My SS family: German meets survivors of Italy WW2 massacre
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Godyfa
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My SS family: German meets survivors of Italy WW2 massacre
Quote:Andreas Schendel always knew violence was endemic in his family and any talk of the war was off-limits, as two of his uncles had served in the Waffen SS.

His worst fears were confirmed when one uncle, Heinrich Schendel, was among 10 people convicted in Italy in absentia in 2005 of one of the worst civilian massacres in Western Europe in World War Two.

As the Nazis retreated in northern Italy in August 1944, the SS 16th Division murdered 560 civilians, including more than 130 children at Sant'Anna di Stazzema in the Tuscan hills. Not one of the 10 found guilty was ever extradited.

[Image: _83866528_wwii_massacre_624_v2.png]

Heinrich Schendel and his family always denied his part in the massacre. But when he died last year, his nephew decided to act.

"I somehow had to break the silence in the family. I stumbled across the story of Enrico Pieri, a boy who got away and hid in a bean field after his sisters and parents were killed," says Andreas, a Dresden-based self-defence instructor and writer. "Somehow I figured Enrico would be the one to talk to."

He contacted Enrico Pieri, now 81, and ultimately they agreed that Andreas should travel to Italy for a meeting.

One of the few remaining survivors of the massacre, Enrico drives up to his old village in the Tuscan hills several times a week. Apart from a museum and a national peace park, Sant'Anna is largely deserted and his parents' old house abandoned.

Outside the house, the persimmon trees planted during the early years of the war still bear fruit every winter.

But the only habitable room is the kitchen, where his entire family and another family were murdered in front of him.

He only survived because a girl from the other family dragged him into a stair cupboard. "In my house it was all very brief, when the Germans came it lasted a maximum of 30 minutes".

Enrico has agreed to meet Andreas Schendel at a youth peace festival but the two men decide to have an initial, private encounter at the village church. In front of this small building 130 people were slaughtered and their bodies set alight.

"We hugged, and I was surprised and relieved, but afterwards when we said goodbye we could only shake hands," Enrico says. "That made me realise there is this wound and it's not going to heal."

Inside the church, Andreas Schendel broke down as he saw the pictures of the child victims.

The pain of the meeting was too great for Enrico Pieri, who shrugs and says quietly "it's difficult".

SS campaign of murder in northern Italy

"The 16th SS Division was one of the most ruthless units in the Germany army of the Second World War," says Carlo Gentile, who served on a joint German-Italian commission investigating the Nazi occupation of Italy. "They killed 2,200 to 2,500 civilians in August, September and October", operating a scorched earth policy as they retreated north ahead of the Allies' advance.

No clear reason for the Sant'Anna massacre has been given. One theory is that it was a reprisal for a partisan ambush on the unit four days earlier, a short distance away at Farnocchia. Former partisans say they were not present in the village, as they had been told by the Allies to leave.

Some of the more seasoned members of the division had been concentration camp guards in the SS Totenkopf (death's head) Division and some had been involved in wiping out the Warsaw ghetto.
Schendel was one of the division's less experienced soldiers.

more http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33143473
2015 Jul 16 07:52
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