The Italian Almanac


Old Nazis

Three German former soldiers have received life sentences for killing 184 Italian civilians in a WWII reprisal in Tuscany, one of Italy's worst wartime atrocities.

Former Wermacht captain Ernst Pinstor, 91, ex-warrant officer Fritz Jauss, 94, and former sergeant Johan Robert Riss were sentenced in absentia for murdering 94 mostly elderly men, 63 women and 27 children including some newborn babies "in cold blood, looking the innocent in the eyes," as a prosecutor put it. The court also set a new record compensation package of almost 13 million euros for the relatives of the victims, which the Federal Republic of Germany was asked to pay.

"After 67 years we have obtained justice," said local mayor Rinaldo Vanni. Vanni however expressed regret that the case had taken so long to come to court because key documents were only unearthed, in a so-called "cupboard of shame", in 1994. The massacre on August 23, 1944 took place a day after an SS division killed 560 people including 116 children in nearby Sant'Anna di Stazzema, the backdrop to Spike Lee's 2008 film Miracle at St Anna.

Rome military prosecutor Marco De Paolis voiced the hope that if the verdict is confirmed at the high court of Cassation "the terms will actually be served, if only in Germany".

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.