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JediAthos
08-11-2009, 01:15 PM
A 90-year-old former German army officer was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for ordering the massacre of 10 Italian civilians in a World War II reprisal killing.

The Munich state court convicted Josef Scheungraber on 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder, 65 years after soldiers under his command herded 11 Italians into a barn and blew it up. One teenage boy survived the blast.

The court ruled that Scheungraber's men exacted vengeance against the population of Falzano di Cortona, near the Tuscan town of Arezzo, after local partisans killed two German soldiers in June 1944.

"It was about revenge," said the judge, Manfred Goetzl.

Scheungraber "was the only officer present," Goetzl said. "He was not someone who allowed an important matter to be taken out of his hands."

Scheungraber drew several deep breaths after his conviction was announced and listened to the judge's explanation with his eyes closed.

However, Scheungraber was acquitted of charges that he also ordered soldiers to shoot to death three Italian men and one woman before the barn massacre. Goetzl said it could not be proven that Scheungraber gave that order.

Scheungraber's lawyer, Klaus Goebel, said he would appeal what he called "a scandalous verdict." Scheungraber declined to comment.

Court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said Scheungraber would not go to prison until the appeals process is finished. This could take months.

A few relatives of Scheungraber's victims attended the judgment and expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

"This was a very important verdict for our family," said Angiola Lescai, 60, whose grandfather was among those killed in the barn. "We view this as a very beautiful gesture of reconciliation."

The mayor of Cortona, Andrea Vignini, who also attended, said the area's citizens "have waited 65 years to hear this verdict. I think this ruling finally brings peace for the dead and the living."

Scheungraber, who commanded a company of engineers, maintained he was not in Falzano di Cortona when the killings happened, but was overseeing reconstruction of a nearby bridge.

His defense team had sought a total acquittal, arguing that prosecutors had presented no evidence of Scheungraber's personal guilt.

Prosecutors acknowledged they could provide no living witnesses who heard Scheungraber give orders to kill civilians. But they said he had been photographed at the burial of the two German soldiers whose killings triggered the reprisals.

The court did hear from the sole survivor of the barn massacre, Gino Massetti, who was 15 when German troops herded him and 10 others into the barn before it was destroyed.

"I heard a scream, and that was it then. They were all dead," Massetti testified in October.

Just before the barn was blown up, Massetti recalled, he saw a man he assumed was an officer arrive on a motorcycle and give what appeared to be an order to the others. Massetti could not describe the officer and didn't understand what he had said.

Massetti said it was down to luck that he survived. He was partly shielded from the blast after a heavy beam and a man fell on top of him.

A former work colleague also testified that he remembered Scheungraber saying to him once in the 1970s that he couldn't visit Italy because of what had happened during the war, which involved "shooting a dozen men and blowing them into the air."

The witness, Eugen Schuh, testified he did not remember Scheungraber saying he had given the order, but said the defendant told the story "as if it were his decision."

In September 2006 a military court in La Spezia, Italy, tried Scheungraber in absentia over the same crimes and convicted him of complicity in murdering civilians. It sentenced him to life in prison.

The defendant lives in Bavaria, and prosecutors said German judicial authorities needed to evaluate the case themselves before Scheungraber would face any punishment. His Munich trial opened last year.

Scheungraber's conviction gives German prosecutors a boost as they pursue two other Nazi-era cases.

The Munich court has yet to decide when 89-year-old John Demjanjuk charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor camp in Poland might go on trial.

The admitted Nazi hit man Heinrich Boere is expected to go on trial in Aachen, northwest Germany, in October for the 1944 killings of three Dutch civilians.

The top Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, said Scheungraber's conviction would "inspire additional trials."

"We hope that German prosecutors will be just as successful in the case of Demjanjuk, Heinrich Boere and any other cases they may take up," Zuroff said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.

-From the AP via Yahoo! News


That the Nazis committed horrible acts is not in question. It seems to me though that these so-called "Nazi Hunters" and German prosecutors are using a lot of circumstantial, at best, evidence to put 80 and 90 year old men in jail.

I guess I'm having a bit of a problem with the fact that the prosecution can prove so little yet still earn convictions...I'd love to hear some other thoughts on this. I suppose it might even run within the lines of the burden of proof discussion.

Darth_Yuthura
08-11-2009, 01:24 PM
I totally agree. Without the proper evidence, you shouldn't be allowed to convict people who might not be guilty. Although I detest the idea that people responsible for mass murders are allowed to roam free, that's not an excuse to convict people without the proper evidence. It happened over sixty years ago, so although there is no statute on murder, the evidence and witnesses are not as reliable as they would have been shortly after it happened.

If this guy was guilty, he should have been prosecuted decades ago.

mimartin
08-11-2009, 02:35 PM
I find the lack of evidence disturbing; I strongly agree with the mindset that it is better for the guilty to go free than to imprison the innocent.

