Ten plaintiffs from the northern city of Mantua were present in court while the others or their families were represented by their lawyers, the Ansa news agency said Thursday. Italian and German government lawyers were also present at the opening hearing.
The judge adjourned the case until January 22, 2009, after reserving judgement on a claim by one lawyer for an interim payment of €35,000 ($50,500) for each of the victims on grounds of their advanced age.
Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled on June 4 that the forced labour of Italian prisoners in Nazi Germany was a crime against humanity. Rejecting a bid by Germany to overturn an earlier ruling on the grounds of immunity, the court ruled that the German state remained accountable for the Nazi regime's actions.
The court upheld an order for Germany to pay compensation to 52 elderly plaintiffs, many of them soldiers deported to Germany after 1943 who have been seeking compensation for years. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has called for a joint group of Italian and German experts to be set up to examine the compensation issue.