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German, Italians Mark Nazi Massacre

By The New York Times

August 12, 2004

Sant'anna Di Stazzema, Italy (AP) -- German Interior Minister Otto Schily joined a commemoration Thursday of the 60th anniversary of a Nazi massacre of hundreds of civilians in this Tuscan village, calling it a ``place of shame'' for his nation.

Schily and his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Pisanu, laid wreaths at a monument on a hill above the village in a ceremony attended by survivors and relatives of the victims. It was the first time a German government representative took part in the commemoration.

``This is a place of horror, of mourning and of anger -- anger that the judicial investigation began so late, mourning for the victims. After all, most of them were children, women and old people. It is a place of shame for Germany,'' Schily told reporters.

In August 1944, about 300 Nazi SS soldiers surrounded the Tuscan village, which had been flooded with refugees. The unit was ostensibly hunting for partisans, but instead they rounded up and shot villagers, overwhelmingly women, children and the elderly, according to witnesses. Others were herded into basements or other enclosed spaces and killed with hand grenades.

Historical documents are not clear on the precise number killed, but the most commonly cited figure is 560.

The slaughter was one of the worst in a series of atrocities by Nazi troops in central and northern of Italy during World War II.

Schily and Pisanu also inaugurated a new sculpture in the town square, where much of the slaughter took place, and they opened an exhibition of photos of victims and survivors.

Enio Mancini, who was 6 at the time of massacre and is now custodian of the resistance museum where the photo exhibition is housed, said he was happy Germans were represented at the anniversary.

``Today, finally after 60 years, our flags are there flying in the wind together,'' Mancini said, referring to the German and Italian flags flying near the hilltop monument.

Earlier this year, a military court in the Italian town of La Spezia began the trial of six former members of the Nazi SS accused of taking part in the massacre. The six elderly men are being tried in absentia.

German authorities opened a separate investigation into the massacre in the fall of 2002.
Also that year, President Johannes Rau became the first German leader to visit the site of another 1944 Nazi massacre, at Marzabotto in the hills south of Bologna, where he expressed sorrow and shame. More than 700 people had been slain there.


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