Former WWII German soldier: 'I put explosives in the house'

28th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

His former commander, 90, is on trial for murdering the prisoners by blowing them up at Falzano, Italy in 1944.

Munich -- A former German soldier described Thursday how he dragged a crate of explosives inside a house where 11 Italian men were detained to be killed.

His former commander, 90, is on trial for murdering the prisoners by blowing them up at Falzano, Italy in 1944.

The witness, who at the time was a 21-year-old sergeant in the 818th battalion of the German Army mountain combat engineers, said, "there was an order to do a blast."

The engineer, who regularly worked with explosives, put a box inside the village house.

But he said he did not know who gave the order, nor could he remember if the accused had been the company's lieutenant at the time. He said he remembered training for the Russian Front under the lieutenant in 1942.

But he could not recall if the lieutenant was present while the unit was in Tuscany at the time of the June 27, 1944 violence.

The defendant, whose name has been withheld by German media because of defamation rules, has already been sentenced in absentia by an Italian court at La Spezia to life imprisonment.

Germany is re-trying him as it does not extradite its own citizens. The case may prove to be one of the world's last World War II war-crimes trials, though Germany is also seeking to try John Demjanjuk, 88, a former Ukrainian guard.

The witness, 85, who is to be assisted by his own court-appointed lawyer for the next round of evidence because he may incriminate himself, initially said Thursday he could not remember that Italians had harmed the battalion.

The prosecution says the destruction of the village house with the prisoners inside, killing 10, and a rampage that killed three villagers, was to avenge the killing of two company members in the village.

But under probing examination in the courtroom, he said it had come back to him that two of the company's combat engineers had been killed when they tried to requisition a horse from a farm.

"I think the people whose horse was taken away must have been avenging it," he said. The witness then agreed that the violence by the Germans was a reprisal for those killings.

"Yes, I'd have to say that is true," he said.


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