Pietro Pironi

PIETRO PIRONI
JG. 1922
ITALIEN
IM WIDERSTAND
2.8.1944 ZUM TODE VERURTEILT
HINGERICHTET 29.8.1944
MÜNCHEN-STADELHEIM
Pietro Pironi<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Pietro Pironi
Source: Munich State Archive
»VINCEREMO« – Postcard from Marisa Maraldi to Pietro Pironi<br>Source: Munich State Archive
»VINCEREMO« – Postcard from Marisa Maraldi to Pietro Pironi
Source: Munich State Archive
Back of the postcard from Marisa Maraldi to Pietro Pironi sitting on death row<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Back of the postcard from Marisa Maraldi to Pietro Pironi sitting on death row
Source: Munich State Archive
Envelope that contained forwarded mail to the already executed Pietro Pironi<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Envelope that contained forwarded mail to the already executed Pietro Pironi
Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944
Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944
Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944<br>Source: Munich State Archive
Mimeographed copy of the death sentence of the Salzburg Special Court on August 2, 1944
Source: Munich State Archive
The Judges of the Salzburg Special Court, 2 Georg-von-Schönerer-Platz<br>Source: Salzburg State Archives
The Judges of the Salzburg Special Court, 2 Georg-von-Schönerer-Platz
Source: Salzburg State Archives
The symbol of the Nazis
The symbol of the Nazis' civil and military courts: A sword and scales of justice combined with the Nazi Party eagle and swastika

Rudolfsplatz 2

Kowatsch, Ferdinand Pironi, Pietro Sbigoli, Giuliano Schmidberger, Hilde Seywald, Franz Sottili, Remo

Marisa Maraldi, who lived in Martorano (a rural area just north of Cesena in Emilia-Romagna Italy), sent her love letter to St. Johann in Tirol, where the recipient was no longer to be found.

»Piero carissimo … tanti saluti e baci tua Marisa« (June 30, 1944)

Her Piero (nickname) was Pietro PIRONI, a 22 year old student and activist in the 8a Brigata Garibaldi Romagna, an Italian resistance unit against the German occupation - that is he had been in the resistance before he had been rounded up and shipped off to the German Third Reich in April 1944.

Marisa Maraldi didn’t know that her beloved Piero had been sent to Schönau an der Enns in Upper Austria for forced labor in May 1944, or that in June he and five comrades from Tuscany had attempted to escape back to Italy by crossing the Krimml Tauern Alps. So Marisa Maraldi had no way of knowing that her Piero and his comrades had been captured in the mountains by the Germans and that he had been sentenced to death in Salzburg on August 2, 1944 in Salzburg – by the time she wrote he was awaiting execution in Munich.

The Italian postcard was forwarded to the prisoner Pietro PIRONI in the prison, but because of his multiple moves and the difficult wartime conditions it was considerably delayed. So we don’t know if all her letters and the postcard with the slogan »VINCEREMO« [We will win] reached his cell on death row in time for him to read them before he was decapitated in the Munich-Stadelheim prison at 5:01 pm on August 29, 1944.

On April 25, 1945 the struggle for Italian liberation succeeded: »la vittoria della Resistenza Italiana sui nazifascisti« [the victory of the Italian resistance to Nazi Fascists]. In May 1945 a letter reached its destination in Emilia-Romagna after a nine month delay: Pietro PIRONI´s parting letter to his »carissima Marisa«, who always remembered Piero as her »ribelle per amore« [rebel for love].

The love letter from Italy that presumably arrived in Munich too late is still in the execution file that ended up in the Bavarian State Archives. Fortunately for us, there are also mimeographed copies of many death sentence records in the Munich files. Fortunately because the files of the Salzburg Special Court – which issued 71 death sentences in the course of five and a half years of war (most of which were carried out in the Munich-Stadelheim prison) - were mostly destroyed, leaving the Munich copies as the only surviving records that give the identity of many victims of Salzburg's Nazi judicial system. The personal details of the three Italian citizens who were sentenced to death in Salzburg on August 2, 1944, can only to be found in Munich's execution files:

• Pietro PIRONI, born in Cesena, Emilia-Romagna on February 22, 1922, son of Malvina and Primo Pironi from Gattolino, unmarried, student of philosophy, completed military service;

• Giuliano SBIGOLI, born in Florence, Tuscany on October 22, 1923, son of Agostina and Gino Sbigoli from Florence, unmarried, mechanic, completed military service;

• Remo SOTTILI, born in Regello near Florence, Tuscany on August 23, 1911, son of Ida and Guido Sottili from Donnini di Regello, married to Clementina Curioli from Ferrara, Vice-brigadier of Police in Bologna, completed military service.

