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Tuscany in war-crimes trial with Germany

Region joins victims' suit for reparations

18 December, 17:05
Tuscany in war-crimes trial with Germany (ANSA) - Rome, December 18 - The region of Tuscany joined a civil suit against the Federal Republic of Germany on Friday in what is likely to mark the last major Nazi war crimes trial in Italy.

Six German soldiers were arraigned by an Italian court in October for the 1944 massacre of over 350 people in an area known as the Vallucciole in the mountains of eastern Tuscany as a reprisal against raids by local partisans.

According to the few remaining survivors, most of the victims were women and children. By now in their 80s and 90s, witnesses to the killings will testify in both the criminal trial and a civil suit seeking reparations from both the culprits and the German government.

Tuscan Governor Claudio Martini noted in an official statement that it was ''the first time a region of Italy has ever taken part in a trial against both war criminals and the Federal Republic of Germany''.

''These crimes were committed with total disregard to even the most basic principles of human decency,'' he explained.

''As the representative of an area devastated by those crimes, the Tuscan regional government joins the victims' plea for justice''.

None of the defendants, identified over the course of a lengthy investigation by Italian war crimes prosecutors, will be present for the trial, in which they face life sentences for mass murder.

Karl Winkler, 87, Friz Olberg, 88, Wilhelm Karl Sark, 89, Ferdinand Osterhaus, 90, and Gunther Heintroth, 84, are the living officers of the Fallschirm Panzer Division who allegedly ordered the killings.

Another officer, Gustav Brandt, was struck off the list of defendants who recently died in Berlin at the age of 95.

Even if they were to be extradited to Italy, none of the defendants would face actual jail time given their old age.

But Marini said the trial, perhaps the last of a long series for war crimes committed during the German occupation of Italy, had ''great symbolic importance'' in establishing what happened and who was responsible.

Tuscany's part as a plaintiff in the civil suit follows a landmark 2008 ruling by the Italian Court of Cassation requiring Germany to pay damages to the families of those killed in Nazi massacres.

Germany appealed the ruling to the International Court of Justice arguing that Italy breached a 1961 war crime treaty.

The two countries have set up a panel to review WWII issues.

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