Ex-Nazi officer jailed for life over Italy massacre

11th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

A 90-year-old former army commander is jailed for life over the massacre of 10 civilians in an Italian village during World War II.

Munich – A court jailed a 90-year-old ex-army commander for life Tuesday for ordering a massacre of civilians in an Italian village in 1944 in one of Germany's last major Nazi war crimes trials.

The court in the southern city of Munich convicted Josef Scheungraber for the deaths of 10 people in a mass killing that ultimately claimed the lives of 14 residents of Falzano di Cortona in Tuscany.

The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for Scheungraber, who had spent the decades since the war in the quaint Bavarian town of Ottobrunn. There, he ran woodworking shop and took part in marches in memory of fallen Nazi soldiers.

His defence attorneys called for his acquittal, citing contradictions in witness testimony on the events 65 years on.

Scheungraber, dressed in a traditional Bavarian jacket, appeared alert and in good health as he listened to the judgement against him.

He went on trial in September accused of ordering the murders on 26 June 1944 in retaliation for an attack by Italian partisans that killed two German soldiers.

A 74-year-old woman and three men were shot dead in the street. German soldiers then forced 11 males aged between 15 and 66 into the ground floor of a farmhouse which they then blew up.

Only the youngest, Gino Massetti, survived, but with serious injuries. Six decades later and an old man himself, Massetti testified during the Italian trial.

Scheungraber, at the time the commander of mountain infantry battalion Gebirgs-Pionier-Bataillon 818, had been charged with 14 counts of murder and one of attempted murder but was only convicted of 10 murders due to a lack of evidence.

He was sentenced in absentia in September 2006 to life imprisonment by an Italian military tribunal in La Spezia.

The La Spezia court has tried several former Nazis in absentia but none has been brought to justice, with Germany as a rule not extraditing its citizens without their consent.

Scheungraber had told the Munich court that he handed the 11 males over to the military police, after which he "never heard what happened to them".

AFP / Expatica

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