Italian war crimes

During the Italian-Turkish War in 1911 and the reign of fascism (1922-1945) there were Italian war crimes in Africa and Crimes against humanity. These included executions (including mass executions), deportations, house demolitions, poisoning of water sources, the use of poison gas, terror and pogrom e


On 29 September 1911, Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire, to come into possession of Libya.

The Italian-Turkish war began.

This Italian troops invaded Libya. Unlike expected, the native population, the relatively independent living under the Ottoman rule, welcomed the Italians as liberators, but as invaders. Even the influential Sanussiya Order, which had previously competed with the Ottoman administration, participated in the struggle against the invaders. The local tribes of the Arabs and Berbers retreated together with the few Ottoman forces back into the interior. After a bloody battle of Sciara Sciat (near Tripoli) 23 October 1911 were the Italian occupation forces in a pogrom against the Arab population from which they accused of treason. Here within five days indiscriminately thousands Arabs were shot, burned their huts and seized the cattle. In the following weeks led occupation forces mass executions in public places and by deporting some 4,000 Arabs on criminal and Tremiti islands such as Ponza. Nevertheless, the Italian advances in the following months did not come over the coastal oases beyond. Instead, the troops had to be increased to 100,000 men. On 1 November 1911 threw Lieutenant Giulio Cavotti two oases in Tripoli the first 2-pound bombs on living targets. The attack served no military purpose but was done in the context of “retaliation” against the Arab population after the battle of Sciara Sciat.

The Italian-Turkish war ended on 18 October 1912 with the Treaty of Ouchy. In it, the Ottoman Empire Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and the Dodecanese ceded to Italy.

From then Italy, initially held the coastal strip between Zuara and Tobruk under control. By 1913, it expanded its territory from mainly in Tripolitania, which met with bitter resistance of the Senussi, who forced the Italian troops to retreat back in 1914 on a coastal strip.

After the end of World War Italy was again increasingly send troops in the North African colony and there to restore his rule by military means until 1921. However, the Senussi contributed to colonial resistance continued, especially prompting under the dictator Mussolini draconian measures against the “rebels” were taken.

From 1929 it was increased to attacks led by Umar Mukhtar guerrilla organizations against the troops of Governor’s Pietro Badoglio. Under his successor, Rodolfo Graziani, brutal repression began (including Deportations and shootings), in whose train the Italian Cyrenaica was brought back under control. Graziani’s claims to the Senussi between March 1930 and December 1931 lost a total of 1,641 fighters. Then Graziani was on the border with Egypt to build a 270 km-long fence to the supply of n Senussi with weapon, ammunition and food s from Egypt to stop. In September 1931 we took Umar Mukhtar fixed.

In a show trial Neunundsechzigjährige was sentenced to death and executed in concentration camps Soluch. Despite this serious setback, the Senussi organizations continued their costly guerrilla war until 1934 with varying success. This year, Badoglio announced the successful “crackdown on the rebellion in Cyrenaica.”


In order to deal with any allegations of arbitrary executions, sent the Italian colonial power, a special military courts. The accused (favor or support of rebels) was mostly done in the open air a show trial, which usually ended with death sentences that were carried out immediately. In some cases, there were also thousands of deportation s, especially in the relatively fertile highlands of Cyrenaica, where you wanted to create in this way place for Italian settlers.

When moving out of the native population died due to lack of water carried large masses of cattle. Cattle were attacked by Italian fighters from the air to prevent it falling into the hands of the Senussi. For the same reason, it also poisoned the water bodies of different tribes, with sometimes dramatic consequences for their families. Officially they justified the deportations also with the need to separate the local civilian population of the resistance fighters to prevent their care and support.