However, I have no problem with the time frame. There is a reason there is no statute of limitations on certain crimes. The victims have no chance of clemency, why should those that performed such acts be allowed that honor?

Gurges-Ahter
08-11-2009, 02:40 PM
That the Nazis committed horrible acts is not in question. It seems to me though that these so-called "Nazi Hunters" and German prosecutors are using a lot of circumstantial, at best, evidence to put 80 and 90 year old men in jail.

I agree with you that the apparent lack of evidence is disturbing, although I do not have a problem with putting "80 and 90 year old men in jail". Based on that article, however, I cannot believe that would be enough evidence to convict a man. If the pre-barn blowing up charges were dropped because of lack of proof that he gave the orders, how is the evidence presented anywhere near enough to make the same claim?

Web Rider
08-11-2009, 03:59 PM
It's good to find people guilty of their crimes, however, at their age, and given the lack of evidence, my first question is: "how much good are you really doing?" and second is: "you've got to be kidding me if you think that's evidence."

Jae Onasi
08-11-2009, 04:50 PM
Well, I don't think the case would fly in the US because there doesn't appear to be enough direct evidence, based on what little I gleaned from the article. I'd have to see the court documents to decide from there. However, the US runs on case law (innocent til proven guilty) while Italy's legal system is based on Napoleonic code (guilty til proven innocent, for lack of a better term), so the burden of proof is different in the 2 countries. I'm not sure how the German system runs, however.

Had there been sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, his age would make no difference to me. If he's guilty of murder, he should go to jail, even if he's 110, and consider himself lucky that he managed to get off scott-free all those years.

Gurges-Ahter
08-11-2009, 04:59 PM
Had there been sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, his age would make no difference to me. If he's guilty of murder, he should go to jail, even if he's 110, and consider himself lucky that he managed to get off scott-free all those years.

Agreed - I don't see why the age is an issue at all. The age of the evidence might matter, if it deteriorates due to lack of witnesses, for example, but the age of the offender makes no difference to me.

purifier
08-11-2009, 07:43 PM
You know this guy is 90 years old, so he pretty much cheated any of the victims out of not being caught for all those years on the run. So now he's been caught and is going to prison at age 90. But he's got what, maybe 5 - 10 years at the most of living left in the prison he's going to. So if he dies soon by natural causes or self suicide whatever the case maybe, he will have once agian cheated the victims ( by doing his own death) out of justice for the crimes he committed or by his death order against those people in the past.

In other words, what good is a life sentence going to do now; I mean especially if that happens?

I'll bet the victims relatives would rather see him executed by their governments hands to satisfy their needs for justice in this case. But it's not going to happen for them, so he's really screwed them all out of any real justice.

Gurges-Ahter
08-11-2009, 08:34 PM
In other words, what good is a life sentence going to do now; I mean especially if that happens?
...
But it's not going to happen for them, so he's really screwed them all out of any real justice.

I understand the argument that justice wasn't really served if he cheated conviction for so long, but I still think sending a 90 year old to prison does some good, if he did commit the crime. Should prosecutors stop pursuing conviction because the guy is 90? I think convictions should happen period, regardless of age.

JediAthos
08-11-2009, 09:02 PM
Purifier...you pretty much hit my thinking with your statement about how much good is it really doing. That's basically what I was driving at, but at the same time I can definitely understand the sentiment that if guilty the age shouldn't matter.

Like Jae said, in the United States this case certainly wouldn't fly as the lack of, and degradation of the evidence would scare even the best prosecutor in the U.S. justice system. In this case the evidence doesn't even begin to convince me this man is guilty.

The best evidence in these Nazi cases was available probably for the first decade after World War II ended, but after that I would think it probably begins to trail off.

purifier
08-11-2009, 09:09 PM
I understand the argument that justice wasn't really served if he cheated conviction for so long, but I still think sending a 90 year old to prison does some good, if he did commit the crime. Should prosecutors stop pursuing conviction because the guy is 90? I think convictions should happen period, regardless of age.


Oh no, don't get me wrong, they should try and capture all crimnals for any crime that was committed by the crimnal - especially murder; despite the age and no matter how long it takes them to do it.

But I'm thinking the judgement by the court in this case was too soft, I mean a life sentence at his age is not going to do any good for the victims or the victims family members. (And I'll bet they were screamning for his execution when he was finally caught). I mean if he gets out of it by death from some damn disease or by his on hand at this late stage in his life, well he's still going to cheat them out of any real justice.

I just have feeling he will end up deceased within the next couple of years for whatever reason. And it will be back in the news, in which the media will probably print the headlines with something like: "No justice for victims after all." - or - "Josef Scheungraber still cheats the justice system from a life sentence." Well, it's going to suck for them if that happens, those people will not be happy.

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Edit: Ooops, I just now saw your recent post JediAthos...we must have been typing at the same time. :D

Yeah, you got a point there too, as for the evidence in this case I'm not so sure either. But just the same, even if they did have real hard evidence against him and I mean downright hard evidence, no way out, yeah you did it buddy! Well it still not gonna help the victims in this case with just a life sentence, know what I mean?

