BONN (Jul. 17)
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the Nazi officer who ordered the massacre in 1944 of 335 “hostages” in the Ardeatine caves near Rome, died at Bad Nauheim last night at the age of 74.
Kesselring, who was commander of the German forces in Italy during the Second World War, was sentenced by a British military court at Venice in 1947 to be shot for his part in the massacre. The sentence was first commuted to life imprisonment and then to 20 years. He was acquitted of being a major Nazi offender by a German denazification court in 1952 and released by British authorities for health reasons in the same year.
The former Nazi officer ordered the arrest and execution of 10 Italian hostages for each of 32 Germans who were killed in an ambush by partisans near Rome in March 1944. A group of 335 Italian, including many Jews and a Roman Catholic priest, were rounded up after the incident. With their hands tied behind their backs, the hostages were loaded aboard trucks and taken to the Ardeatine caves on the outskirts of Rome.
After the group was unloaded at the caves, each hostage was shot in the back of the neck and the heap of dead and dying was thoroughly sprayed with machine-gun fire to insure the death of all. The caves were then blasted shut with explosives.