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Appeal Rejected to Free Ex-nazi

March 6, 1979
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The military court of La Spezia has rejected on appeal for freedom by Walter Reder, a former Austrian SS commander serving a life sentence for the mass murder of the population of the town of Marzabotto in northern Italy during World War II. Reder, 70, is the last war criminal still incarcerated in an Italian prison. His former fellow inmate at the Gaeta military prison, Herbert Kappler, died in Germany last year after his engineered escape from a military prison hospital in Rome.

Reder is held responsible for the deaths of 1834 people, mostly women and children. His appeal was supported by the prison judge who cited his advanced age. His lawyers say Reder is seriously ill” and announced that he would appeal to the military supreme court.

But three conditions are necessary for his release and Reder fulfills only one — he has served at least 24 years of his sentence. He has refused to comply with the second condition which is to confess remorse for his crimes. He insists he was only carrying out orders. The third condition, forgiveness by the families of the victims has already been refused.

A curious parallel was noted between the cases of Reder and Kappler, also of the SS, who was responsible for the Ardeatine caves massacre in which 365 Italians, a third of them Jewish, were shot in reprisal for a partisan attack on German soldiers in Rome. Many appeals were made for Kappler’s release, on grounds of age and illness. The refusal by the relatives of the Jewish victims to grant pardon sparked a heated debate over the pros and cons of forgiveness. Reder’s victims were mostly Catholics. When their relatives refused decisively to “forgive and forget” no debate ensued.

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