JediAthos
08-11-2009, 10:01 PM
I see your point...I don't know what would make it easier for the descendants of the victims or the one survivor...a death sentence perhaps? I'm not sure that's even justice really...

mimartin
08-12-2009, 12:50 AM
Assuming he was guilty, then I believe a death sentence would be letting him off easy. Personally imprisonment would be the greater penalty for me. I would hate to think of a day incarcerated, I could imagine a year or more. However, everyone if different and what scares me may be acceptable to others.


If the man is guilty, will this action provide justice for those that were the victims? No, but that was impossible even if the perpetrator was convicted 65 years ago.

Te Je'karta Mand'alor
08-12-2009, 02:20 PM
he deserves it. the fact that it was so long ago has nothing to do with the fact that he was a murderer. i'm suprised he did'nt get the death penalty (wich i DON"T agree with)

Darth_Yuthura
08-12-2009, 02:50 PM
It's too far in the past. I think now we are opening a door to a new set of crimes that we'll be responsible for. If these people had already been convicted and just escaped sentencing sixty years ago, I would be all for carrying out those sentences.

What we have are people who haven't been tried until this day, using evidence that would not stand in a murder trial if they were anything other than Nazis, and if the victims are dead... there is nothing to be gained by this.

Of course it brings up another issue that I hate seeing: the guilty escaping responsibility. I want murderers to go on record for what they've done much more than being punished. I have a hatred of Bush for not being put on trial for war crimes, but I don't care whether he is punished or not. All I want is for history to remember exactly what he had done in regards to instigating the war in Iraq and that he was a war criminal.

I don't care if these people are actually put in prison or not; just that they answer for their crimes.

Ulmont
08-12-2009, 07:54 PM
It's too far in the past. I think now we are opening a door to a new set of crimes that we'll be responsible for. If these people had already been convicted and just escaped sentencing sixty years ago, I would be all for carrying out those sentences.

What we have are people who haven't been tried until this day, using evidence that would not stand in a murder trial if they were anything other than Nazis, and if the victims are dead... there is nothing to be gained by this.

Of course it brings up another issue that I hate seeing: the guilty escaping responsibility. I want murderers to go on record for what they've done much more than being punished. I have a hatred of Bush for not being put on trial for war crimes, but I don't care whether he is punished or not. All I want is for history to remember exactly what he had done in regards to instigating the war in Iraq and that he was a war criminal.

I don't care if these people are actually put in prison or not; just that they answer for their crimes.


I pretty much agree with you. We really seem to be punishment hungry. From looking at the article it seems that the evidence is "Hey, I think I remember this guy who I couldn't see cleary, and couldn't understand, and who might have delivered an order as a courier or their command officer." But now I have to remind you all of something. The Nazis were tried after WWII (well, at least the ones that didn't escape) and most of them spent about five years in prison if they faced any prison time at all. Personally sentencing this guy to life or even death is a bit to harsh and ridiculous to me. Your convicting a man of a crime he committed over fifty years ago on circumstantial evidence. It's not like this guy's responsible for the Holocaust like Hitler of Himmler and those guys. We're letting our anger boil over into unjust punishment. If he's guilty of killing those people then fine. Set that straight. But what good is killing an ancient man going to do?

Astor
08-17-2009, 04:48 AM
That the Nazis committed horrible acts is not in question. It seems to me though that these so-called "Nazi Hunters" and German prosecutors are using a lot of circumstantial, at best, evidence to put 80 and 90 year old men in jail.

I guess I'm having a bit of a problem with the fact that the prosecution can prove so little yet still earn convictions...I'd love to hear some other thoughts on this. I suppose it might even run within the lines of the burden of proof discussion.

The problem is that these 'Nazi-Hunters' don't want to give up, despite the fact that everyone who was involved in ODESSA and the Final Solution is long dead. They're so bent on exacting revenge they'll go after anyone.

Now they're going after people who may or may not have guarded the walls at Dachau for three weeks in June of '43, or other such nonsense.

People like the Klarsfelds, and those at the Simon Wiesenthal center did some good in bringing some of the most dangerous men of the 20th century to justice, but I think that it's time for them to stop.

vanir
08-17-2009, 05:42 AM
The problem is that these 'Nazi-Hunters' don't want to give up, despite the fact that everyone who was involved in ODESSA and the Final Solution is long dead. They're so bent on exacting revenge they'll go after anyone.

Now they're going after people who may or may not have guarded the walls at Dachau for three weeks in June of '43, or other such nonsense.

People like the Klarsfelds, and those at the Simon Wiesenthal center did some good in bringing some of the most dangerous men of the 20th century to justice, but I think that it's time for them to stop.

Yes.
I remember it was predicted back in the 70s this would turn into a witch hunt and political podium, which is exactly what has happened. That was the big argument against it back then, that what has happened, would happen.