Albanese farmstead. © Udo Gümpel
  • In the foreground of this coloured photo the now ruinous farmstead of the Masella family can be seen: A two-story stone edifice with a bright red roof that has several holes. Behind it, a number of similar houses are scattered in a hilly green landscape with small wooded areas.
    In the foreground the now ruinous Massella farmstead, then headquarters of the 3rd Kompanie of Grenadier regiment 29. In the background the ruins of the Albanese farmstead, where women and children were killed during the massacre. © Udo Gümpel



Documentation of the Allied investigation, including transcripts of the interrogation of German soldiers, are kept in the U.S. National Archives, Washington (US NARA, Record Group 153: Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, War Crimes Branch, Entry 143, Box 544-545; US NARA, Record Group 407: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 105- 2.13, Fifth Army, G-2 Reports, Interrogation Reports 1943-1945, Box: 2216) and in the British National Archives, London (Kew), WO 204 War Office: Allied Forces, Mediterranean Theatre: Military Headquarters Papers, WO 204/2235B, Massacre at Caiazzo, Italy). 

The research-documents of local historian Giuseppe Capobianco are kept in the Caserta state archive (fondo Capobianco, busta 286, fascicolo 2616, Il Massacro di Caiazzo. Appunti manoscritti). Documents tied to the German prosecutor’s office investigation are kept in Koblenz (Landeshauptarchiv Koblenz, 101 Js 35779/90 NSG jug) and in the Federal archives in Ludwigsburg (Aktenzeichen: V 302 AR 284/92).

Only a small number of documents are kept in the Freiburg military archive of the German Federal Archives, most of these reports on military action and commands of division headquarters: BArch, RH 26-3/12: Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch Nr. 4 der 3. Panzer-Grenadier-Division; RH 26-3/13K, with maps concerning the fighting for Caiazzo.


Hans Bader, Caiazzo, in: Betrifft JUSTIZ, 43/1995, Michelstadt, Neuthor, pp. 121-125.

Giovanni Cerchia, La Seconda guerra mondiale nel Mezzogiorno. Resistenze, stragi e memoria, Mailand, Luni editrice, 2019, pp. 493-503.

Kerstin Freudiger, Die juristische Aufarbeitung von NS-Verbrechen, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2002, pp. 130-138.

Lutz Klinkhammer, Stragi naziste in Italia. La guerra contro i civili (1943-1944), 2nd expanded edn., Rome, Donzelli, 2006, pp. 43-53.

Gerhard Schreiber, Deutsche Kriegsverbrecher in Italien. Täter, Opfer, Strafverfolgung, Munich, C.H. Beck, 1996, pp. 93, 138, 141-145, 148f.

Authorship and translation

Autor: Carlo Gentile

Translated from German by: Joel Golb

© Project ‘The Massacres in Occupied Italy (1943-1945): Integrating the Perpetrators’ Memories’


Text: CC BY NC SA 4.0