Kappler's Radio Messages:  Summer of 1943
August 2, 1943 (14:57 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that Mussolini has been traced to the island of Ponza.  S.S. man Eugen Dollmann got the information from Pagnozzi, who learned the secret from a "reliable source" within the Italian police.  Kappler says that he will inform General Student immediately.

Commentary:  This intelligence is accurate.  It is an important message because it provides confirmation that Kappler/Dollmann identified Ponza fairly quickly.  It's also consistent with a statement made after the war by General Student, who claimed that Kappler had traced Mussolini to Ponza early in the investigation but that Hitler did not believe it. 
       Around this same time (early August), Hitler had taken an active hand in the search but had focused on Ventotene Island and the nearby islet of Santo Stefano, both of which were about 25 miles from Ponza. 
       ("Pagnozzi" probably refers to Italian fascist Coriolano Pagnozzi.)


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August 10, 1943 (17:30 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler tells Berlin that he is certain that Mussolini is on Ponza, despite the fact that others are disputing this claim.

Commentary:  This intelligence is slightly out of date.  Mussolini had already been removed from Ponza several days earlier.  The message is a clear reminder that the Germans did not always agree on Mussolini's location.  In fact, around this time, Hitler was planning a raid on Santo Stefano.  However, he did make Ponza a secondary target.  This meant that if Mussolini was not found on Santo Stefano, the Germans could immediately improvise an assault on Ponza if they believed it was warranted.
       Why was Kappler so certain about Ponza?  The answer is not known, but it is possible that the Germans had multiple leads pointing in that direction.  For instance, Karl Radl, who was Skorzeny's deputy, maintained that one of the "agents" working for the Mussolini task force received information from an Italian grocer who supplied the island with his goods.  Skorzeny also mentions an Italian merchant.  But he says the man got the information from a female client on the mainland whose boyfriend was a member of the carabinieri stationed on Ponza (the latter had apparently written her a letter in which he hinted at Mussolini's presence on the island).


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August 10, 1943 (18:57 hours):  From Rome to Berlin.
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that several Italians have been arrested by the Badoglio regime in connection with an alleged plot to rescue Mussolini.


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August 14, 1943 (17:01 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that Mussolini was removed from Ponza on August 12.  Kappler and his men are doing everything they can to locate Mussolini's whereabouts.  Kappler's main sources are Dollmann, the Italian police, and Piscitelli.

Commentary:  Mussolini was actually moved on the evening of August 7-8. 


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August 15, 1943 (13:11 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that, according to Prince Ruspoli, Mussolini was transferred to the island of Caprera near Sardinia.

Commentary:  This intelligence is not accurate, but it is close to the mark.  In reality, Mussolini was transferred to the island of Maddalena, which is also close to Sardinia. 


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August 15, 1943 (14:57 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  The Germans in Rome inform Berlin that one of their agents has learned that Mussolini is located on the island of Maddalena.

Commentary:  This intelligence is accurate, but unfortunately the message does not identify the source. 
       After the war, Skorzeny claimed that multiple leads pointed to locations on or near Sardinia, and this may very well be the case.
       In their memoirs, General Student and Skorzeny seem to agree that the Maddalena tip was associated with Commander Helmut Hunaeus, who was then serving as the German liaison officer to the Italian naval base at Maddalena Island.  According to Student, Hunaeus conveyed his suspicions to Captain Gerhard von Kamptz, the officer who was assigned the command of the naval forces for the aborted Santo Stefano raid.  Kamptz visited Maddalena himself and then flew to the Wolf's Lair to report to Hitler.  German naval records confirm that Kamptz was at the Wolf's Lair on August 16.  (Hitler had another theory regarding Mussolini's whereabouts:  namely, that he was being held captive aboard an Italian warship in the port of La Spezia on the northwestern coast of Italy.)
       According to Karl Radl, Kappler discovered another clue involving Maddalena by focusing his attention on members of Mussolini's immediate family, most of whom were still in Italy at this time (though the Duce's son Vittorio had fled to the relative safety of Germany).  He supposedly hit pay dirt with Edda Ciano, the dictator's favorite daughter.  Edda, it seems, had written a letter to her father, and Kappler had somehow managed to trace it to Maddalena.


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August 20, 1943 (12:46 hours):  From Rome to Berlin.
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that Mussolini is still on Maddalena.  The information was obtained from Pagnozzi.

Commentary:  This intelligence is accurate. 
       According to General Student and Skorzeny, one of Skorzeny's men (Warger) was deployed as an undercover agent on the island.  Around this time, Warger supposedly saw Mussolini with his own eyes. 


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August 29, 1943 (18:45 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that Mussolini was removed from Maddalena on August 27.  Mussolini was transferred to a villa south of Lake Trasimene on mainland Italy.  The information came from an Italian fascist (Pomilio).  Kappler is in the process of verifying the information.

