The most significant World War II battle between Germans and Italians outside of Italy was the September 1943 battle for the Greek island of Cephalonia, ending in the post-battle execution by German Mountain Troops of thousands of Italian soldiers. The recent clash between two German groups over what happened illustrates ongoing disputes about guilt and responsibility—how governments, historians, and civilians mobilize facts to write history. The Mountain Troops’ Veterans Association, which has influenced official German memory of the war, used the Cephalonia case to reassert the myth of Wehrmacht innocence, contrary to opinion-shaping Wehrmacht exhibits of the 1990s. In 2010, the federal government, backing a German judicial decision, reasserted the Wehrmacht Myth, despite opposition from Rome, Athens, and an international association of activists, as reports on right-wing extremism in the German police, judiciary, and military have become increasingly prevalent.
Nathan Stoltzfus is the Rintels Professor of Holocaust Studies at Florida State University. He has published numerous magazine essays, scholarly articles, and books: Hitler's Compromises: Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany (2016); Protest in Hitler's “National Community”: Popular Unrest and the Nazi Response (2015); Nazi Crimes and the Law (2008); Courageous Resistance: The Power of Ordinary People (2007); Shades of Green: Environmental Activism around the Globe (2006); and Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany (2001). His Resistance of the Heart (1996) is a Fraenkel Prize co-winner and a New Statesman Book of the Year. Forthcoming in 2021 are The Power of Populism & People: Protest in the Modern World and Women Defying Hitler: Resistance and Rescue under the Nazis.