With no execution files containing copies of the judicial sentences we know even less about the five other Italians tried in Salzburg on August 2, 1944 - two of whom were found not guilty:

• Goffredo BONCIANI, born in Florence, Tuscany on February 7, 1922, unmarried, law student, and completed military service;

• Vasco POGGESI, born in San Giovanni near Arezzo, Tuscany on August 29, 1922, unmarried, electrician, completed military service.

That the two Italians who were feed also failed to survive the terror years can be reconstructed from court judgement KLs 76/44 from August 2, 1944. The court only reported on the criminal acts of the Italians while there is no indication of any state violence in the judgement. The court registered the military service of the Italians, but said nothing about their being conscripted by the German occupying forces. The Italians identified as »civilian workers« (that is as forced laborers) or as »military internees« (prisoners of war) could have been charged with the »crimes« of violating their labor contracts and flight - refusing forced labor - and prosecuted by the Gestapo and the courts. But they were no charged with these »crimes« and the question is why not?

On June 3, 1944 the six Italians left their place of work in the Enns Valley of Upper Austria along with Ciriaco Santoni, whose data are unknown. The traveled by train to Tyrol and then went on foot to the upper Salzach valley where they tried to cross the Krimml Alps to Italy. They wanted to go home, but on June 9, 1944 they were stopped by a gendarme. Why? Because they were suspected of being fleeing forced laborers or were simply suspect as Italians? Already in the First World War Italians were considered traitors because they had abandoned their German and Austrro-Hungarian allies in the Triple Alliance and now that was compounded by Italy’s switching sides in WWII on September 8, 1943 under Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio: Italy was a traitor and enemy.

The Italian capitol city Rome was liberated from its German occupation forces on June 4, 1944 – just a few days before the six refugees were arrested in the Salzach valley in the hinterland of the approaching front lines (along with the combat units of the Italian Resistance on the one hand and the massacres by SS units of Italian partisans and civilians on the other). The criminal files KLs 76/44 ignored the reality of the war across the Alps and simply claimed that »the violence in a lonely mountain district during wartime« had been provoked by an »overbearing« Italian - a formulation that implies a real threat behind the lines by six citizens of a traitorous enemy country.

Ciriaco Santoni, identified as the ringleader, was alleged to have attacked the armed gendarme when the gendarme tried to arrest him on a mountain path by the Krimml creek on June 9, 1944. In any case, the unarmed »ringleader« was killed by two shots in the head. The uniformed shooter was then supposedly attacked by the others with fence rails: self-defense or counter-attack by the Italians, but for the authorities it was violent resistance to lawful authority and that made them »violent criminals«. Their distress and the motivation for their flight were of no significance, nor was the deadly shooting of Ciriaco Santoni, who was buried anonymously like other »dishonorable« victims (thanks to information provided by his grandson Paul we now know that Ciriaco Santoni was born in Madonna di Forneli, Emilia-Romagna on January 29, 1902, was married to Andreina Caporali, and was the father of two children – Valleda and Fernando).

The interrogation records and the prosecutor’s indictment were lost along with the shredding of the original criminal files KLs 76/44. It is clear though that the Austrian lawyer who was the chief prosecutor in Salzburg, Dr. Stephan Balthasar, drew up the charge sheet and the paragraphs laying out the reasoning for applying the death penalty. That information was included in the seven page judicial decision that was included in the Munich implementation files. There we see that the trial of the five Italians took place on August 2, 1944 in the Salzburg courthouse on the Rudolfsplatz [which, during the Nazi years, was named after the prominent Austrian German-nationalist politician and virulently Antisemitic agitator of the late 19th and early 20th century, Georg von Schönerer].

