Moroccan soldiers at Monte Cassino, January 1944.

Marocchinate (Italian for 'Moroccans' deeds'; pronounced [marokkiˈnaːte]) is a term applied to the mass rape and killings committed during World War II after the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. These were committed mainly by the Moroccan Goumiers, colonial troops of the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC),[1] commanded by General Alphonse Juin, and mostly targeted civilian women and girls (as well as a few men and boys) in the rural areas of Southern Lazio, between Naples and Rome. Mass rapes continued across all the campaign including several locations in Tuscany: Siena, ad Abbadia S. Salvatore, Radicofani, Murlo, Strove, Poggibonsi, Elsa, S. Quirico d'Orcia, Colle Val d'Elsa.


Goumiers were colonial irregular troops forming the Goums Marocains, which were approximately company-sized units rather loosely grouped in Tabors (battalions) and Groupes (regiments). Three of the units, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Groupements de Tabors, served in the FEC along with the four regular divisions: the 1st Free French Division, the 2nd Moroccan Infantry Division, the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division and the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division. The Goums Marocains were commanded by General Augustin Guillaume.

Regular Moroccan troops (tirailleurs marocains) also served in Italy but under tighter discipline and with a higher proportion of officers than the irregular goumiers.[2]

On 14 May 1944 the Goumiers travelled over seemingly impassable terrain in the Aurunci Mountains, outflanked the German defence in the adjacent Liri valley, materially assisting the British XIII Corps of the Eighth Army, to break the Gustav Line and advance to the next defensive position, the Hitler Line.

General Alphonse Juin was alleged to have said before the battle: "For fifty hours you will be the absolute masters of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you will do, nobody will ask you about what you will get up to."[3] In 2007, Baris Tomaso justified it by claiming it was linked to the perception of the crimes by the Italians rather than an official policy of the French Army.[4]

Until 1944 the Italian government showed interest and preoccupation for the violence and gathered information about the victims.[5] By December 1948 there were 30,000 cases submitted to Italian authorities but funds were scarce because of war indemnities Italy had to pay to France and this issue was an obstacle on the restoration of diplomatic relations with France.[5] For these reasons many demands were rejected and the victims had to prove permanent physical damage.[5]

Mass rape

Monte Cassino was captured by the Allies on 18 May 1944. The next night, thousands of Goumiers and other French colonial troops scoured the slopes of the hills surrounding the town and the villages of Southern Lazio. Italian victims' associations such as Associazione Nazionale Vittime delle Marocchinate alleged that 60,000 women, ranging in age from 11 to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Estimates made by the Italian Ministry of Defence in 1997 set the figure at 2,000 to 3,000 female victims.[6] The number of men killed has been estimated at 800.[7] Due to incomplete reports of the crimes, a precise account is impossible.[4]

The mayor of Esperia, a comune in the Province of Frosinone, reported that in his town, 700 women out of 2,500 inhabitants were raped, resulting in many deaths. According to Italian victims associations, a total of more than 7,000 civilians, including children, were raped by Goumiers.[8] Baris considers the figure of twelve thousand women raped provided by the Communist women's organization Unione Donne Italiane to be credible;[9] this is in contrast to the Italian Senate's two thousand women.[10]

Testimonials of mass rape in Lazio

The writer Norman Lewis, at the time a British officer on the Monte Cassino front, narrated the events:

The French colonial troops are on the rampage again. Whenever they take a town or a village, a wholesale rape of the population takes place. Recently all females in the villages of Patricia, Pofi, Isoletta, Supino, and Morolo were violated. In Lenola, which fell to the Allies on 21 May, fifty women were raped, but – as these were not enough to go round – children and even old men were violated. It is reported to be normal for two Moroccans to assault a woman simultaneously, one having normal intercourse while the other commits sodomy. In many cases severe damage to the genitals, rectum and uterus has been caused. In Castro di Volsci doctors treated 300 victims of rape, and at Ceccano the British have been forced to build a guarded camp to protect the Italian women.

