German denies Nazi war crime involvement
A 90-year-old German, sentenced in Italy in absentia to life in prison for a Nazi war crime, pleaded innocent Monday at the start of a trial in Germany in one of the last cases of its kind.
Josef Scheungraber, then the commander of a German mountain infantry battalion, is accused of ordering the killing of 14 civilians in the Tuscan village of Falzano on June 26, 1944.
The massacre was allegedly in retaliation for an attack by Italian partisans that left two German soldiers dead.
More than six decades on, the trial in the southern city of Munich comes at the end of a prolonged legal odyssey that has provoked outrage among Nazi victims’ groups.
Documents found in the 1990s pointed to Scheungraber’s alleged involvement in the killings and he was sentenced in absentia in September 2006 to life imprisonment by the Italian military tribunal in La Spezia.
However Germany as a rule does not extradite its citizens without their consent and has not received a formal request from Italy to jail him here.
The Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Monday that Scheungraber’s prosecution in Germany “is possibly — and even probably — the last major trial for crimes committed under the Nazis.”
A handful of protesters gathered outside the courtroom holding a placard reading: Mass Murderer Here! Give the Murdered a Name.
Scheungraber faces 14 counts of murder and one of attempted murder. He followed the proceedings with headphones due to his poor hearing.
The accused “completely and thoroughly denies the accusations in the charge sheet,” said a statement read in court by one of his two lawyers, Christian Stuenkel.