History of the war

Das zerstörte KlosterAt the foot of the still visible rebuilt Abbey Montecassino in Italy underneath the flags of the countries of this world there are graveyards followed by graveyards. At the foot of the still visible rebuilt Abbey Montecassino in Italy underneath the flags of the countries of this world there are graveyards followed by graveyards. More than 16.000 soldiers of the World War I and over 107.000 of the World War II from overall 32 nations are buried here. Kloster Monte CassinoIn the fight against each other cruelly their lifes were robbed, now in death they are quietly united and together they warn about the scares of the wars. The more than 24.000 graves just for German soldiers established graveyard in the rocky landscape at the foot of the Abbey let us only suspect today which commanded war insanity there once ranted. Here, at the so named Gustav-Line in Italy, allied and German troops fought the biggest folk battle of the World War II. Approximately 50.000 German soldiers under the fire of 1.600 guns were supposed to hinder over 200.000 allied fighters to pass through. The world´s eldest Benedictine Abbey became completely destroyed and put in ashes by the heaviest bomb attack on one single building due to the fact that it was thought, German soldiers would have barricaded themselves there. Also the city Casino and other surrounding villages and cities were completely destroyed in due course of the fights.

Schlacht von Monte CassinoWorld War II, the battle of Monte Cassino: End of 1943, the allied advance in Italy came to a stop at the "Gustav-Line" which was drawn by the German armed forces crosswise through the whole country. The defence position was most developed in the west of Italy to prevent the venture of the Allied Forces through the Liri Valley to Rome. The Monte Cassino represented a central component in the German defence concept, which is above 520 meters over the city Cassino. A Benedictine Abbey, built in the year 529, was on its top. On 17th January 1944 began the unsuccessful frontal attacks of allied troops against positions strongly assured by Germans around the city Cassino. Schlacht von Monte CassinoThe assaults and grim ditch fights did not only cause innumerable victims on the defenders side but also on the aggressors´ side. During the anacrusis of the second echelon of New Zealand´s second division, their commander general Bernard Freyberg (1889-1963) ordered therefore the massive bombardment of the defence positions and of the Abbey. Behind its walls he suspected a German radio- and enlightenment station. Out of consideration for the historic meaning of this cultural monument, the German Supreme Commander in Italy, Albert Kesselring, in contrary to Freyberg in December 1943 explicitly had forbidden to involve the Abbey into the defence positions. For the armed forces soldiers it was forbidden to enter a defined trap circuit around the building. Schlacht von Monte CassinoOn 15th February 1944 while 229 American bombers attacked only monks and refugees, mostly women and children, were in the basement vaults of the Abbey, which was destroyed through 500 tons of explosive- and firebombs until the foundation walls. Merely the early-medieval crypt remained undamaged. Directly after the bombing, German troops included the ruins of the Abbey into their defence positions, which remained impregnable for the aggressors also in the next months. Only a withdrawal for the armed forces in a northward direction, which was commanded by Kesselring on the 17th May due to the precarious military situation in Italy, enabled Polish exile associations to take over the Abbey a day later.

Schlacht von Monte CassinoBackground: Two weeks after completion of the allied landing on Sicily, on 3 September, for the fist time two British divisions ferried across on the Italian mainland at the so called “Boot Top” of Calabria. The main forces of allies landed in Salerno in the south of Naples, six days later. Until the beginning of Octobers 1943 both cities could be captured only under considerable losses. After Benito Mussolini´s fall on 25th July 1943 and after the ceasefire concluded on the 3rd September between the Allied Forces and the new Italian government under Pietro Badoglio (1871-1956), the armed forces had to resist the British-American attacks without support of the ancient axis partner. Schlacht von Monte Cassino, J. KleinThe German 10th legion under General Heinrich von Vietinghoff (1887-1952), hastily withdrawn from the east front, succeeded to the north of Naples the construction of a coherent front line across the Italian mainland. The so called "Gustav-Position" extended through impassable mountain landscapes. In the following months this position became enlarged from the Garigliano estuary at the Tyrrhenian Sea up to the Sangro estuary at the Adriatic. Thereby a fast venture of the Allied Forces northward was impossible. The fights paused in the winter 1943/44 in static war fares, while the battle of Monte Cassino extra violently raged combined with high losses for both sides.

Only in the end of May 1944, the Allied Forces succeeded in making a connection to their bridgeheads, which had been erected 22 Januarys 1944 behind the German front in Anzio in the south of Rome. Because of the withdrawal of his troops, ordered by the German Supreme Commander in Italy, Albert Kesselring, from the "Gustav-Position" in a northward direction, Schlacht von Monte Cassinoon the 4th June the allied units could march without a struggle and under the jubilation of the population into Rome which was evacuated by the armed forces. In the following weeks the German Army Group C was withdrawn behind the 320 kilometres long Apennin Position ("Green Line"), which was located between La Spezia and the Apennin up to the east Italian Rimini. Heavy attacks of the 5th US-Armee and the 8th British army on the defence position had to be interrupted without any result in October 1944 due to heavy rain. As a result of the unusual hard winter 1944/45 the Italian front solidified until middle of April 1945. After the invasion of the Normandy it had become for both parties only a beside war theatre.

Schlacht von Monte CassinoMassive bomb attacks towards German supply deliveries at the Brenner and an Allied Forces´ big offensive starting on 15 April 1945 against the "Green Line" made the German command in Italy realize that the situation had become hopeless for the Army Group C. On 29 April 1945 Kesselring´ successor Vietinghoff capitulated with the armed forces units which fought in Italy - disobeying to an explicit command of Adolf Hitler. (as)