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Post Cephalonia "Mishandling"?
Created by John Eipper on 07/27/20 12:02 PM

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Cephalonia "Mishandling"? (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece, 07/27/20 12:02 pm)

Eugenio Battaglia cryptically referred to the "mishandling of Cephalonia." What does he mean?

JE comments: I let this one slip by without flagging it, as until today I had not heard of the Cephalonia (Greece) massacre, whereby the occupying Germans murdered some 5000 of their quondam Italian allies. A mishandling indeed! Was there any other occasion in WW2 in which the Germans executed that many enemy combatants in a single event?

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  • Cephalonia Massacre, 1943 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/28/20 7:52 AM)
    In response to Harry Papasotiriou, Cephalonia 1943 was a badly mishandled situation by all parties--the Allies, the Italian Command safely in Brindisi, the Italians in place, the Greek resistance, and of course, the Germans to whom the Italians on the spot paid for this mishandling as sacrificial lambs.

    The full story of Cephalonia is very long, even if the events themselves lasted just a few days. It is used for political reasons by many.

    JE comments: To me the Germans are solely to blame, as the slaughtered Italians had become legitimate POWs.  Executing POWs is a universally accepted war crime.  Eugenio, are you saying the Allies had the chance to evacuate the Italians trapped on Cephalonia, but cruelly chose not to?

    Yesterday I speculated that Cephalonia was the largest mass execution of surrendered enemy combatants in WW2. Several WAISers have suggested otherwise. Next, Ed Jajko on the Warsaw uprising.

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    • Cephalonia Massacre; Reprisals after Warsaw Uprising (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/30/20 4:40 AM)
      Regarding the 1943 Cephalonia massacre, it is easy to blame the bloody (and in reality they were) Germans, but the story is too complicated to reduce it to "the Germans are solely to blame."

      If the situation had been properly handled according to General Gandin, without interference from the Rome government and the Allies, the Italians could have been saved as in many other places. According to some reports General Gandin, commander of Cephalonia, could have been the first choice of Mussolini for the command of the forces of the RSI

      Of course, the arrival of help from the Allies or from the so-called co-belligerent Italian Navy would have saved the Italian personnel trapped on Cephalonia, but this was not permitted. Some historians give the "excuse" that the landing of the Allies in Salerno was not proceeding well enough to divert forces to Cephalonia. (Is this BS?)

      The slaughter of the Italians at Cephalonia was sadly useful to many parties, even now.  At the Nuremberg Trials, the slaughter was remembered and condemned, but how many other episodes were forgotten or believed not to be pertinent?

      The situation in Warsaw on 2 October 1944 may be different from what one generally hears. The end of the insurrection was decided by four leaders of Polish blood: the German Commander von dem Bach-Zelewski, the commander of the Russian SS General Kaminski, the leader of the Armia Krajowa Tadeus Komorowski (the mythical commander "Bor" became a prisoner then joined General Anders in exile), and the Russian General Rokossovski.

      After the Armia Krajowa lost 15,000 combatants, the remaining 12,000 surrendered and were considered prisoners of war (not partisans subject to death). The civilians were also guaranteed safety, however during the fight it is believed that 200,000 civilians died.

      Practically it was the first major instance of an irregular army recognized as combatants.

      I should add that the Germans tried to convince the Polish AK to fight with them against the USSR with not much success. It was too damn late. however, the NSZ (Narodowe Sily Zbronjne--National Armed Forces) and the WIN (Freedom and Independence) collaborated against the USSR and continued to fight heroically until 1951.

      Another forgotten thing: there was the Polish SS Polizei which operated also in the West while the 20,000 men of the Polish Polizei operated inside the Governorate in agreement with the occupiers. There were also Jewish collaborationists, mostly Orthodox, with the Germans as police forces in Warsaw and other main towns

      The communists instead were in the Armia Ludowa, plus the Polish Army of Zygmunt Berling attached to the Soviet Forces.

      JE comments:  This one will get my phone lines buzzing.  The surrendering Poles may have been "guaranteed" safety, but did they receive it?  The luckiest ones (if we can say that) were shipped to concentration camps.  As for Poles serving in the SS, there was no specific "Polish" division I know of, unlike nearly every other European nationality.  The general figure for Poles in the Wehrmacht (not SS) is 500,000, almost all of whom were conscripted.  Am I painting too rosy a picture?  We are 50% Polish at WAIS HQ, so I'm not impartial.

