Rome

German court abandons Nazi massacre case in Tuscany

Decision sparks ire and disbelief in Italy

German court abandons Nazi massacre case in Tuscany

(ANSA) - Rome, October 1 - German magistrates decided not to prosecute eight former-Nazi officials for participating in a notorious World War II massacre in Tuscany, sparking rage and disbelief among Italian politicians, survivors, and victims' families on Monday. After a 10-year investigation, German magistrates concluded that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the surviving eight of 17 former Nazi military officers suspected of having a role in the murder of hundreds of civilians in the village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema, near Lucca, in 1944. In its own investigation and trial, the 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. Italian military magistrates found that the German soldiers cold-bloodedly exterminated between 457 and 560 people - mostly the elderly, women and children - in a premeditated, non-military operation aimed at wiping out resistance supporters and civilians, and nailed the blame on the 16th division of the SS armored infantrymen. In one episode during the massacre, Nazi military rounded up about 100 villagers into three animal stalls and a courtyard, and proceeded to throw hand grenades into the crowd as well as shoot machine guns and rifles, according to the Italian reconstruction. The corpses were then burned. The Sant'Anna episode, according to Italian magistrates, was just one in a series of round-ups leaving a trail of blood and suffering throughout the Tuscan hills. "I want to assure the survivors and victims' relatives that the Stuttgart prosecutor's office did everything possible" to clarify the responsibility of German military officers in the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre, said Stuttgart Attorney General Claudia Krauth on Monday. "Even here we feel the weight of our responsibility," added Krauth, "We have investigated with great interest and commitment." The decision of the Stuttgart prosecutors led to expressions of ire and disbelief among survivors and victims' relatives, while Italian politicians vowed to seek justice. "We are saddened and disheartened by the news. We are not resigned, however. That massacre must find truth and justice. We will present a request to the (German) government to acquire the documentation and to know how it intends to prevent those responsible from going unpunished," declared Paolo Corsini, an Italian deputy to the European Commission and member of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The German court decision spawned "bitterness and pain" for Italian Senators Vannino Chiti and Felice Casson, also both members of the PD, who made a joint statement. "I can't believe it, that they decided something like this. It's not possible. It's an offense to all 560 victims. One can't accept a verdict of this kind," said Enrico Pieri, a survivor of the tragedy. "How can one understand all this? It is an offense for all of the victims. None of this is justifiable. At Sant'Anna, innocents lost their lives, including women, mothers, children, under the ferocity of these soldiers. And now news comes from Germany that they don't even want to bring them to trial? It is absurd," said Bruno Pellegrini, son of one of the survivors of the massacre, Cesira Pardini. Pardini was 18 at the time of the incident. She received a medal for saving two sisters and a one-year-old child from the slaughter. Her mother and two other sisters were killed.

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