HC Deb 01 August 1944 vol 402 c1157
20. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a further list of wanton damage by the Germans to historic buildings and works of art in Italy.

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir. I am circulating a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT. After hon. Members have perused it they will no doubt agree that there was justification for the warning which is said to have been given by the German authorities to their troops leaving Florence that there must be no looting or rape.

Following is the statement: Before evacuating San Gimignano, the Germans threatened the inhabitants that they would pay for their sympathy with the Allies. Before the Allied troops had entered, they turned their guns upon the town, which is so rich in architectural treasures that the whole of the little town was constituted a national monument. In so far as this act of vandalism appears to have been prompted by the vengeful spirit of a single formation rather than to have been part of the official policy of the German Army Command, it is but an example on a major scale of what has become a common feature of the German retreat north of Cassino. In Sicily, where the Germans were still fighting with the Italians as their Allies, and in South Italy, where even after the Italian capitulation they were mainly pre-occupied with getting away, and the extent of Italy's defection was still uncertain, there was little or no plundering or wanton destruction. At Naples it began with the burning of the University library and the destruction of the cache of art treasures and archives near Nola; and from that point outwards the tale is one of sacrilege and theft on all sides. We have the official record of a statue from the altar of Monte Cassino Abbey church being carried off for Goering's benefit. At Gaeta what treasures from the Cathedral had not been sent away were stolen by the Germans, including an ivory crucifix given by Pope Pio Nono; in the Cathedral, as in all the churches of Gaeta, the Monuments and Fine Arts Officer found the floor of the Sacristy strewn with the vestments which the German soldiers had torn from the presses and subsequently discarded after having selected and carried off the best. At Fondi, in San Pietro as in other churches there, the enemy had removed many of the furnishings and had even stripped the monstrance on the High Altar of its silver ornaments; Sta Mai[...] a Collegiate has been looted, San Domenico sacked. At Itri, the Germans had completely sacked the sanctuary of the Madonna della Civita; and a heap of books had been soaked with oil as if in preparation for firing the building. At Cori the stone portal of the convent of Sant' Oliva, built on the site of the temple of Janus and incorporating its remains had been deliberately smashed; the church of San Salvatore had been pillaged. At Priverno they had sacked the church of S. Giovanni. At Velletri the Germans had carried off pictures and the contents of the creasury of Sta. Maria del Trivio; in the Tribunate they had ripped the brocade coverings off the chairs, they had slashed with knives the pictures in the Cathedral and had sacked the seminary attached to it, carrying off instruments, etc. It was noticeable that after the partial pillaging of the Cathedral the German command, as a result of protests by the Bishop, put up "Out of Bounds" notices, threatening the death penalty for entry and plundering by German troops; it is apparently the only instance of its kind, except for the Papal properties at Castel Gandolfo, but it proves that the wholesale plundering is largely due to a breakdown of the discipline of the armed forces. The Castello Caetani at Sermoneta and the Caetani villa at Ninfa were despoiled of their furnishings. At Formia the choir and sacristy of Sant Grasmo had been sacked by Germans looking for treasure, "which," says the Monuments and Fine Arts Officer, "is usual in all churches seen. At Frascati the Germans did no looting in the Cathedral (its treasures had been removed to Rome) but they carried off valuable books from the Seminary from the Municipio and from the Villa Ruffinella; it is understood that they proposed to sell them in Rome. At Baranello and at Isernia the coin collections in the local museums were stolen by the Germans; they are also said to have carried off a silver table service from the Casa d'Amico at Jelsi. They took the entire library of medical books from the Biblioteca Communale at Vasto; in Venafro they forced the doors of the museum and stole the coin collection and a number of small objects. Their attitude is indeed shown by a notice which one of them scrawled on a wall in the Pretura of Terracina—" whoever comes after us won't find a thing