The judges of the »Special Court« were all Austrian lawyers without exception, though they had German official titles: »State court judge« Dr. Franz Tusch as presiding judge, with »State court judge« Dr. Matthias Altrichter and »State court judge« Anton Niedermayr as fellow judges - along with prosecutor Dr. Rolf Blum, and a German lawyer as defense counsel. The »officially designated defense consul« for the Italian defendants with no criminal records and who didn’t speak any German was not named. That alone demonstrated the abuse of their right to protection against state violence and arbitrariness. Did the defense council know the sentence before the beginning of the trial? He knew at least that appeals against »sentences handed down in the name of the German people« were not appealable.

The »Special Courts« were instruments of a politicized criminal justice system: rapid fire courts that executed the decrees of the Nazi dictatorship from first to last and were complicit in the dictatorship’s war crimes. Strangely from today’s perspective, Austrian laws were applied during the Nazi dictatorship in Austria as if they were still in force - except when in conflict with the special war ordinances of the »Council of Ministers for Imperial Defense« under Hermann Göring’s chairmanship - in this instance where the German »law against violent criminality« of December 5, 1939 set a death penalty, in contradiction to the Austrian law that was still in effect that provided for a maximum of five years imprisonment for resisting the police with armed force and reserved the death penalty for murder alone.

In order to hand down a death sentence the »special court« had to consider the fence rails used against the gendarmes as »deadly weapons«, the fatal shooting as justified, and the alleged attempted murder and helping the resistor as the equally heinous as an actual murder of a gendarme. But even for the Nazi judges the facts here were ambiguous. As a result, and seemingly with the agreement of the chief prosecutor, on August 2, 1944 the Salzburg »Special Court« sentenced only three of the five Italian defendants to death for violent criminality - resistance to lawful authority in violation of §§ 81 and 82 of the Austrian criminal code, but added in association with § 1 Abs. 1 of the »regulations against violent criminals« because »this statutory authority requires the death penalty« (Sentence KLs 76/44).

The 22 year old Pietro PIRONI, the 20 year old Giuliano SBIGOLI and the 32 year old Remo SOTTILI were transferred to the Munich-Stadelheim prison on August 19, 1944. There, in two minute intervals at 17:01, 17:03 and 17:05 on August 29, 1944 they were guillotined by executioner Johann Reichhart. The University of Erlangen anatomy department kept the three bodies for medical instruction without the knowledge of their families. After the end of the war the mother of Giuliano SBIGOLI attempted to discover if he had been given the Last Rites and where his grave was located as »this would be a great consolation for a mother«. She was at least able to get her son’s ID photo that had been included in his execution file.

Goffredo Bonciani and Vasco POGGESI, who had been found not guilty »for lack of evidence« against them, were not set free. Instead they were turned over to the Gestapo who first held them in the police jail on Salzburg’s Rudolfsplatz, and then on September 28, 1944 deported them to the Flossenbürg concentration camp where they were registered as »protective custody prisoners« numbers 27282 and 27283. On October 23, 1944 POGGESI was transferred to Mauthausen and then to the Mauthausen branch camp at Gusen - where the 22 year old was murdered on February 4, 1945. On February 26.1945 the 23 year old Bonciani was killed in a Flossenbürg branch camp at Lengenfeld.

The six Italians who had attempted to flee over the Krimmler Tauern Alps were dead before Italy and Austria were liberated, but this was not all. According to the prisoner records of the »SS Economic and administrative main office« at least 29 Italians, including activists of the Italian Resistance, were sent by the Salzburg Gestapo to diverse concentration camps in the year and a half between September 8, 1943 (when Italy officially left the Axis) and the final liberation of Italy from German occupation in 1945. In addition to Bonciani and POGGESI 18 of them were also killed in the camps:

• Vincenzo Bottaro, born in Milan on April 21, 1922

• Natalio Brizzi, born in Rome on December 28, 1915

• Silvestro Chinellato, born in Mogliano (Veneto) on November 19, 1910

• Roviglio Della-Schiava, born in Sedegliano (Udine) on October 5, 1914

• Anacleto De Martin, born in Tarzo (Treviso) on November 6, 1918

• Giuseppe Marcon, born in Vicenza on August 6, 1923

• Amilcare Martelli, born in Malalbergo (Bologna) on June 14, 1923

• Giuseppe Massani, born in Fucecchio (Florence) on July 29, 1902

• Domenico Musso, born in Ribera (Sicily) on August 23, 1903

• Paolo Santoni, born in Force (Ascoli Piceno) on October 2, 1912

• Salvatore Savarino, born in Aragona (Sicily) on January 2, 1893

• Alfredo Veruso, born in Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia) on December 26, 1920

