Massacre at the Turchino Pass

In the centre of the picture, the stone cross can be seen again, this time from the foot of the long stone staircase that leads up the slope to it.
The memorial dedicated to the victims. © Udo Gümpel

19 May 1944 , Turchino Pass near Masone (Genoa, Liguria)

Following an attack by the GAP partisan brigade on Genoa’s ‘Odeon’ cinema, which was frequented exclusively by German soldiers, the Genoa-based external headquarters of the Security Police and SD, headed by Friedrich Engel, decided on a reprisal-operation.

Subsequently 59 imprisoned men from the Marassi prison near the Turchino Pass were shot to death. Their corpses were only exhumed after 1945. Ten of the victims have still not been identified.

Involved Unit

Kriegsmarine and Security Police


External headquarters of the Security Police and SD in Genoa


Friedrich Engel and his men in the external headquarters, two Kriegsmarine officers, and the men of two firing squads.



Investigations and processes

1997-1999: Investigation by the military prosecutor’s office in Turin; trial in 1999; verdict on 15 Nov. 1999. 

2001-2002: investigation by the Hamburg prosecutor’s office; trial in 2002; verdict on 2 July 2002.

Armed forces
Security Police

The massacre

The most important sources for reconstructing the retaliatory operation are statements, made in 1945, by an employee of the external headquarters in Genoa, the South Tirol translator Giuseppe Nicoletti, together with testimony of a German sailor in the framework of the Hamburg trial of 2002.

Investigations and trials

The colour photo shows a section of the filming for the documentary of the German television programme Kontraste. In the middle, Friedrich Engel, now with white hair, is sitting on a chair and studying some files he is holding in his hand. Other documents lie on his lap. At the bottom left of the picture, the screen of the camera filming Engel can be seen.
On 12 April 2001, the investigative programme Kontraste is broadcast in prime time on German television. In it, journalists René Althammer and Udo Gümpel reconstruct the massacre at Turchino-Pass and show how Friedrich Engel lives undisturbed in Hamburg despite his life sentence in Italy. © rbb Red. Kontraste
In the judge’s opinion, the retaliatory operation was not prosecutable, since the framework for its legal assessment was customary law of war. But, he opined, in the operation’s execution the accused man had shown subjective cruelty, a murder-criterion sufficing for conviction.


  • © Udo Gümpel
  • In the centre of the picture is a large stone cross at the end of a stone staircase in a misty forest.
    The monument for the victims of the Turchino Pass massacre. © Udo Gümpel
  • A close-up of the memorial plaque at the foot of the cross: there are the names of all the victims with their respective years of birth.
    © Udo Gümpel


Some documents of Military Kommandantur 1007 in Genoa and Germany’s LXXV Army Corps, responsible for defence of the Ligurian coast, contain brief references to both the partisan attack and German retaliation. These documents are kept in the military archives of the German Federal Archives in Freiburg.

The documents pertaining to legal proceedings against Engel are kept in the military court in Verona and the Ludwigsburg Central Office (now German Federal Archives). 


Giorgio Gimelli, La Resistenza in Liguria: cronache militari e documenti, Rome, Carocci, 2005.

Brunello Mantelli, Turchino, Passo del, in: Enzo Collotti, Renato Sandri, and Frediano Sessi (eds.), Dizionario della Resistenza, vol. 2, Luoghi, formazioni, protagonisti, Turin, Einaudi, 2001, pp. 399-400.

Ingo von Münch, Geschichte vor Gericht. Der Fall Engel, Hamburg, Ellert und Richter, 2004.

Pier Paolo Rivello, Quale giustizia per le vittime dei crimini nazisti? L’eccidio della Benedicta e la strage del Turchino tra Storia e Diritto, Turin, Giappichelli editore, 2002.

Pier Paolo Rivello, Il processo Engel, Recco, Le Mani, 2005.

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