Black and white photograph of Josef Strauch from 1956: He can be seen from head to shoulders and is wearing a dark suit with tie. Strauch is standing slightly to the left in profile and is not looking at the camera.
Josef Strauch, ‘All-German Bloc’ Federal Secretary, 1956 © (Der Spiegel 28/1956)

Josef Strauch

* " 7 July 1910" – Königshütte (Upper Silesia)
† "14 May 1970" – Mainz

In the summer of 1944, Josef Strauch commanded Panzer Reconnaissance battalion 26 of the 26th Panzer Division, responsible for the massacre of civilians in the Fucecchio Marshes. 

Strauch was born in 1910 in Silesia, into a lower middle-class family. After a commercial apprenticeship, in 1929 he began a career as a regular non-commissioned officer in the Reichswehr’s cavalry.  In 1938, he participated in the occupation of the Sudetenland, and in 1939 in the invasion of Poland. He was awarded the Iron Cross, 2nd and 1st class, for, respectively, his deployment on the Western and Eastern fronts.

In 1941, Strauch lost his command because of a nervous breakdown, but returned to the Russian Front as early as the following year.

In the immediate postwar period, Strauch testified as a witness in the trials of Generals Kesselring and Crasemann. In 1948-49 he faced charges in Florence on account of his role in the Fucecchio Marshes massacre and was sentenced to six years in prison. After intervention by the Adenauer government, he was pardoned and could return to Germany in 1950.

Until its 1962 dissolution, Strauch was active in the far-right party called the Gesamtdeutscher Block/Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten (‘All-German Bloc/ Association of Expellees and Persons Deprived of their Rights’). He died in Mainz in 1970.

Protestant; later Catholic
Reichswehr, Wehrmacht
Army branch
Joined the NSDAP
Not verified
Armed force
Panzer Reconnaissance Unit 26
Years of service
Rittmeister (cavalry)
Sudetenland 1938
Poland 1939
France 1940
Yugoslavia 1941
Operation Barbarossa 1941
Eastern Front 1942
Italy 1944-45
Confirmed Massacres

Fucecchio Marshes

Post war period

Trial and sentencing in Italy; politician; national director of the party ‘All-German Bloc’ (Gesamtdeutscher Block/Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten)

Training and war experience

On 22 Aug. 1944, Strauch was commissioned by the division Kommandeur, Eduard Crasemann, to prepare a raid in the Fucecchio Marshes, in order to suppress the ‘bandits’ hiding there. The Kommandeur also issued an oral instruction that all affected civilians were to be considered partisans and be killed, regardless of age and sex.

Participation in the massacre in the Fucecchio marshes

On account of his participation in the massacre in the Fucecchio marshes, Strauch was sentenced to six years in prison. After the Adenauer government’s intervention, in Dec. 1949 he was pardoned by Italian president Luigi Einaudi.

After the war


The most important sources for reconstructing Josef Strauch’s biography are the personnel files kept in the German Federal Archives’ Military Archives branch in Freiburg (PERS 6/684979), and documents kept in Hesse’s Central State Archives in Wiesbaden (Abt. 527/II Nr. 24719 and Abt. 546 Nr. 270-273). Just as important are trial records kept in London’s National Archives (WO 235/335, Crasemann Trial, Padua and WO 235/368, Trial of Albert Kesselring, Venice) as well as in Italy in the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Rome.


Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg: Italien 1943-1945, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2012, pp. 382-386. 

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