Italy wants Germany to arrest and jail a 92-year-old former Nazi convicted of war crimes in Italy.
Friedrich Engel, the “butcher of Genoa,” was convicted in absentia in Italy two years ago for having rounded up and killed nearly 250 civilians in northern Italy during World War II.
Last week, a German television station traced Engel to his home in Hamburg and broadcast an interview with him.
Since German law bars the extradition of a German citizen, Italy has called on Germany to arrest and jail Engel.
“We hope that Germany responds to our request for the arrest of Engel, which we have asked many times,” Italian Justice Minister Piero Fassino told reporters. “The fact that he can’t be extradited doesn’t mean that he can’t be arrested.”
German officials said this week they would launch an investigation into the case.
Engel was the SS commandant and police chief in Genoa in 1944 and 1945.
In 1999, a military tribunal in Turin tried him in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison for carrying out mass executions in four towns.
In all, 246 Italians were killed. Most of the victims were Italian partisans and political prisoners. They included 59 people executed by firing squad in Turchino in May 1944 in reprisal for a partisan attack at a movie house that killed six German soldiers.
In an interview published this week by the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, Engel admitted that he was “partially responsible” for these 59 deaths, but not the others.
Engel said that – like the infamous March 1944 Ardeatine Caves massacre in Rome, in which 335 civilians were killed – they were shot in direct reprisal for the German deaths: 10 Italians for each German.
“I didn’t approve of the order” to kill them, the newspaper quoted him as saying. “But yes, I was present that day, but I could not oppose the execution.”
Engel remains a free man, pending the results of Germany’s investigation.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.