• Carlo Vitale, born in Naples on January 31, 1910

• Angelo Vogrig, born in San Leonardo (Udine) on September 7, 1912

• Evaristo Zalambani, born in Fusignano (Ravenna) on May 23, 1901

• Santo Zampieri, born in Venice on June 29, 1912

• Luigi Zanga, born in Albano (Bergamo) on October 15, 1912

• Emilio Zanon, born in San Michele (Veneto) on July 24, 1896

The concentration camps where the 20 murdered Gestapo prisoners from Salzburg who have been researched so far were killed include: Natzweiler-Struthof, Dachau, Neuengamme, Flossenbürg, Lengenfeld, Mauthausen, Melk, Gusen and Ebensee.

In the end phase of the war the Salzburg »Special Court« led by Dr. Klemenz and Dr. Tusch – along with co-judges Dr.s Altrichter and Niedermayr – issued three more death sentences for Italians: Arcangelo PESENTI, a forced laborer for the German Reichsbahn railways in Salzburg who was decapitated in the Munich-Stadelheim prison on January 31, 1945 [a Stumbling Block was laid for him in front of the Salzburg main railway station on January 27, 2015]; Domenico Vallebona and Guerrino Bozzato who were forced laborers in Kaprun (c. 100 km south of Salzburg) and who were decapitated in the Munich-Stadelheim prison on March 9, 1945 and April 10, 1945 respectively and then buried in the Italian Military Cemetery in Munich.

Six death sentences carried out against Italians and a total of 26 Italians who were fatal victims of the Salzburg Gestapo – persecuted in revenge for the »Badoglio-Betrayal«, the change of sides by Italy and the liberation struggle of the Italian Resistance - which was also met with retribution from Mussolini’s »Black Brigades« and SS units who shot or hanged partisans and civilians alike. In one incident in Bassano del Grappa some 31 young hostages were killed on September 26, 1944 on the orders of SS-Obersturmführer Herbert Andorfer, who had begun his SS career in 1933 as a member of the 76th SS-Standarte in Salzburg. [Andorfer continued to live in Salzburg with his family for the rest of his life and was never prosecuted - he died in Salzburg at age 92 on October 17, 2003 and is buried in the Salzburg municipal cemetery]

It has taken a long time to research the identities and fates of the Italian victims from Salzburg as they were neither recorded in the city police registrations nor in the documentary study on resistance and persecution in Salzburg [Widerstand und Verfolgung in Salzburg 1934-1945] published in 1991. The same is true for some Wehrmacht soldiers who had gone over to join the Italian Resistance forces: Johann SCHUCHLENZ from Salzburg was executed by the SS for wartime treason just 15 days before the German surrender in Italy.

It is said that the prosecution of war criminals began with the liberation, at least when the perpetrators could be caught. But the »First Salzburg War Criminal List« published in June 1946 – and that was the only one ever drawn up - included just 24 names, mostly Gestapo agents and not a single prosecutor or judge. It would seem that they were considered above suspicion, or were at least too well connected to be brought to justice1.

1 In May 1945 the US occupation authorities closed all the courts in Salzburg and removed the judges from office who had held leading positions or been members of the Nazi party and its associations, including: the leader of the prosecution office, chief prosecutor Dr. Stephan Balthasar, the prosecutors Dr. Friedrich Blum, Dr. Ludwig Gandolfi, Anton Heim and Dr. Friedrich Stainer, the presiding judge of the Salzburg State Court Walter Lürzer, the judges Dr. Matthias Altrichter, Dr. Paul Kemptner, Dr. Karl Klemenz, Josef Hinterholzer, Anton Niedermayr, Dr. Julius Poth, Dr. Franz Tusch, Dr. August Rigele, Dr. Oskar Strauß and Dr. Ferdinand Voggenberger.