Poison gas attacks

The Geneva Protocol of 17 June 1925 forbade the use of poison gas. Italy ratified this treaty on 3 April, 1928. In Libya, the Italian Air Force repeatedly bombed civilian populations with poison gas bombs:

•1924/26: Tripolitania, attacks on camps, livestock and field workers

•6 January 1928: Nufilia, bomb attack on civilians, 10 phosgene

•4 February 1928: Tripolitania killed, 3 tons of mustard gas bombs, 36 civilians and 960 animals

•12th February 1928: Hon Uaddan, Phosgenbomben

•19th Killed Cyrenaica, Wadi Engar, mustard gas attack, 42 civilians and several hundred animals: February 1928

•Killed Zeefran Heleighima, gas attack, 300 camels and some civilians: March 1929

•31, Taizerbo killed, 24 mustard gas bombs, civilians and cattle: July 1930

After the mustard gas handle on the Senussi oasis Taizerbo the holy Kufra oases were 26 August 1930 target of an air raid. When the Kufra oasis on 20 January 1931 were occupied, looted Italian soldiers for three days. 142 Senussi were killed, 50 women raped. The fleeing from the city of resistance fighters and their families were attacked from the air with machine guns. Many died of thirst in the desert, only small squads survivor reached after a several-week death march Egypt and the Sudan. These crimes resulted in an outcry from the international press.

Concentration camps (selection)

El Agheila: 35,000 prisoners

•Marsa el Brega: 20,000

•Soluch (Benghazi): up to 20,000

•El PEng: up to 13,000

•Agedabia: 9,000

•El Abiar: 8,000

•Danane (Somaliland): up to 2,500

•Apollonia (Cyrenaica): 628

•Barce: 438

•Ain Gazala: 426

•Driana: 275

•El Nufilia: 225

•Derna: 145

•Coefia: 145

•Sidi Khalifa: 130

•Suani El Terria: 100


Italian-Ethiopian War

Italy began in the Italian-Ethiopian War 1935-1936, a poisonous gas. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia began in October, 1935. From Eritrea and Somalia attacked Italian units, which also received air support. Italian air forces bombed several Ethiopian cities, including Aksum. On 10 October 1935 was Rodolfo Graziani’s command a first air attack with poison gas bombs on the positions at Gorrahei. On 6 Italian aircraft in December 1935 destroyed the town of Dese and the tent camp set up there by the Red Cross

After mid-December 1935 Ethiopian organizations were able to achieve some success in a counter-offensive, Pietro Badoglio commanded the increased use of poison gas. Of 22 December 1935 to 18 January 1936 were dropped altogether 200 tonnes of toxic gas in the northern front. In the southern front, it was in this period to include poison gas attacks on Neghelli and Gogoru, where among other things, a Swedish field hospital was hit. Graziani led offensive in the south on 12 January 1936 to a major battle in which 1.7 tons of poison gas were used. Badoglio also focused his campaign in the north and others (until January 24, 1936 23) mustard gas in the Tembienschlacht. In the attack on the Amba Aradan the Italian artillery fired several grenades arsenic. Two international observers, the Polish Belau doctor and his assistant were then tortured by Italian soldiers because they wanted to bring the Italian poison gas attack in the League of Nations for display.

When the Ethiopian armed forces went into retreat after the second Tembienschlacht early March, 1936, Badoglio commanded the Italian Air Force to pursue the retreating Ethiopian organizations from the air. Here came in Tacazze Valley next to fire bombs and mustard gas used. Even after the last decisive battle from May Ceu (now Maychew) (31 March 1936) surviving Ethiopian soldiers were attacked from the air on Ashangisee, even with mustard gas bombs (April 4). The Negus accused the Italian pilots to shoot for pleasure on soldiers who were temporarily blinded due to the effect of the poison gas.

In the south, Graziani was 8 April 1936 mustard gas attacks on Bullaleh, Sassabaneh, Degehabur, Daagamedo, Segag and Birkot fly. The 15 Offensive was launched on April Harar preparatory work with poison gas attack, what is a native of France Catholic bishop of the city complained in a letter to his superiors.

In early May delayed their invasion of the Italian troops in Addis Ababa intentionally to escape after Haile Selassie’s need to curb the looting and attacks on foreigners not stop from the capital. In this way they wanted to show the world that it was for the Ethiopians to a barbarous people, that you were not allowed to fend for themselves.

Shortly after, Mussolini ordered the immediate execution of all Ethiopians, who were found with a gun in his hand or had participated in some form of looting. 85 people were shot dead shortly after the occupation of Addis Ababa after show trials, at least 1,500 more without a trial.

