During the second word war on 24 August 1944, the German occupying forces massacred 335 Italian prisoners at the Ardeatine caves. It was done as a reprisal for a partisan attack on the German SS Police Regiment ‘Bozen’ the day before. 16 partisans carried out the attack which killed 28 German troops. They happened to be ethnic German-speakers from the northern Italian province of South Tyrol.
They were marching and singing along the narrow street of Via Rasella in Rome. The German SS Police Regiment ‘Bozen’ carried out the reprisal in response to a partisan attack the day before. All the partisans involved managed to escape unharmed by disappearing into the crowd.
The men and boys they brought to the Ardeatine Caves represented a cross-section of Italian society. There were military officers, clerks, butchers, professors, lawyers, peasants, shopkeepers, carpenters, street peddlers, students, drivers, artists—and even a Catholic priest. The oldest was in his 70s; the youngest, still a teenager. Overeager officers supplied five more than ordered, but killed them anyway, to keep the massacre secret.