Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 11:31 UK

Nazi war criminal jailed for life


Josef Scheungraber in court in Munich

A former German infantry commander has been jailed for life for his role in the killing of 14 civilians in an Italian village during World War II.

A Munich state court found 90-year-old Josef Scheungraber guilty of ordering the killings, in what was one of the last Nazi crimes trials in Germany.

Scheungraber had previously been sentenced in absentia by an Italian military court to life in prison.

The killings took place in Falzano di Cortona, in Tuscany, on 26 June 1944.

Scheungraber had always denied the charges, saying he handed the victims to the military police and did not know what happened to them.

His legal team had called for his acquittal due to contradictions in the testimony of witnesses 65 years after the events.

Free for decades

Dressed in a traditional Bavarian jacket, Scheungraber appeared in good health as his sentence was handed down.

Josef Scheungraber in court in Munich, Germany, 11 August 2009
The 90-year-old's trial is expected to be one of the last of its kind

The court found that as a 25-year-old Wehrmacht lieutenant, he had ordered the brutal killings in revenge for an attack by Italian partisans that left two German soldiers dead.

Although he was charged with 14 counts of murder and one of attempted murder, Scheungraber was actually convicted of 10 murders due to a lack of evidence.

German troops shot dead a 74-year-old woman and three men in the street before forcing 11 others into a farmhouse which they then blew up.

Only the youngest - a 15-year-old boy named Gino Massetti - survived, and he gave evidence during the trial in Munich.

Scheungraber, the former commander of a company of engineers, had lived for decades as a free man, and served on the town council in Ottobrunn, outside Munich.

He ran a furniture shop, attended German veterans' marches and recently received an award for municipal service.

Although he was sentenced to life in prison for the Tuscany killings by an Italian military tribunal in La Spezia in September 2006, Scheungraber did not attend that trial as Germany generally does not extradite its citizens without their consent.

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