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Rome Jews applaud Italy for stance on Stazzema massacre

Govt opposes German ruling to abandon Nazi case

22 October, 17:43
Rome Jews applaud Italy for stance on Stazzema massacre (ANSA) - Rome, October 22 - The head of Rome's Jewish community on Monday lauded the Italian government for vowing to try surviving Nazi military officers suspected of a World War II massacre in Tuscany after a German court refused to do so. "We appreciated the response of the Italian government, which said it will go forward in trying these 'gentlemen' and open additional cases into other crimes," said Riccardo Pacifici. Following a 10-year investigation, German magistrates this month said a lack of evidence made them drop the case against eight surviving Nazi soldiers for the murder of 560 civilians, including 116 children, in the Tuscan village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema, near Lucca, in 1944.

The decision sparked anger and disbelief among the local community and Italian politicians, with Mayor Michele Silicani describing it as "absurd and unjust".

In its own investigation and trial, an Italian military court condemned 10 of the ex-Nazi officers to life in prison in absentia, including the eight who remain alive.

Germany refused to grant Italy's request for the men's arrest.

Only three former Nazis have ever been jailed in Italy for war crimes.

Erich Priebke, 99, was extradited from Argentina in 1995 and sentenced to life for his part in a 1944 reprisal outside Rome that killed 335 men and boys including many Jews; his ex-commander Karl Hass, arrested after coming from Switzerland to Priebke's trial with witness immunity, died in prison aged 92 in 2004; and 'Butcher of Bolzano' Michael Seifert, found guilty of 18 murders, was extradited from Canada to serve life in 2008 and died in jail aged 86 in 2010.

Priebke is now under house arrest in Rome. He had a work permit revoked in 2007 after an outcry from the city's Jewish community.

Italian prosecutors have issued European arrest warrants for 15 other German former soldiers without success.

Under the terms of a postwar settlement, Germany is not required to extradite alleged war criminals to Italy.

The two countries agreed in 2008 to review outstanding wartime issues including the compensation for victims.

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