Nine ageing Germans sentenced over Nazi massacres in Italy
A court in Verona sentenced nine elderly Germans to life imprisonment on Wednesday evening for Nazi massacres of hundreds of people in the north of Italy in 1944, Italian media reported.
The convicted men were part of the "Hermann Göring" division which had tried to break the back of the Italian resistance and indiscriminately slaughtered civilians, including 140 in the Modena region alone, they said.
The sentences were also for massacres carried out in other parts of the Emilia Romagna region and near Arezzo in Tuscany.
The trial began in November 2010 after a five-year investigation. The accused were sentenced in absentia.
"Finally there has been justice for the victims and their relatives and a bloody page of history can be closed," plaintiff Demos Malavasi from Modena told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "Sixty-seven years have passed, but at least they didn't pass in vain," he added.
Judge Vincenzo Santoro, who read out the sentences in court, said charges had been dropped against three other men, now deceased.
But 90-year old Wilhelm Karl Stark, a sergeant at the time, was given a life sentence along with 93-year old Ferdinand Osterhaus, an second lieutenant, and 91-year old Helmut Odenwald, then a captain.
Herbert Wilke, 92, Erich Koeppe, 91 and Hans Georg Karl Winkler and Karl Friedrich Mess – both in their 80s – were also handed life sentences.
Relatives of the victims who had travelled to the Verona court house along with local mayors, sat in the public gallery as the court ruled that the convicted men also pay them compensation, the Corriere reported.