(JTA) — Germany has dropped its investigation into an accused Nazi war criminal’s participation in a massacre in Italy because he suffers from dementia.
German prosecutors in Hamburg in the north of the country on Thursday said that Gerhard Sommer, 93, a former Nazi SS company commander, was unfit for trial due to his medical condition.
He is accused of involvement in the murder of about 560 Italian civilians in the village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany in 1944. The dead included women and children.
If he had been found capable of standing trial, Sommer would “with high probability have been charged with 342 cases of murder, committed cruelly and on base motives,” the prosecutors’ office said in a statement. The decision not to try Sommer reportedly stemmed from the fact that he would not be able to testify in court.
An Italian military court in 2005 found that 10 members of Sommer’s 16th SS Reichsfuehrer division, including Sommer, were responsible for the massacre and sentenced them to life in prison in absentia.
In 2012, a German court found there was not enough evidence to hold the eight surviving SS members personally responsible for the massacre, but in 2014 another court overturned the verdict of Sommer, saying he had advance knowledge that the massacre would take place.
In 2011, Sommer was placed on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance II list of the last remaining unpunished Nazis.