On 26 May 1936 Pietro Badoglio returned back to Italy and gave the command in Italian East Africa from Rodolfo Graziani. Ethiopia was not occupied at this time especially in the west and south mostly.

Of the non-occupied areas continued rebels continue the resistance against Graziani’s colonial rule, which led to the draconian command Mussolini to shoot all captured rebels and other insurgents to fight with poison gas. Mussolini authorized Graziani, “to carry out a terrorist policies in a systematic way and the rebels and their accomplices in the civilian population eradicate” (message 8103). As rebel groups on 28 Addis Ababa in July 1936 attacks, it was in the city to brutal mass arrests by the Carabinieri. After numerous failed attack rebel leaders or so-called accomplices were shot. During the occupation of the rest of the Ethiopian territory there were numerous similar cases. Including several villages were set on fire by Italian troops, while “suspects” shot. In one case (Giogetti) the entire male population was killed over 18 years.

Than 19 February 1937 in Addis Ababa came to a stop on Rodolfo Graziani was ordered immediately harsh reprisal n All Ethiopians who had lived in Graziani’s environment at the time of the attack were shot. In the city, there was indiscriminate attacks on Ethiopian civilians who were often killed while in brutal way. 700 people who had taken refuge in the British embassy were killed when they tried to return after a short time returned to their homes. Houses (Tukuls) and Ethiopian churches went up in flames. Also in the rest of the country it came to basic commands of Mussolini and Graziani to cruel reprisals. Overall, died about 30,000 men, women and children. In Debre Libanos Italian soldiers took to include all of the local monastery monk e s, because they were suspected of supporting the Abyssinian resistance. Overall, the massacre of Debre Libanos about 1,600 people died.

The assault and massacre of the Ethiopian civilian population subsided until late 1937, when Graziani was replaced by the Duke of Aosta.

The Ethiopian government went out after the war, more than 730,000 murdered Italian historians estimate that the Italian Colonialism 1887-1941 were more than 300,000 people died. The journalist Fiamma Nirenstein criticized years ago, the fascist repression of war crimes in Africa in favor of the so-called national reconciliation. The historian Angelo Del Boca accused postwar Italy, have sought to make a living with the dictators in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia. But omission has been the recognition of war crimes and an appropriate redress.

Gas attacks

•22, December 1935: Dembenguinà, Tacazze, 6 mustard gas bombs (8 ° and 9 ° Stormo)

•23, to 27 December 1935: 60 mustard gas bombs

•2 to 4 January 1936: Others Šokota, 58 mustard gas bombs (8 ° and 9 ° Stormo)

•5 to 6 January 1936: Abbi Addi, 45 gas bombs

•12th to 19 January 1936: a total of 76 gas bombs

•23, December 1935 to 23 March 1936: Geva, Tacazze, Quoram, a total of 991 gas bombs

•24th December 1935: Areri, 17 mustard gas bombs, 1 Phosgenbombe

•30th December 1935: Degehabur, Sassabanech, Bullaleh, 71 gas bombs

•12th January 1936: Ganale, 6 mustard gas bombs, 18 Phosgenbomben

•25th January 1936: 10 mustard gas bombs

•16th to 25 February 1936: 10 mustard gas bombs, 92 Phosgenbomben

•March 1936: 158 poison gas bombs

•8 April 1936: Sassabanech, Degehabur, 13 poison gas bombs

•20th April 1936: 12 poison gas bombs

•27th April 1936: Sassabaneh, Bullaleh, 90 Phosgenbomben

•More poison gas attacks until the end of 1937


•Fascist Legacy, UK (BBC) 1989, 2×50 Minutes Director: Ken Kirby Historical Consultant: Michael Palumbo


•Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Aram Mattioli (ed.): The first fascist war of extermination.The Italian aggression against Ethiopia from 1935 to 1941. SH-Verlag, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-89498-162-8 (in modern Italy 13).

•Sidney H. Brown. For the Red Cross in Ethiopia Europe-Verlag, Zurich / New York 1939.

Italian military history

Italian colonial history (Africa)

History (Ethiopia)

History (Libya)

War Crimes

Fascism (Italy)

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