Former German soldier tells trial: Army men deplored Italy atrocity

24th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Witness: None of the company of Battalion 818 of the German Army mountain combat engineers approved of the reprisal.

Munich -- Enlisted men in a German Army unit were appalled at having to massacre Italian villagers in 1944, an 84-year-old former serviceman told the war crimes trial of their former lieutenant in Munich Thursday.

The lieutenant, 90, is accused of 14 murders in the Tuscan village of Falzano in 1944. He allegedly ordered the reprisal killings.

None of the company of Battalion 818 of the German Army mountain combat engineers approved of the reprisal, said the witness.

His fellow enlisted men had "deplored" having to dynamite a house with 11 prisoners inside it. The blast killed 10.

"To this day I do not know who ordered it," said the retiree, who added he had no acquaintance with the accused.

The witness said he had been a telephone operator in the engineering company.

He denied being present during the attack on the civilians. "I only heard about it," he said. At the time of the violence he had been escorting an Italian prisoner back to base at the orders of his sergeant, the witness told the court.

At the start of the trial last month, the accused denied through his lawyer that he even knew at the time about the atrocity, which allegedly began with the Germans shooting dead three men and a woman.

While the accused has been named in international media, German media have not generally published his name because of defamation rules.

An Italian court at La Spezia sentenced the 90-year-old in absentia to life imprisonment in 2006. Germany is trying the former lieutenant anew because it does not extradite its own citizens.

The reprisal allegedly happened after partisans killed two of the engineering unit's men in the village.

The trial continues, with an Italian police officer scheduled to testify at the next hearing, on Nov. 13.


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