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Italy court sentences Ex-Nazi soldiers to life imprisonment

A military tribunal in Rome has convicted three former German soldiers of multiple murders committed during World War II. The three men were tried in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment [UPI report] for their parts in the massacre of 184 civilians in the village of Padule di Fucecchio in Tuscany on August 23, 1944. The killings of 94 mostly elderly men, 63 women and 27 children constituted one of the worst Nazi atrocities in Italy during the war. A year afterward Sgt. Charles Edmonson of the Special Investigations Branch became determined to find the perpetrators and took detailed accounts from witnesses. After Edmonson died in 1985 the statements were found in a cupboard in his home and later formed part of the prosecution's case against the three Germans. The ex-soldiers, 88, 91 and 94 years old, are not expected to serve time in prison because Germany is not required by law to release them into Italian custody. In addition to the life sentences, the court handed down an order for Germany to pay €12 million to surviving relatives of the victims, but Germany maintains it is not liable due to provisions of the 1947 Treaty of Peace [materials] and the 1961 Bilateral Compensation Agreement for Victims of the Nazi Regime.

A fourth defendant died during trial at the age of 100, a reminder that recent trials for Nazi atrocities will likely be some of the last. Earlier this month a Hungarian court began the trial [JURIST report] of accused Nazi Sandor Kepiro, who was named as the world's most wanted Nazi war crimes suspect by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) [advocacy website], a Jewish human rights organization committed to finding and prosecuting Holocaust war criminals. Also this month, a German court convicted [JURIST report] Nazi guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive] for his role in murdering 28,000 at the Sobidor Death Camp. Demjanjuk, 91, was sentenced to five years in prison but released because of his advanced age and because appeals could take years. In November, Nazi guard Samuel Kunz [Trial Watch profile], 89, passed away [JURIST report] in his home before he could be brought to trial. He was accused of aiding in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people at the Belzec concentration camp [HRP backgrounder].

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