The remains of the chapel in Cerpiano: Parts of the walls of light-coloured stone are still standing. An archway is recognisable.
Those captured by the SS in Cerpiano were locked inside this chapel and killed with hand grenades and machine gun fire. Some survivors were killed the following day (30 Sept 1944). © Udo Gümpel

29 September 1944 – 30 September 1944 , Cerpiano, district in the Marzabotto commune (Bologna, Emilia Romagna)

Many women and children had found shelter in Cerpiano. On the morning of 29 Sept., soldiers of the Reconnaissance Battalion’s 2nd company gathered them in the chapel, then attacking the civilians with gunfire and hand grenades. Only a teacher and two small children survived. After the massacre, Cerpiano became a command post and base for German troops in the region; additional atrocities were inflicted on the survivors.

Involved Unit

2nd Company of the SS-Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 16 ‘Reichsführer-SS


Walter Reder, Werner Horst Szillat and their men, including Albert Meier



Armed forces
The aerial view shows a destroyed house directly from above. The roof is missing and the foundation walls are visible.
View of Cerpiano from above. © Udo Gümpel
‘After the doors of the church were locked, Meyer threw a hand-grenade into the church window in order, as he later boasted, to let these people suffer a little more. The next morning Meyer returned for the squad and killed the people that sought refuge in the church with small arms fire.
Willi Kneißl
In the trial of 1951, Reder claimed not to have seen the corpses in Cerpiano, since they had already been buried by the survivors before his arrival a week after the massacre. But he recalled the blood on the chapel’s walls.
  • The stone memorial plaque for the victims lists their names and years of birth.
    Plaque bearing the names of the victims of the Cerpiano massacre. © Udo Gümpel
  • The close-up of the memorial to the victims shows the heads of child figures.
    Memorial in memory of the Cerpiano massacre. © Udo Gümpel


Before American investigators, the deserter Willi Kneißl, who had belonged to the 2nd company of the Reconnaissance battalion, accused Albert Meier of having led the group that carried out the Cerpiano murders (US NARA, RG 238, Entry 2, Box 10, Case 16-70, San Martino/Monzuno, statement Willi Kneißl).

Antonietta Benni described the events in Cerpiano in a report to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Nasalli Rocca, Archbishop of Bologna. Her memoirs were published in 1988 in the 4th ed. of Luciano Gherardi’s Le querce di Monte Sole (see literature), pp. 335-351.  

The witness statements of Italian civilians are kept in the UK National Archives, London, esp. WO 310/121.


Luca Baldissara, Paolo Pezzino, ll massacro. Guerra ai civili a Monte Sole, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009, pp. 174-185, 249-253, 584.

Carlo Gentile, Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Partisanenkrieg: Italien 1943-1945, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2012, pp. 245, 248, 256ff., 271.

Luciano Gherardi, Le querce di Monte Sole: vita e morte delle comunità martiri fra Setta e Reno, 1898-1944, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1986, pp. 65-88.

Dario Zanini, Marzabotto e dintorni, 1944, Bologna, Ponte Nuovo, 1996, pp. 414-430.

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