A few of the dismissed lawyers were interned for a while in the US prison camp Marcus W. Orr – known as the Glasenbach camp because the soldiers who guarded it were housed in the nearby Glasenbach barracks. A few were not dismissed because they had already retired before 1945: for example Dr. Hans Meyer, who had presided over the »Special Court« from 1939 to 1943, and Oskar Sacher, who led the office for prosecuting cases of miscegenation and served as co-judge on the »Special Court« until July 1943. No lawyer was ever held responsible for any of the numerous death sentences: 71 in total, 26 under the leadership of Dr. Hans Meyer and 45 under the leaderships of Dr. Karl Klemenz and Dr. Franz Tusch. Nine judges served under their leadership as co-judges and also voted for the death sentences: Dr. Matthias Altrichter, Josef Hinterholzer, Walter Lürzer, Dr. Hubert Meder (died in 1945), Anton Niedermayr, Dr. Julius Poth, Dr. August Rigele, Oskar Sacher and Dr. Oskar Strauß. As Chief prosecutor Dr. Balthasar was one of those most responsible for the death sentences and he had been a Nazi party member since 1933 and was an SS-Sturmbannführer. That led him to be categorized as a Nazi »offender«, but he was pardoned by Austrian President Karl Renner in 1950.

Most of the judges and prosecutors were classified as »minor offenders« and were cleared by the »lesser offender amnesty« of 1948. The younger ones among them were then able to resume their careers: for example Dr. Poth, Dr. Rigele, Dr. Tusch and Dr. Voggenberger returned as attorneys, Dr. Gandolfi became an administrative judge for the city and then a judge for courts in Salzburg and Linz. Dr. Karl Klemenz, who had participated in at least 29 death sentences but who was never registered as a Nazi, had already been restored to a judgeship in 1947, although it was just for a district court in Leoben. He made a political career in the »Association of Independents« which represented the interests of former Nazis and in 1949 he became a member of the Federal Council - the second chamber of the Austrian parliament [the equivalent of the U.S. Senate].

Dr. Matthias Altrichter, who had participated in at least 32 death sentences, was also classified as a »minor offender«. This was despite his Nazi party membership (May 1, 1938: Number. 6,347.572, and thus holder of one of the membership numbers reserved for »Old Party Comrades« [from 6,100.001 to 6,600.000]). Worse still, he was classified as a »minor offender« despite his SA Stormtrooper and SS memberships (he was a Senior Squad Leader [Oberscharführer] in the SA and a patron member of the SS with membership number 1,403.697 [patron members were not active in the SS, but they made monthly contributions to it]) and despite his leadership functions in the Nazi Regional Legal Office and the Nazi Legal Confederation. Hardly had he been amnestied in 1948 when he again served as a judge, becoming a presiding judge and then President for the Salzburg State Court from 1958 to 1968 - for which service he was honored with the Large Silver Medal of Honor of the Austrian Republic and the City of Salzburg ring of honor [State Capitol City Salzburg Gazette, May 15, 1969].

There was a long silence about one victim of Salzburg’s Nazi justice system: the high court justice Johann LANGER. LANGER had been »furloughed« when the Nazis took over in March 1938 and had put an end to his life in the Dachau Concentration Camp. On August 28, 2008 a Stumbling Block was laid in front of his last Salzburg residence with the participation of Dr. Philipp Bauer, the vice-president of the Salzburg State Court. On that occasion Dr. Bauer called for the further examination of the history of the Salzburg justice system under the Nazi regime and the personnel continuities after 1945. That has begun.

Sources

Author:Gert Kerschbaumer
Translation:Stan Nadel

Nearby Stumbling Blocks

Rudolfsplatz 3 0m 0m, 0°  Gomez-Rodriguez, Rafael
Alter Markt 12 93m 93m, 161°  Schwarz, Walter
Brodgasse 1 94m 94m, 134°  Gruber, Rudolf
Getreidegasse 11 102m 102m, 251°  Kemptner, Otto
Getreidegasse 13 113m 113m, 246°  Rausch, Maria

Stumbling Blocks

Laid 2017-09-28 at Rudolfsplatz 2, Salzburg

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