On August 17, 1944, Italian partisans killed 16 German soldiers who had been in the area of San Terenzo, Italy, requisitioning food from the local populace. The Germans ordered civilian reprisals which were carried out by the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division between August 17 and August 19, 1944. One hundred and fifty-nine Italian civilian men, women, and children from the San Terenzo Monti, Bardine, and Valla area were killed.*
In 2012 I went on a tour, “World War II in the Mediterranean: The Italian and French Campaigns,” which was sponsored by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the locales we visited was the San Terenzo area of Tuscany.
At the Historical Museum Massacre of San Terenzo and Bardine, we saw pictures on the wall of many of the victims. I was drawn to the picture of a baby named Flavio Terenzoni. His happy, laughing face, before tragedy struck, touched my heart. Flavio died on August 19, 1944, as did Maria Cecchini, the young woman in the picture with him. Flavio would have been two years old on August 28, 1944.
While we were at the museum, Italians from the local area joined us and shared the stories of what happened. They worried that the world would forget about the tragedy that occurred there.
For this story, I chose Flavio Terenzoni to represent all the lives and innocence lost as seen in the “pictures on the wall.”
To the people of San Terenzo, your story has not been forgotten.
Another WWII story from this part of Italy:
The United States (US) 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed mostly of second generation Japanese Americans, fought along the Gothic Line in the area of Colle Musatello, a ridge near San Terenzo. One of the officers in that unit was Lieutenant Daniel Inouye. He was seriously wounded in the battle for the ridge and lost his right arm. For his extraordinary heroism on April 21, 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).
In 1963 Daniel Inouye became a US Senator from Hawaii.
Senator Inouye’s award of the DSC was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
*SS Major Walter Reder of the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division was tried for war crimes in an Italian military court in Bologna, Italy, and sentenced to life in prison in 1951. He was released in 1985.
The number of Germans and Italian civilians killed may vary depending on different accounts of the incident.