Italy to try three German WWII officers over massacres

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An Italian court plans to try three German World War II army officers for the 1944 massacres of scores of civilians and partisans, a source of the Verona military tribunal said Thursday.

A preliminary hearing is set for January 20 for Karl Schaefer, now 100 years old, Karl Weis, 91, and Ernst Plege, 89.

A Wehrmacht unit on April 7, 1944, burned down the village of Fragheto, in the central region of Marche, and killed 33 people including 15 women and four young children.

Schaefer, who commanded the unit, is charged with aggravated multiple homicide.

The other two defendants are accused of executing partisans in another village of the same region, Calanco di Sotto.

An on-site investigation earlier this year led Italian investigators to hear the testimony of the massacres' sole survivor.

The trial, likely to be held in the absence of the defendants, will have largely symbolic value and may not lead to concrete compensation.

In the closing months of the war, while German troops retreated and were being harassed by Italian partisans, Nazi units committed large-scale massacres that remain etched into Italy's memory.

© 2011 AFP

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