Commentary:  This intelligence is basically correct about the date (Mussolini says he was moved in the early morning of August 28), but wrong about Lake Trasimene.  In actuality, Mussolini's plane touched down at a seaplane base on Lake Bracciano, which was located a short distance northwest of Rome.  From there, Mussolini was immediately taken to the Gran Sasso.


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September 5, 1943 (22:00 hours):  From Rome to Berlin.
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that, thanks to information obtained via an Italian police source in the vicinity of the Gran Sasso, Mussolini is probably located in or near a hotel on the mountain.  Kappler has already sent some of his men to the area to investigate this lead.  They will return by Tuesday afternoon.

Commentary:  This intelligence is accurate.  The "hotel" is presumably the Hotel Imperatore.  Erich Priebke, Kappler's Italian-speaking second-in-command, was one of the men that Kappler sent to investigate the lead.  ("Tuesday" was September 7.)
       The date of this message is intriguing.  Around this same time, General Student and Skorzeny apparently paid a visit to the seaplane base on Lake Bracciano and learned that Mussolini had made an appearance there several days earlier.  However, the exact connection between their discovery and Kappler's lead is unknown.


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September 7, 1943 (19:27 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that, having conducted his investigation of the Gran Sasso, he believes that Mussolini is being held in the Hotel Imperatore.

Commentary:  This intelligence is accurate.


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September 8, 1943 (21:46 hours):  From Berlin to Rome.
Summary:  Schellenberg sends a message to Rome telling the Germans to rescue Mussolini.

Commentary:  On this same day, the Italians publicly surrendered to the Allies, shattering the Axis alliance. 


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September 10, 1943 (11:40 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  The Germans in Rome inform Berlin that the rescue operation has been delayed.


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September 10, 1943 (20:49 hours):  From Berlin to Rome.  
Summary:  Hoettl orders the Germans in Rome to rescue Mussolini (as well as his wife) by any means necessary.


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September 12, 1943 (13:00 hours):  From Berlin to Rome. 
Summary:  Schellenberg reiterates to the Germans in Rome that the rescue of Mussolini is a top priority.


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September 12, 1943 (14:45 hours):  From Rome to Berlin.
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that the mission to rescue Mussolini is underway.

Commentary:  Interestingly, Kappler mentioned that Skorzeny was the commander of the raid.  However, as indicated in Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini, it is much more likely that Major Harold Mors was in command, per the orders of General Student. 


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September 12, 1943 (18:11 hours):  From Rome to Berlin. 
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that Mussolini has been rescued.  Mussolini departed by plane from Pratica di Mare at 5 p.m. on his way to Vienna.

Commentary:  Skorzeny accompanied Mussolini during this flight.


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October 4, 1943 (18:29 hours):  From Rome to Berlin.
Summary:  Kappler informs Berlin that several reconnaisance missions were sent to the Gran Sasso prior to Mussolini's rescue.  Priebke and Koheler participated.  During the third reconnaisance foray, Koheler was accompanied by General Student's personal doctor.  Kappler takes credit for tracking Mussolini's movements after the dictator was removed from Maddalena.

Commentary:  The purpose and context of this message, which is apparently just a fragment, are not clear.  This report provides direct confirmation that Priebke carried out one of the reconnaisance missions. 
       The "doctor" was Dr. Leo Krutoff, General Student's Italian-speaking medical officer.  Student and Skorzeny had the idea of sending Krutoff to the hotel and instructing him to ask the Italians if it could be used as a convalescent facility for ailing German soldiers.  The true purpose of Krutoff's visit was to gather intelligence.
Copyright 2007 Greg Annussek
Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini
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The following is a summary of the key German radio messages sent between Rome and Berlin during the summer of 1943 as the Nazis sought to find and free Mussolini, who was being held captive by the Badoglio regime.  Most of these reports were sent by 36-year-old Major Herbert Kappler, who was the police attaché at the German embassy in Rome.  Kappler, who had lived in the Italian capital for several years, was a central figure in the Mussolini task force overseen by General Kurt Student and Captain Otto Skorzeny.

These messages are significant for several reasons.  For one thing, they provide the exact dates associated with various discoveries.  They also contain details about Kappler's sources, which were primarily former fascist officials, the Italian police, and mysterious "agents" who are referred to only by their codenames.  Overall, the accuracy of the German intelligence reports is impressive.  However, this is only obvious in hindsight.  It is important to remember that, during the summer of 1943, there were disagreements among the Nazis regarding Mussolini's true location.  

This summary is based on documents obtained by Mario J. Cereghino from the National Archives (Kew Gardens, Surrey, Great Britain) and published on the Internet on October 23, 2008.  According to Cereghino, the messages were intercepted and decoded by the Allies during the war.  The website address is:  www.casarrubea.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/telex-nazisti-sullitalia.

The commentary is provided by Greg Annussek, author of Hitler's Raid to Save  Mussolini.