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Mattia Bertazzini (Nuffield College, Oxford)

31 January 2023 @ 12:00 - 13:15


  • Past event


31 January 2023
12:00 - 13:15
Event Category:
Academic Events

The economics of civilian victimization: Evidence from World War II Italy

Abstract. To what extent does variation in the cost of misbehavior – namely soldiers’ accountability – impact the frequency and severity of civilian victimization in armed conflicts? To answer this question, we study civilian killings by Axis soldiers during the Italian Campaign in World War II (July 1943 – May 1945). The German command attempted to contain indiscriminate violence against civilians for strategic reasons, but plausibly exogenous variation in the movement of front lines negatively shocked its enforcement capacity, thus reducing soldiers’ accountability. In a stacked difference-in-differences estimation, we compare Axis troops’ behavior in treated municipalities that fell into the combat zone at frontline activation, with that of troops in comparison municipalities that remained either inside or outside the combat zone. We find that the activation of a new frontline increased indiscriminate violence, such as collective killings, murders unrelated to partisan attacks and against vulnerable population, by 10 folds. The effect is concentrated in municipalities located away from divisions’ headquarters (where the German command’s enforcement capacity was, at baseline, weaker) and where bombing and partisan presence were less intense (where Axis troops were safer), which provides further evidence in favor of an accountability mechanism. Crucially for policy, soldiers from less experienced units were more likely to change their behavior in response to a drop in accountability.