A black and white portrait of Gerhard Sommer showing him in 1939 at the age of 18. He is wearing the uniform of a volunteer of SS-Standarte 2
Gerhard Hermann Otto Sommer in 1939, as an 18-year-old volunteer in SS ‘Germania’ Regiment 2 in Hamburg. (The photo was confiscated during a search of Sommer’s apartment during investigation by the La Spezia military prosecutor.) © Military court Rome

Gerhard Hermann Otto Sommer

* "24 June 1921" – Hamburg
† "22 February 2017" – Hamburg

In 2005, Gerhard Sommer was sentenced by an Italian military court to life imprisonment for participation in the massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema. In Germany, by contrast, investigations of his actions dragged on and were finally discontinued.

A native of Hamburg, Sommer was a member of Hitler Youth, then the Nazi Party. In Oct. 1939 he joined the Waffen-SS. As a member of the Leibstandarte-SS “Adolf Hitler” Division, he fought in the Balkans in 1941, then on the Eastern Front, which brought him awards and promotion to the rank of SS Unterscharführer. Starting in 1944, he was deployed as a platoon leader and later company leader in a unit of the ‘Reichsführer-SS’ division in Tuscany. In the massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema, he commanded the 7th Company, whose men participated in the shooting to death of women and children in the church square. 

After the war, Sommer remained free, living a normal life. The military prosecutor’s office in La Spezia only identified him in 2001, with investigations given impetus the following year through an interview with Sommer by journalists René Althammer and Udo Gümpel broadcast on German television. Beginning in 2015, Sommer was no longer fit to face trial. He died in Hamburg in Feb. 2017.

Protestant; starting 1942 gottgläubig
Army branch
Joined the NSDAP
Armed force
SS ‘Germania’ Regiment 2
8th Company Leibstandarte-SS “Adolf Hitler” Division
16th SS-Panzergrenadier Division ‘Reichsführer-SS’
Years of service
SS Untersturmführer in the reserves
Balkans (Serbia and Greece)
Invasion of Soviet Union
Eastern Front (Ukraine)
Occupation of Italy 1944-45
Eastern Front (Austria)
Confirmed Massacres

Sant’Anna di Stazzema

Post war period

In 2005 condemned in absentia by military court of La Spezia to life in prison. Sentence confirmed on appeal.

In 2015, proceeding against Sommer closed on grounds of inability to stand trial.

Training and wartime experience 

Participation in massacres of civilians

Sommer led the 7th Company during the massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema. The first indication of his participation in the massacre is found in a report on the interrogation of some SS-soldiers by American troops.

After the war

Until discovery of the files kept in the ‘cabinet of shame’ in 1994, Sommer’s name remained unknown to investigators. In 1996, by way of Interpol, first inquiries regarding his person reached, among other places, the Ludwigsburg Central Office, the German Federal Archives, and the Deutsche Dienststelle/WASt. He would only be identified in late 2001.
The coloured photo shows the moment when journalists René Althammer and Udo Gümpel confronted Gerhard Sommer with his past in the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division which had committed several massacres in Italy. In 2005, he was sentenced by the Military Court of La Spezia for his part in the massacre of Sant’Anna di Stazzema. When Althammer and Gümpel came to talk to Sommer, he was working in his garden. The photo shows him wearing a jacket, a hat and holding a shovel. About the investigations against him, he said:
”Let them investigate, I can't do anything about it, but I don't feel like commenting now, for me this matter is closed, I have nothing to reproach myself with, my conscience is absolutely clear, and now I would like to ask you to leave my property!” Gerhard Sommer, 2002 © Udo Gümpel/René Althammer - rbb


There is very little documentary material pertaining to Gerhard Sommer’s life. The available documents refer to his relatively short military career. More complete material is found in the files of German and Italian courts, now kept at Rome’s military court. This included documents and photos confiscated during the search of his apartment. Some personal documents are located in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin (German Federal Archives in Berlin): BArch, Lichterfelde, SSO Gerhard Sommer, Gebührniskarte (pay card) und Offizierskarte; BArch, PA (ex WASt), P.O.W. Form/ Kriegsgefangenen oder kapitulierten Mannschaften Form, Z-Karte S 2085/279.


Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg: Italien 1943-1945, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2012, pp. 279, 281.

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