Italy / Biography
Don Innocenzo Lazzeri, parish priest of Farnocchia, fled to the church of Sant'Anna. The testimonies recall his vain attempt to ask the Nazis for mercy and save the civilians rounded up with him in the church square.
Don Innocenzo Lazzeri was the priest of Farnocchia, a village near Sant'Anna di Stazzema set on fire by the Nazis a few days before the massacre of 12 August 1944. Don Lazzeri had found accomoodation in Sant'Anna thanks to the priest Don Giuseppe Vangelisti. He lived in the rectory of the church together with other displaced families, including the Tucci family. On the day of the massacre, Don Lazzeri didn't run away into the woods like the other men. When he learned of the arrival of Nazi soldiers, he decided to stay with the women, children and the elderly. In his testimony of 12 August 1945, eyewitness Alfredo Graziani recalled the deeds of the parish priest who remained in the square and welcomed the frightened people rounded up by Nazi soldiers in the Il Pero locality. Several times he sought mediation with the commander. Even corporal Adolf Beckert later told that he had witnessed various moments of dialogue between the priest, the commander and the telegrapher. They asked him where the men and partisans were, but Don Lazzeri said he didn't know. They jerked him several times at gunpoint and gathered him together with all the other people near a plane tree. According to the 1946 testimony of Icilio Felici (who wrote a book on Don Lazzeri), the priest offered his life to save the others as soon as he understood the intentions of the Nazi commander. His offer was not accepted, however, and at the agreed signal the soldiers fired. Everyone present was killed, expect Don Lazzeri, who — according to Graziani's testimony — was taken away by two soldiers. Once the carnage was over, he was accompanied to the church square where he was forced to take note of the massacre. Faced with the horror, the priest took the corpse of a newborn, raised it to the sky, traced the sign of the cross and blessed all the victims and the burning country. Then he was killed by machine gun fire. Don Lazzeri was honored with a Medaglia d'oro al valor civile by the Italian Republic and was subsequently recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.