Diary of Alfred Klonsck

Alfred Klonsck was an SS soldier from Austria who served in the 3rd Company of the reconnaissance division of the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Reichsführer-SS", subordinate to Walter Reder. The unit was responsible for many of the massacres in August and September 1944 in the Apuan Alps and the Apennines near Bologna (Bardine San Terenzo and Valla, Vinca, Monte Sole). Klonsck was with the reconnaissance division in the period between 20 July and 20 September 1944. His name does not appear in the lists of members of the unit, but many of the events as well as the names of comrades that have survived in his records are confirmed by the documents of the time.

The diary was probably confiscated by South African troops in September 1944. It is not clear whether Klonsck was killed in action or captured. The contents of the diary are referred to in a passage in military historian Neil Orpen's study, Victory in Italy (South African Forces World War II, Vol. 5, Cape Town, Purnell and Sons, 1975, p. 209):

Somewhere ahead lay 16th SS Division, and the captured diary of a man from Maj Reder's battalion indicated that indiscriminate murder of civilians was being perpetrated by these Nazi fanatics. In fact, in a lecture to his men, Maj Reder [in fact, the company commander gave the instruction, not Reder who was the battalion commander] had indicated that he didn't mind their killing a prisoner of war here and there, too”.

This diary is the first and so far only surviving such document by a member of the Reconnaissance Branch. Its transcription by the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) is probably unabridged and is preserved in the Stanford University Library (Daniel Lerner Collection, Box 5).

Of particular interest are the concrete references to the acts of violence perpetrated by the Division in the Apuan Alps: in particular, the retaliatory action in Castelpoggio (Massa-Carrara) on 21 August, the instructions to kill the Allied prisoners and all civilians without distinction of age and sex in the "gang villages''. Furthermore, the records document the indiscriminate acts of violence and looting by the fascist Brigata Nera (Black Brigade) of Carrara, whose involvement in the activities of the Division was of greater intensity than previously thought. The diary provides insights into a complex but also confused view of the realities of life for those involved in the war in Italy. A sense of discomfort with the activities of one's own department can be felt, but they are nevertheless accepted as normal. The references to the conflicts between soldiers of Austrian and German origin are also remarkable. Particularly surreal is the passage in which Klonsck wishes for Germany's extermination, as for "millions of Jews". This also shows how widespread knowledge of the Shoah and its dimensions was among the soldiers of Nazi Germany, especially in the SS corps.

Based on Carlo Gentile's translations, the theatre collective ArchivioZeta has produced podcasts in Italian on some first-person documents. You can find them on the Italian pages for each document.