Cervarolo and Civago

Several low stone houses stand along a driveway. One of the houses on the left side of the picture has a cross mounted on the roof and a rainbow flag with the inscription Peace attached to the house wall.
The farmstead of Cervarolo. © Elena Pirazzoli

20 March 1944 , Cervarolo, Civago (Reggio Emilia, Emilia Romagna)

Two days after the massacre at Monchio, the Reconnaissance battalion of the ‘Hermann Göring’ division continued its anti-partisan operations in the Apennines, moving through the mountainous area south of Reggio Emilia. Together with the local GNR, the German troops attacked Cervarolo and Civago. The violence and murder was of such extreme brutality that it prompted negative reactions in headquarters of the LXXV Army Corps. 

The first legal inquiries began in Germany in the early 2000s. In 2011 the Verona military prosecutor’s office passed three life sentences.

Involved Unit

Parachute Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion ‘Hermann Göring’, Gendarmerie CompanyEmilia’


Parachute Panzer Division ‘Hermann Göring’


Rittmeister Kurt-Christian von Loeben, under command of Parachute Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion ‘Hermann Göring


24 in Cervarolo, 4 in Civago

Investigations and processes

2004-2015: Investigation by the Dortmund prosecutor’s office.

2010-2011: Verona military court sentences former Oberleutnant Fritz Olberg and former Feldwebel Karl Stark to life in prison. 

2015: The sentence is legally valid

Armed forces

The massacres

Rittmeister von Loeben handed command of the operation over to Hauptmann Richard Heimann, who had already commanded the troops in Monchio. The reprisal began although it was clear that the area’s partisans had surrendered. On that day fighting took place at a great distance and without losses on the German side.
The black and white photo shows a country road that turns left. On both sides of the road, several soldiers approach the photographer. They are all wearing helmets and uniforms.
In March 1944, the reconnaissance battalion of the ”Hermann Göring” division was transferred to the Apennines in order to fight the partisans there. © BArch, Bild 101I-477-2106-07 / Freytag
While both villages were surrounded by GNR guardposts, German soldiers entered the houses and drove the men they found there into an area before a farm. Among the men was a priest, Don Battista Pigozzi, who had been denounced as a partisan supporter and was abused and humiliated with particular violence.

Investigations and trials

  • The memorial in the Cervarolo farmhouse: a low building made of dark stone with a cross on the roof and a rainbow flag with the inscription Pace (Peace) on the wall of the house. The memorial room inside is behind a decorative iron gate.
    The memorial at the farm in Cervarolo © Elena Pirazzoli
  • The open memorial room in the farmhouse of Cervarolo from the front: Inside an altar with a cross, in front of it and on top of it vases with flowers.
    Frontal view of the memorial. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • A large grey house with three floors and green shutters. On the wall of the house to the right of the dark brown entrance door hangs a memorial plaque for the victims of the Cervarolo massacre.
    Plaque for the victims of the Cervarolo massacre on a local house. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • Close-up of the white memorial plaque with the names of the victims.
    © Elena Pirazzoli
  • Behind graves in the cemetery of Cervarolo, a mausoleum for the victims stands in front of the cemetery wall. It is a rectangular building with a slightly pointed roof on which a cross is placed. In front of the iron entrance door there is a small portico. In the gable of the roof the inscription: To the victims of 20 March 1944.
    The mausoleum for the massacre's victims in the cemetery of Cervarolo. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • A white gravestone with a praying woman stands under a grey arched roof. In front of the gravestone are flowers in a vase.
    The grave of Don Pigozzi in the cemetery of Cervarolo. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • On a white plinth is a large block leaning forward with a swastika on it. A figure standing in front of it smashes it with his fist.
    The monument for foreign partisans in the Emilia-Romagna region and partisans from Emilia-Romagna abroad, located close to the Case Cattalini, north of Civago. In 1944, there was a field hospital of the partisans here. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • The monument from the side. An inscription can be seen above the breaking swastika.
    The monument from the side. © Elena Pirazzoli
  • Close-up of the figure smashing the swastika on the monument with his fist.
    Close-up of the monument. © Elena Pirazzoli



Von Loeben’s report about the operation in Cervarolo and Civago on 20 March is located in the files of the LXXV Army Corps, which had command over the ‘Hermann Göring’ division at the time of the massacre, German Federal Archives in Freiburg, RH 24-75/20, report of 22 March [Bericht vom 22. März] 1944). The information request of Ic-officer Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten to the ‘Hermann Göring’ division is contained in files RH 24-75/18 (pp. 15 und 17). Dohna’s directive is found in enclosures to the report of the Ic-battalion of the LXXV Army Corps, RH 24-75/20, enclosure no. 43). 

The photo-archive of the German Federal Archives, Koblenz, photo-collection Bild 101 I of war reporters for the German Army and Luftwaffe, contains a series of photos by photographer Freytag (Mappe 477, Film 2106) demonstrating the presence of the ‘Hermann Göring’ division in the Apennines in spring 1944. The Dortmund prosecutor’s investigations are kept at that city’s prosecutor’s office, file no. 45 Js 1/04.


Pietro Alberghi, Morte sull'aia: prime formazioni partigiane a Reggio Emilia e Modena, Modena, Agam, 1964.

Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg. Italien 1943–1945. Schöningh, Paderborn 2012, 2015, pp. 308-312.

Lutz Klinkhammer, Zwischen Bündnis und Besatzung. Das nationalsozialistische Deutschland und die Republik von Salò 1943-1945, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1993.

Massimo Storchi, Anche contro donne e bambini: Stragi naziste e fasciste nella terra dei fratelli Cervi, Reggio Emilia, Imprimatur, 2016.

Massimo Storchi e Italo Rovali, Il primo giorno d’inverno. Cervarolo, 20 marzo 1944. Una strage nazista dimenticata,  Rome, Aliberti Editore, 2010.

Authorship and translation

Author: 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