Italy massacre trial: Ordered from above

3rd October 2008, Comments 0 comments

In the trial of a German officer in which 14 died in Falzano, Italy, a witness says the murders would have had to come from the top.

Munich -- A reprisal massacre in Italy in World War II was more likely to have resulted from higher-up orders than from a low-level decision, a witness told a Munich court Thursday.

A former German Army serviceman, 90, was testifying at the trial of a former lieutenant, also 90, who is accused of ordering 14 murders in the Tuscan village of Falzano in 1944.

The witness said any order to blow up a house with people locked inside "would have come from a higher level" than a commander of a battalion, let alone from a lieutenant in charge of a company within the battalion.

"I don't believe a middle-rank officer would have had the power," said the man, who denied knowing anything about the Falzano massacre until police interviewed him two years ago about the Nazi atrocity.

Asked if soldiers could have used explosives without their lieutenant knowing, he said: "No -- out of the question."

The witness said he had been a mechanic in an army garage, not in combat.

The lieutenant allegedly ordered his company of Battalion 818 of the German Army mountain combat engineers to shoot dead three men and a woman in a rampage, then lock village men inside a Falzano house and blow it up, killing 10.

An Italian court sentenced the former lieutenant in absentia to life imprisonment in 2006.

Germany is trying the 90-year-old anew because it does not extradite its own citizens. The accused denies the charges.

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

The trial continues on Monday.


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