      Strangely, General Bach-Zelewski was never tried for his atrocities in Warsaw or elsewhere.  He actually testified for the prosecution at Nuremberg.  He later ended up in prison, where he died in 1972, for political murders committed in the 1930s.

      Eugenio, what can you tell us about the Germans inviting the AK to join forces against the Soviets?

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  • Largest Mass Execution of Surrendered Combatants in WW2 (Edward Jajko, USA 07/28/20 8:34 AM)
    John E asked about the largest mass execution of enemy combatants in WW2. I would suggest the capitulation of the Warsaw Uprising, fall 1944.

    JE comments: How could I overlook the Powstanie (Uprising)?  The landmark event is about to observe its 76th anniversary on August 1st.  The death toll is reported to have been as high as 200,000, overwhelmingly civilians, and most of whom were killed after the surrender of the city to the Germans.

    The Germans would have claimed the Warsaw fighters were partisans at best, terrorists at worst.  Neither group "enjoys" the legal protection of enemy POWs.  There was no such ambiguity with the uniformed Italians on Cephalonia.  Or am I misunderstanding something?

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    • Mass Murder and Destruction after Warsaw Uprising (Edward Jajko, USA 07/29/20 4:41 AM)
      Had circumstances been different, one could almost be amused at the idea of the Wehrmacht, SS, and Einsatzgruppen carefully distinguishing between uniformed soldiers and a civilian army after the Warsaw Uprising, and meting out penalties accordingly.

      The mass murder of civilian combatants (as well as the shipping off to concentration camps of thousands) was sheer vengefulness and anger at the tying-down by the Poles of two German divisions and the casualties the Untermenschen inflicted on them. This vengefulness extended to orders to destroy the reconquered city, to flatten it totally--"glattrasiert." Some 95% of Warsaw was dynamited or burned to the ground. Some films of these actions are on YouTube.

      Those who still somehow retain a liking or respect for the Soviet Union will have to stomach the fact that a Soviet army stood on the eastern side of the Wisła (Vistula) River, which runs through Warsaw, throughout the Uprising and did nothing. The West did little better: there were a few parachute drops of supplies, but they fell into German hands. Otherwise the Armia Krajowa, the Home Army, and Poland itself, were abandoned by Roosevelt and Churchill, and one of the great battles of WWII and the subsequent atrocities have been swept away and forgotten.

      People in the West beat their breasts over the firebombing of Hamburg or the fate of Dresden, but are in total ignorance of the fate of Warsaw and the hundreds of thousands of its civilian combatants.

      JE comments:  Stalin's refusal to come to the aid of the Varsovians is one of history's cruelest and most cynical tactical decisions.  The only way to interpret the Soviets' inaction was a desire for the Germans and the Poles to destroy each other, so that Stalin could step into the vacuum.  And it worked.

      Ed, some historians argue that the Powstanie accomplished one thing:  it ensured Poland would retain its nominal independence postwar, instead of becoming a Soviet republic outright.  This type of speculation cannot be "proven," but what is your opinion?

      Please, out of respect for the heroic Poles, let's all observe a moment of silence on August 1st.  We always do this at WAIS HQ.

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      • US to Withdraw 12,000 Troops from Germany: What Does This Mean for Poland? (Edward Jajko, USA 07/31/20 4:45 AM)
        At a later time I will attempt to answer John E's question why Poland was not incorporated into the Soviet Union after WW2. In this posting, I have a more hot-off-the-press item, translation of portions of an article in the online Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. It is by Alicja Gardulska, dated July 29, 2020. "USA announces withdrawal of portions of forces from Germany. What does this signify for Poland?"

        Excerpted translation:

        "About 11,900 American soldiers will leave Germany. According to AP, the withdrawal operation should begin in coming months, will cost billions, and last several years.

        "About 36,000 American soldiers are stationed in Germany ... now, some 24,000 are to remain ...

        "The majority of the forces pulled out, 6,400 soldiers, will head home. The rest, to other countries. Under discussion are the Black Sea Region, Belgium, and Italy [Eugenio Battaglia will no doubt welcome them warmly]. In future, European Command center (EUCOM) might be located in Poland." This coordinates US military activities in 51 countries, mostly in Europe.