— Norman Lewis, Naples '44[11]

"In S. Andrea, the Moroccans raped 30 women and two men; in Vallemaio two sisters had to satisfy a platoon of 200 goumiers; 300 of these, on the other hand, abused a sixty-year-old. In Esperia, 700 women were raped out of a population of 2,500 inhabitants, with 400 complaints presented. Even the parish priest, Don Alberto Terrilli, in an attempt to defend two girls, was tied to a tree and raped for a whole night. He died two days later from internal lacerations reported. In Pico, a girl was crucified with her sister. After the gang violence, she will be killed. Polleca reached the pinnacle of bestiality. Luciano Garibaldi writes that from the Moroccan departments of the gen. Guillaume girls and old women were raped; the men who reacted were sodomized, shot dead, emasculated or impaled alive. A testimony, from a report of the time, describes their typical modality: "The Moroccan soldiers who had knocked on the door and which was not opened, knocked down the door itself, hit the fortress with the butt of the musket to the head making it fall to the ground unconscious, then she was carried about 30 meters from the house and raped while her father, by other soldiers, was dragged, beaten and tied to a tree. The terrified bystanders could not bring any help to the girl and the parent as a soldier remained on guard with a musket aimed at them."[12]

Involvement of non-commissioned officers and European officers

Given the involvement of non-commissioned officers and white officers, some of them Italian-speaking as Corsican, not present in the Goumier troop departments, it can be said that the rapists nestled in all four divisions of the CEF. Perhaps also for this reason, the French officers did not respond to any solicitation from the victims and watched impassively at the work of their men. As the testimonies report, when civilians showed up to report the violence, the officers shrugged their shoulders and dismissed them with a smirk.

— Baris Tommaso [9]

Testimonials of mass rape in Tuscany

This attitude persisted until the arrival of Cef in Tuscany. Here the violence began again in Siena, in Abbadia S. Salvatore, Radicofani, Murlo, Strove, Poggibonsi, Elsa, S. Quirico d'Orcia, Colle Val d'Elsa. Even members of the Resistance had to suffer abuse.

In Abbadia we counted as many as sixty victims of grim violence, which took place under the eyes of their families. One of the victims was comrade Lidia, our relay. Comrade Paolo, approached with an excuse, was also raped by seven Moroccans. The French commands, to our protests, replied that it was the tradition of their colonial troops to receive such an award after a difficult battle.

— Enzo Nizza, red partisan[9]


After the war a leaflet in French and Arabic was forged with the claim that it would have been circulated among the Goumiers saying: "Soldiers! This time it is not only the freedom of your lands that I offer you if you win this battle. Behind the enemy there are women, houses, there is a wine among the best in the world, there is gold. All of this will be yours if you win. You will have to kill the Germans to the last man and pass at any cost. What I have said and promised I keep. For fifty hours you will be the absolute master of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you do, nobody will ask you to account for what you will take."[13] The falsification was made by the Communist women's organization Unione Donne Italiane and no such document was ever found.[citation needed]

Legality and aftermath

While the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) on Land Warfare prohibited war rape in international armed conflicts, the judges at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 stated that "the laws and customs of war apply between belligerents, but not...among allies."[14] Such statement was reinforced by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention under Article 4, which excludes allied nationals from the list of protected persons as long their state maintains diplomatic relations with a belligerent power.[15] At the time of Marocchinate, Italy was a co-belligerent with the Allies, having declared war on its former Axis partner Nazi Germany on October 13, 1943.[16]

Following Marocchinate, 207 soldiers were tried for sexual violence but 39 of them were acquitted for lack of evidence. 28 soldiers caught in the act were also executed.[17] In January 1947, France authorized the compensation of 1,488 victims of sexual violence for crimes committed by French colonial troops.[17]

Cultural depictions

Although the popular definition of "ciociaria" for some areas of Lazio is historically and geographically inappropriate, the term itself is often associated with these mass rapes. The definition was indeed forcefully imposed by the fascist regime, although, it was just a popular pejorative term in the modern Roman dialect.[18][19][20][21] Having been imposed by fascism in the pre-war years, it has remained associated with these mass rapes. The 1957 novel Two Women (original title La Ciociara, literally "the woman from Ciociaria") by Alberto Moravia references the Marocchinate; in it a mother and her daughter, trying to escape the fighting, are raped by Goumiers in an abandoned church. The novel was made into a movie, directed by Vittorio De Sica and starring Sophia Loren, for which Loren won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In Castro dei Volsci, a monument called the "Mamma Ciociara" was erected to remember all the mothers who tried in vain to defend themselves and their daughters.[22][23]

