The Domenikon Massacre was a violent reprisal by the Italian Royal Army on February 16-17, 1943 during Italy's occupation of Greece following the Greco-Italian War, in which about 150 civilians were killed. The incident represents one of the worst Italian war crimes during World War II.
Domenikon is a village in central Greece in Thessaly. When Greek partisans attacked Italian forces and killed Italian soldiers, General Cesare Benelli, commander of the Pinerolo Division, ordered an action in reprisal. Hundreds of Italian soldiers surrounded the village and searched it house to house. They captured more than 150 men, ranging from 14 to 80 years of age. They held them as hostages well into the night and then proceeded to execute them.
This event was not an isolated incident. According to historian Lidia Santarelli, it was the first in a series of repressive measures carried out in the spring and summer of 1943, following an order by General Carlo Geloso, commander of the Italian forces of occupation, whereby anti-rebel action would result in collective punishment. The order was based on the notion that in order to crush the Greek partisan movement, whole local communities had to be wiped out.
After the Italian capitulation in 1943, German forces moved immediately to take over the Italian occupation zone. Most of the Italian occupying divisions surrendered to the numerically inferior Germans, but notably, the Pinerolo Division, responsible for the Domenikon Massacre, was the only one to join sides with the Greek Resistance.
This page of history was long forgotten. Interest was renewed when documentary film-maker Giovanni Donfrancesco made La guerra sporca di Mussolini (Mussolini’s Dirty War), which was first broadcast on 14 March 2008 on the History Channel.
In Italy the documentary was never shown because Italy’s public broadcaster RAI was not interested in the project, but large private broadcaster Rete 4 shown the documentary on 3 January 2010 . On 16 February 2009, Italy apologised to Greece (through its ambassador in Athens) for the massacre.
- Article about the massacre on L'espresso, italian magazine