        Trump ordered this because of dissatisfaction with the amount of GDP the Germans have been spending on defense

        The article concludes with a Tweet, in Polish, by Georgette Mosbacher, US ambassador to Poland, which I translate: "In contrast to Germany, Poland fulfills its obligation of paying 2% GDP for NATO. We would gladly welcome American soldiers, stationed in Germany, in Poland." Following this is a sentence attributed to AP, that the decision of the Pentagon is closely linked with the plan to expand the presence of American forces in Poland, something that Polish president Andrzej Duda has long expected.

        Frankly, even though things are heating up in Belarus, if I were Mr. Duda I wouldn't get my hopes up, whatever reassurances and promises he may have received on his recent visit to the White House. It's in the Kremlin that the champagne corks are popping.

        JE comments:  Who can give us an appraisal of the tactical difference between 24,000 and 36,000 troops?  Would this affect the deterrent value, say, against Putin or Lukashenko doing something drastic?  The military significance of the withdrawal may be slight, but the political message is huge.  The Europeans are receiving a clear signal that Trump is not committed to defending them.  For Poland, sacrificed in 1939 and again in 1945, the US action is especially troubling.

        At the same time (and please don't interpret this as a defense of Trump):  Why shouldn't the wealthy Germans pull more of their own weight?

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        • China and Turkey's Bids for Empire (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/01/20 10:05 AM)
          Edward Jajko (July 31st) sent me a true "wedding invitation" when he wrote, "Eugenio Battaglia will no doubt welcome them warmly" with reference to the 480th US Air Force Group moving from Ramstein, Germany to Aviano, Italy.

          Also, our esteemed moderator provocatively asked: "Why shouldn't the wealthy Germans pull more of their own [defense] weight?"

          I will try to answer both, answering first the German question.

          Probably the Germans do not want to spend more of their wealth on arms because in 1945-'47 they received too strong a brainwashing from the Empire: "You were bad militaristic boys/girls and you will never do this again!" Just look at the many, but forgotten, books on the re-education of the German people. Just one is the book of the British historian Giles Macdonogh so well presented by our friend Nigel Jones in April 2007, and the 30,000 books burned by the Americans (as the Nazis and as Amr ibn al-Asi at Alexandria in 642 had done, but to be honest probably there are several other cases) to cancel the previous culture.

          Now the Germans have learned that if they use their money well they can have a much greater Reich than the Third one, and economically dominate Europe and beyond. This is not the case of Japan, which is becoming a new Asian power but... will it remain a lackey of the Empire?

          After all, who wants to make war on Germany.  (Turkey? Or is it only blackmail?) No one except the same Empire that places sanctions on German economic developments.

          Of course, I do not like more foreign occupation troops coming to Italy. Let's be realistic: Italy is not an ally of the Empire; it is just a colony or if you do not like such a word (now one never know which words have suddenly become no-no words), call it a province of an Empire that has no clear geopolitical ideas. All its present electoral process is based mostly on collecting money for silly political advertisements and a lot of insults but no clear program, especially in foreign policy.

          The Empire is still suffering from Russophobia when Russia is the last problem for the world, especially for Europe. China instead is desperately trying to become the number-one Empire with the confidence that its internal front, so far, could face a very high loss of lives while the US lost the war in Vietnam because of the collapse of its internal front with 50,000 casualties plus the many shameful draft dodgers, some of whom were later even rewarded with the Presidency.

          But if the South China Sea is a warm sea, the Mediterranean sea is boiling.

          Turkey has resumed its old imperial strategy lost after the Treaty of Sevres 100 years ago, and it is pushing its ambitions in the Balkans (Kosovo and Muslim Bosnia--thanks to Clinton--and Albania), while by now, surprisingly, Serbia, Hungary, and Bulgaria do not seem worried but I may be wrong. Turkey is pushing in the Middle East and is militarily involved in Syria and more softly with its ally Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh against Armenia. It also has a new military base in Qatar. It is also pushing in Africa with troops in Libya and Somalia.

          From Syria and Libya, Turkey is blackmailing Europe by pushing millions of illegal immigrants, many already in Italy (also thanks to our lousy government). Tens of thousands have arrived, and many are infected with coronavirus.

          What the hell will the Empire do in the Mediterranean? So far there are no clear indications either from Trump or Biden. Poor Biden at his draft time had a case of asthma he never noticed before. Maybe this is a good omen for his reaching the presidency.

          JE comments:  We're overdue for a Syria update, including Turkey's involvement.  Have the world's hotspots suddenly cooled during the pandemic?  I hope our friend in Ankara, Yusuf Kanli, will check in.

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