The black and white photograph shows two soldiers in profile on the left. Both are wearing helmets, one is standing behind the other. They are looking at a document that the one in front is holding in his hands.
Two soldiers of the ”Hermann Göring” division during the retreat through Central Italy. © BArch, Bild 101I-476-2080-19 / Fot. Brünning

Fallschirm-Panzer-Division "Hermann Göring"

The division was part of the Luftwaffe. Like the Fällschirm-Jäger Divisions in the German armed forces, its recruits were young volunteers. In Italy, it was deployed in 1943 in Sicily and near Naples. In 1944, it fought near Anzio and Rome, in Umbria, and in Tuscany. In anti-partisan operations, it killed ca. 1,000 civilians, mainly in the spring and summer of 1944 in the northern Apennines and Tuscany. 

The division was among the chief perpetrators of massacres in Italy; in the Nuremberg Trials, it was classified as part of the group of ‘notable offenders’. But its crimes were only investigated by legal authorities in detail in the 2000s.

Formation
Wehrmacht / Luftwaffe
Army branch
Panzer Division
Armed force
Wehrmacht
Commanders
General Paul Conrath (1940-44)
General Wilhelm Schmalz (1944-45)
Years of service
24 Feb. 1933 - 1935 ‘Wecke’ Police Group z.b.V. (= ‘for special deployment’), later retitled ‘Landespolizeigruppe General Göring’
Offensive
Scandinavia
Western Front
Eastern Front
Tunisia
Occupation of Italy (1943-45)
Western Front in Poland, White Russia and Prussia
Confirmed Massacres

Naples Sept. 1943

Acerra

Massacre bet. Volturno and Cassino

Massaker in the Apennines (Monchio, Susano and Costrignano, Cervarolo and Civago)

Casentino massacre (Vallucciole) 

Massacres of Val di Chiana and Cavriglia (Civitella, Cornia and San Pancrazio, Cavriglia)

The black and white photograph shows five members of the "Hermann Göring" regiment standing in a row on a field. They are slightly turned towards each other in conversation. They are all wearing uniforms and caps.
Members of the ”Hermann Göring” regiment at the East Front in early 1942. The ”Hermann Göring” division was later created from the regiment of the same name. © BArch, Bild 101I-639-4288-28A / Fot. Sprotte

Beginnings and history in the war

In 1935, in the course of the organization of the Wehrmacht, the unit was integrated into the Luftwaffe, now as the ‘General Göring’ Regiment. Over the following years, it developed into a kind of private army for Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

On the front in Italy

On the one hand, the nature of the division’s contribution to the rescue of the Montecassino art treasures – a contribution widely exploited for propaganda purposes – was highly questionable; on the other hand the division had adopted an extraordinarily ruthless and brutal form of combat.
Alongside the 16th Panzergrenadier Division ‘Reichsführer-SS’, the ‘Hermann Göring’ Division must be considered one of the main Nazi German units responsible for the escalation of violence against the civilian population in Italy; it was guilty of the murder of at least 2,500 civilians.
In the Nuremberg trials, the division was classified as part of the group of ‘notable offenders’. In older Italian publications, the division was usually referred to as an SS unit, although it actually belonged to the special units of the Luftwaffe and thus was part of the Wehrmacht. 
The black and white photograph shows two soldiers of the "Hermann Göring" Division standing in profile on the left on a street in front of a wall. Both are wearing uniforms and helmets and are holding rifles.
San Giovanni Valdarno, summer 1944. Soldiers of the ”Hermann Göring” division re-enact a fight scene for a propaganda photographer. © BArch, Bild 101I-479-2195-39 / Fot. Brünning

After the war

Literature

Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg: Italien 1943-1945, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2012, pp. 312ff., 331.

Carlo Gentile, Le stragi del 1944 in provincia di Arezzo ed i loro perpetratori (report written in connection with the preparation of application by the Bucine, Cavriglia, Civitella in Val di Chiana and Stia communes for the opening of an investigation of the division’s crimes), Cologne, 1998, available at: https://uni-koeln.academia.edu/CarloGentile

Thiele, Hans-Günther (ed.), Die Wehrmachtsausstellung: Dokumentation einer Kontroverse, Bonn, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1997, pp. 186-188.

Authorship and translation

Autor: Carlo Gentile

Translated from German by: Joel Golb

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

2023

Text: CC BY NC SA 4.0

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