Claims of exaggeration

Other sources, such as French Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, claimed that such cases were isolated events exploited by German propaganda to smear allies, particularly French troops.[24] The Goumiers became a folkloric tale and stories started to be made up to extremes of absurdity. General Juin never issued the promise of "free rein" to his Moroccan troops, nor did any other French officers. In 2019, the Italian Senate launched its own investigation, reaching the conclusion that 2,000 women were raped, as well as 600 men:

Over 2,000 women were raped, the youngest at 11, the oldest at 86. Dozens died. Six hundred men suffered the same fate. Among them a young parish priest, who died two days after the torture suffered. Two sisters, aged 15 and 18, suffered the violence of 200 Moroccan soldiers.[10]

See also


  1. ^ French: Corps Expéditionaire Français (CEF) or Corps Expéditionaire Français en Italie (CEFI)
  2. ^ Montagnon, Pierre. L'Armee d'Afrique. pp. 342–343. ISBN 978-2-7564-0574-2.
  3. ^ "Crimini di Guerra in Ciociaria" [War Crimes in Ciociaria]. Dal Volturno a Cassino (in Italian).
  4. ^ a b Baris, Tommaso. "Le corps expéditionnaire français en Italie – Violences des " libérateurs " durant l'été 1944" [The French Expeditionary Corps in Italy – Violence of the "liberators" during the summer of 1944] (in French).
  5. ^ a b c Patriarca, Eliane (2018-04-17). La colpa dei vincitori (in Italian). EDIZIONI PIEMME. ISBN 978-88-585-2004-8.
  6. ^ Issue 716, International News Electronic Telegraph 11 May 1997
  7. ^ "Seduta Notturna Di Lunedì 7 Aprile 1952" [Sitting by Night: Monday, August 7, 1952] (PDF) (in Italian). Chamber of Deputies. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 21, 2011.
  8. ^ "1952: Il caso delle "marocchinate" al Parlamento" (in Italian). Retrieved 2008-11-22.
  9. ^ a b c Baris, Tommaso (January 2007). "Le corps expéditionnaire français en Italie – Violences des " libérateurs " durant l'été 1944, page 22" [The French Expeditionary Corps in Italy – Violence of the "liberators" during the summer of 1944]. Vingtieme Siecle. Revue d'Histoire (in French). 93 (1): 47–61. doi:10.3917/ving.093.0047.
  10. ^ a b "Disegnodilegge d'iniziativa dei senatori Magliocchetti e Bonatesta: Norme in favore delle vittime di violenze carnali in tempo di guerra" (PDF). Senato della Reppublica (in Italian). 25 July 1996. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  11. ^ Lewis, Norman (1978). Naples '44. New York: Pantheon Books. pp. 143–144. ISBN 9780394503547.
  12. ^ "Marocchinate: de Gaulle era presente e non fece nulla di Andrea Cionci". Il Corriere delle Regioni (in Italian). 2021-03-14. Archived from the original on 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  13. ^ Tortolici, C. Beatrice (2005). Violenza e dintorni. Armando Editore.
  14. ^ Nuremberg trials (1949). Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Nuernberg, October 1946-April 1949. United States Government Printing Office. p. 79.
  15. ^ "Article 4 - Definition of protected persons". International Humanitarian Law Datebases.
  16. ^ "1943: Italy declares war on Germany". History.
  17. ^ a b MINANO, Leïla. ""Elle avait 17 ans et elle a été violée par 40 soldats"". Libération.
  18. ^ Roberto Almagià, Enciclopedia italiana, vol. X, Roma 1931
  19. ^ Alonzi L., Il concetto di Ciociaria dalla costituzione della provincia di Frosinone a oggi («L'Italia ritagliata. L'identità storico-culturale delle regioni: il caso del Lazio meridionale ed orientale», Società Geografica Italiana, Roma 1997)
  20. ^ see: F. Riccardi, Quid est Ciociaria? 'Regnicoli' contro 'Papalini', in Studi Cassinati; E. Pistilli, E se fosse solo un'invenzione letteraria?, in Studi Cassinati
  21. ^ See: Squadrismo. 20 ottobre XVIII. Ventennale del Fascio di Frosinone, Federazione ciociara del P.N.F.
  22. ^ "Mamma Ciociara".
  23. ^ "primavera del 1944 i Castresi lottarono".
  24. ^ Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Reconquérir: 1944-1945. Textes du maréchal Lattre de Tassigny réunis et présentés par Jean-Luc Barre, éditions Plon, 1985, p. 32-33