Germany holds rare war crimes trial over 1944 Nazi massacre

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Prosecutors will accuse Josef Scheungraber of ordering the killings of 14 civilians in Falzano, near Cortona in Italy.

Mr Scheungraber denies the charges, but he will have to face testimony from a survivor of the massacre, a 79-year-old former Carabinieri officer, who was a 15 year-old boy on June 27 1944.

That was the date that German soldiers from Mountain Infantry Battalion 818 set out on a reprisal operation after two of their number had been killed by partisans.
When the trial opens in Munich on Monday prosecutors charge that, led by Scheungraber, the German soldiers began their revenge attacks by shooting three farmhands and a local woman, Maria Bistarelli Casucci, aged 74, who crossed their path after the Partisan attack.

But they hope to prove that the attack did not stop there. Instead, the unit rounded up 12 local men, aged from 15 to 74. One of the men, a German speaker, was released, but the others were lined up against a wall of a local farmhouse.

"I was wearing shorts and remember the grass scratching my legs," said the survivor, only identified as Gino W. "I was sure that we were going to be shot."

According to Gino W however, new orders were given at the last minute for the 11 to be driven to a farmhouse, locked inside, and blown to pieces.

"The Germans pushed us into the ground floor, a kind of stall. I pushed myself into a corner, the others lay on the ground. Through the door frame I saw the Germans bringing up heavy boxes and heard someone running down the stairs. After the explosion I remember nothing." Later that day, the 15-year-old was pulled from the rubble by villagers. He was the only survivor.

The killings were later marked by a memorial, but no judicial action was taken against the suspected perpetrators until 2006, when a court in Italy convicted Josef Scheungraber and another soldier of murder.

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