Massacre at Civitella, Cornia and San Pancrazio

The village of Civitella in Val di Chiana is situated along a road, surrounded by trees. A wooded, hilly landscape can be seen in the background.
In total, during the massacres of Civitella in Val die Chiana, Cornia and San Pancrazio, more than 200 people lost their lives. © Udo Gümpel

29 June 1944 , Civitella in Val di Chiana, Cornia, San Pancrazio (Arezzo, Tuscany)

In the summer of 1944 in the Arezzo province, German troops, especially from the 'Hermann Göring' Panzer Division, killed 744 people, predominantly civilians, under the pretext of anti-partisan operations. Several of the most bloody episodes occurred on June 29th in the villages of Civitella, Cornia, and San Pancrazio, located between the Val di Chiana and Val d'Ambra valleys, which were considered partisan strongholds. 

In the postwar period, investigations into the massacres dragged on for decades without resolution. Finally, in 2006, a single perpetrator would be convicted for his role in the killings.

Involved Unit

Military Police Detachment b 1000; Alarm Company ‘Vesuv’; Alarm Company ‘Pauke’; ‘Hermann Göring’ military band


Schutzpolizei Hauptmann Heinz Barz; Oberleutnant Siegfried Böttcher


204: 98 in Civitella, 32 in Cornia, 16 in Gebbia and 58 in San Pancrazio

Investigations and processes

June 1945: Investigation of the SIB.

1948-1950: Proceedings of the Florence military court against Wilhelm Schmalz, later (12 July 1950) exonerated by the Rome military court.

1998-: New investigations in Italy (La Spezia) and Germany (Dortmund and Stuttgart).

2006: Termination of Stuttgart proceedings on account of death of accused person.

2006: Trial in La Spezia, confirmation of the sentence passed by appeals court in 2007; confirmation by court of cassation in 2008.

15 May 2019: Termination of Dortmund proceedings.

Armed forces

The massacre

No original documents have survived. For this reason, we cannot know whether the LXXVI Panzer Corps or the ‘Hermann Göring’ Division was responsible for the action. It was led by Hauptmann Heinz Barz, head of the division’s military-police unit.
The map shows the area from Florence in the north to Lago Trasimeno in the south. The three villages affected by the massacre are circled.
The map of the LXXVI Panzer Corps from the end of June 1944 shows the presumed positions of partisan formations in the area of Civitella, Cornia and San Pancrazio. The area was considered ”gang territory”. © BArch, RH 24-76/13
In one of the indictments in the postwar Nuremberg proceedings, Civitella in Val di Chiana was introduced as an example of the violence perpetrated by German soldiers in Italy, together with the massacre in Rome’s Fosse Ardeatine.

Investigations and trials

The names of possible perpetrators emerged in the framework of historical research; other persons were identified for the first time, including Heinz Barz, Siegfried Böttcher and many other commissioned officers and non-coms in the “Hermann Göring” Panzer Division.
On 21 October 2008, judges of the first criminal chamber of Italy’s Court of Cassation  ordered the German Federal Republic to pay compensation to nine relatives of the victims. Germany responded with an appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which accepted the case and then confirmed that international law guaranteed the immunity of sovereign states from cases brought by national courts.



The Civitella massacre is hardly mentioned in extant German military documents. The only such document that can be clearly connected to the event is a map from of the Ic-detachment from 30 June 1944 showing the putative location of ‘bandits’. On the map, a large circle has been drawn around the area of Civitella, Cornia and San Pancrazio, identified as a ‘bandit area’ (Bandengebiet) and reference to a ‘countermeasure’ (G[egen]M[aßnahme)“ implimented there on 29 June: German Federal Archives, Freiburg, BArch, RH 24-76/13, Gen.Kdo. LXXVI. Pz.K., Ic-map of bandit locations, 30 June 1944. The reference to ‘Operation SIlkworm’, in which 391 persons were killed between 22 June and 8 July 1944, is located in BArch, RH 19 X/107 K. Information concerning the losses suffered by German battalions in Civitella and surroundings before the massacre is found in German Federal Archived section PA, Berlin.

Documents tied to the Allied investigation are kept in the British National Archives, London (Kew): WO 204/11479, Atrocities committed by German Troops at Civitella, Cornia and San Pancrazio; and WO 310/220. Material tied to the 1948-1950 trial of former General Wilhelm Schmalz is partly kept in the Rome military prosecutor’s office, together with material of the most recent investigations and proceedings. The 1956 and 1958 investigations of the Düsseldorf prosecutor’s office are kept in the state archive of North Rhine-Westphalia: NW 377, no. 3786. Files of the investigation of the Dortmund prosecutor’s office are kept in the office’s archive (45 Js 1/04).


Ida Balò-Valli, Giugno 1944. Civitella racconta, Cortona, L'Etruria, 1994.

Giovanni Contini, La memoria divisa, Milan, Rizzoli, 1997.

Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg: Italien 1943-1945, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2012, pp. 320-326.

Carlo Gentile, Le stragi del 1944 in provincia di Arezzo ed i loro perpetratori (Relazione presentata in preparazione della richiesta di apertura di indagini da parte dei comuni di Bucine, Cavriglia, Civitella in Val di Chiana e Stia), Colonia, 1998; available at: 

Christiane Kohl, Villa Paradiso. Als der Krieg in die Toskana kam, Munich, Goldmann, 2002.

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