ROME (Dec. 20)
The Supreme Military Court of Rome has decided to allow former SS Commander Walter Reder, the last surviving Nazi war criminal in an Italian prison, to appeal his life sentence, despite expressions of outrage and protests from the families of his victims and others. Reder was responsible for ordering the deaths of more than 3000 civilians in the towns of Marzabotto, Lucca and Lunigiana in September 1944.
Last March, the military court in La Spezia rejected Reder’s appeal. But this week the Rome tribunal nullified that decision on grounds that the lower court ” did not take into sufficient account Reder’s repentence for his deeds. ” It returned the appeal to the La Spezia court which will have to decide whether there are grounds for his release. Reder was convicted in Bologna in 1951. Over the years, his lawyers have filed repeated appeals for a commutation of sentence. All of them failed due mainly to the refusal of the citizens of Marzabotto to see Reder go free.
The townspeople are standing firm against his latest bid. “The gravity of the crimes committed by Reder demands the fullest severity of justice, “they maintain. The release of the ex-Nazi, they say, would disgrace the memory of the martyrs and the values of the Italian resistance movement.
Reder is incarcerated in the Gaeta Military Prison which housed Herberf Kappler, another Nazi war criminal responsible for the Ardeatine Caves massacre and the deportation of over 1000 Jews from Rome. Kappler aide last year after escaping from a prison hospital.