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Rome To Prosecute Ex German Officer for Massacre on Italian Officers in Kefalonia

 A Rome military prosecutor on Tuesday called for the indictment of an 89-year-old former German officer for alleged involvement in the massacre of thousands of Italian soldiers on the Greek island of Cephalonia (Kefalonia) during the German and Italian Occupation of the island and whole Greece in World War II. In September 1943n the Italian Acqui Division had refused to surrender and fought the Germans for nine days before running out of ammunition. Some 1,500 Italian soldiers died in the fighting, 5,000 were massacred after surrendering and the rest shipped to Germany, although 3,000 drowned when the ship carrying them hit a mine. The massacre of the Italian soldiers was part of the Holywood film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

The suspect, ex-corporal Alfred Stork, should be called to trial for ordering the execution of “at least 117 Italian officers” after they surrendered, said Rome Prosecutor Marco De Paolis, who claimed to have material evidence for his case.

Among his evidence is an alleged 2005 confession in which he told German prosecutors he was a member of one of the two execution platoons.

The incident was just one episode amid a much larger massacre which came after the 1943 armistice between Italy and the Allies that instructed Italian troops to switch sides.

After news of the September 8 armistice filtered across to the island on September 14, 1943, General Antonio Gandin told each of his men in the Acqui division to follow his own conscience and choose between three alternatives: fight on alongside the Germans, surrender his weapons, or keep them and resist German attacks.

Over the next eight days, 1,300 men died in battle, 5,155 were shot after being taken prisoner, and 3,000 drowned when a ship carrying them to Nazi concentration camps sank.

The bodies of 200 men were tossed down a well, from which they were only recovered and sent back home a few months before former Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi’s visit in 2001.

To the outrage of Italy, a German court cleared then 86-year-old former lieutenant Otmar Muhlhauser of war-crime charges in 2006.

Deceased in 2009, he was believed to be the last survivor of the Werhmacht regiment which carried out the massacre, and he reportedly admitted he had personally ordered the execution of hundreds of soldiers including General Gandin.

The incident forms the backdrop to the best-selling 1994 novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which became a film in 2001 starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. (source: ANSA via Life in Italy).

PS I remember WWII eyewitness stories, when Italian soldiers were trying to escape the Germans, when Italy surrundered to the switched sides. An episode, where a Greek family in Athens was hiding an Italian soldier for a very short time. But the solider was caught, and they never saw him again. The father of the family, who was a kid back then, still remembers the story…

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  1. Don’t mention the war!
    Forgive me KTG, it is an English joke.

  2. Hitler, who gave the order to execute Italian officers switching sides, killed himself, never faced a trial for his crimes. General Lanz, who gave the specific orders to the German troops on Kefalonia, got away with a scandalously light sentence at the Nuremberg trials. All other officers who were involved seem to be deceased by now, some after having been prosecuted but acquitted in Germany. And so, the Italians now want to hold a mere corporal accountable for the massacre? Hmm.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      there is not hmmm… People still charge concentration camps capos

      • Apparently, German prosecutors already investigated the case but didn’t find sufficient grounds for starting a trial. Very probably because of the documented evidence of the superiors of Stork ordering the executions. The corporal would have faced court martial and possibly execution if he had not complied. Under these circumstances I can only conclude that this Italian prosecutor is probably more interested in publicity than in delivering justice.

        Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for prosecuting war crimes, and that includes the countless atrocities of German Nazis and officers during WWII. But this case here is a farce. A scapegoat shall be held responsible for the inhumane madness of his superiors. That’s a perversion of justice, imho.

        Btw, be careful with extending too much sympathy for Italian troops occupying Greece in WWII (after having invaded it!). The army of fascist Italy engaged in a lot of attrocities, too, including masacres in Greece:

        • keeptalkinggreece

          the Italian case could be a sequel to International Court of the Hague case.
          Nobody doubts the Italian attrocities during Greece’s occupation, but my eye witnesses claim the Italian were kind of more ‘human’ in compariosn to German occupators

          • Well, The ICC “can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states.”
            So, Bush or Rumsfeld could be prosecuted, since they never were held accountable in their own country, but probably not Stork, who faces prosecution for the second time now.

          • keeptalkinggreece

            I was talking baout the recent WWII germany Italy Greece case.

          • Me, too!

        • Gray, one of the good things of Nuremberg was the establishment of the notion of individual responsibility for you actions. Hiding behind the infamous ‘Befehl ist Befehl’ was not accepted anymore. And I agree totally with that notion.
          If this corporal would have faced court martial and execution by refusing to kill of all those people so be it. That’s part of the Civil Courage we all hope we will have when horrible things like that happen around us. But he should stand trial.
          Other point is the question about how often someone has to stand trial for the same facts. You say he was acquitted in Germany for these crimes then there might be a case to make for not prosecuting him anymore unless there is clear new evidence.

          • I totally agree on the importance of the Nuremberg trial on establishing that offenders can’t simply hide behind orders. If they had the chance to prevent crimes against humanity, or at least to avoid taking part in that, they had to do that.

            But, sorry, you overstate that rule! Not even the Nuremberg trial established that a soldier had to accept his own execution to avoid taking part in a war crime. That simply isn’t true. If it’s a situation where it’s your life or that of the victim, your selfish decision to stay alive can’t be held against you. That’s the law.

            And, indeed, ktg’s story states he testified to German prosecutors. That means there was an investigation. So far, I can’t see which evidence thhe Italians may have that show the guy acted on his own and not under orders from his superiors, with a threat to his own life if he disregarded them. The poinnt isn’t if he took part, the quationn if he can be legally held responsible for the massacre. And international law in similar cases says he can’t.

          • iaourti iaourtaki

            It’s still called Nürnberg and only a few murderers got punished. The continuity of the 3rd Reich went on for a long time in Germany and was one major reason for the 68 movement to come up, with judges and politicians, even the police forces were trained until 1982 by former Nazis.
            Beside that it took many years for German antifascists to figure out how many former Jewish owned houses and factories were aryanized and played a part in the miracle of economy (Wirtschaftswunder) beside plundered infrastructure and factorise all over Europe and never paid reparations.

          • About 10% of what you are saying here is true, the rest is utter nonsense or a gross distortion of reality.

          • It’s still called Nürnberg

            No it isn’t and is never was. Nürnberg it’s called in Germany. Νυρεμβέργη here in Greece, Nuremberg in English and French, Neurenberg in Dutch, Norimberga in Italian, Núremberg in Spanish, Norymberga in Polish and so on. Important towns have the strange habit of being called different things in different languages. Αθήνα, Athens, Athen, Athene, Atenas, Atene, Atina…

          • “It’s still called Nürnberg”
            This is an English language blog, we should use the English spelling. So it’s Nuremberg, not Nürnberg, Munich, not München, and Hamburger, not Frikadelle! 🙂