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Italy ends 80-year prosecution of Nazi Germany, but critics say it’s too soon

By June 28, all victims of Nazi atrocities in Italy and their relatives must file a claim for compensation against Germany, a deadline that ends a years-long conflict between the two countries.

In January this year, 99-year-old Italian Quinto Nuzi filed a lawsuit against Germany for €130,000.

The money is said to be compensation for the suffering suffered by Nuzi during World War II, when he was arrested by German forces in 1943 and held for 20 months in a Nazi forced labor camp in Poland.

His trial came 78 years after the horrors he suffered in the camp – but he told Italian media he had no idea until recently he might even be entitled to compensation.

Now his lawyers have asked the Italian government to consider extending a deadline to the end of June, which would be the deadline by which any Italian could file a lawsuit against the German state related to World War II.

“We must give all formerly detained soldiers and civilians the possibility of accessing the fund,” his lawyers told Italian media.

The looming June 28 deadline will end a years-long dispute between Germany and Italy that Berlin is eager to end – but which many in Italy see as unfair to end.

What is the claim history?

In 1943 and 1944, when Italy had become the main battleground on the Western Front for opposing Nazi and Allied forces, the wartime friendship between Germans and Italians had completely broken down.

Italians were arrested, deported and forced to work as slaves in Germany. Civilians – including women, children and the elderly – were murdered by the German army in a series of shocking killings.

On June 29, 1944, Nazi forces killed 203 people in Tuscany – mostly women and children – in retaliation for the killing of four German soldiers by Italian anti-fascist resistance fighters.

After the war, the surviving families of those killed were among the many who over the decades sought compensation from Germany, filing several lawsuits against the foreign state in Italian domestic courts.

In 2008, Italy’s highest court ruled that Germany should pay 1 million euros to the relatives of nine people who were among the 203 killed by the Nazis in 1944.

But Germany said it had paid billions of euros in compensation for Nazi atrocities during World War II to affected countries – and Italians had no right to demand more from Germany .

In 2012, Germany filed a lawsuit against Italy at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled that Germany could not be sued in foreign courts by victims of Nazi war crimes.

But since then, despite the ICJ ruling, the Italians have continued to file compensation claims against Germany.

Has Germany paid any compensation claim?

After the end of the Second World War, Germany concluded a series of treaties on the issue of reparations with countries in Europe and agreed at the time to pay a total of 63 billion euros – the equivalent of 87.9 billion euros in 2022 – to individuals. , until 2005.

In 1962, following an agreement reached in Bonn, Germany paid Italy 40 million Deutsche Marks – the equivalent of 1.5 billion euros today – which, according to the country, should have covered all damage caused by Nazi forces during World War II to Italy the state and individuals.

According to Germany, Italy violated the agreement reached in 1962 by allowing its citizens to continue filing compensation claims against the country long after it was paid.

In 1990, West Germany and East Germany signed the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, an agreement that was intended to finally close any open questions about reparations to other countries and open up the way to the reunification of the country. The treaty was signed with the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union.

End of litigation

The years-long dispute ended when then Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi agreed in April 2022 to conclude the matter with a law stating that no further claims for compensation should be made against Germany. ; while those with pending cases already filed would be paid from a special fund of 55 million euros made available by the Germans.

Draghi’s decree also ended the seizure of German properties in Italy, a rather drastic action that Italy took to compensate victims of Nazi atrocities, but which Germany considered a violation of its sovereignty.

The upcoming date of June 28 marks the deadline for Italian victims of Nazi atrocities and their relatives to file compensation claims. And then this long history of compensation claims dating back more than 80 years will have come to an end, even if many Italians still had a bitter taste in their mouths.

On the one hand, there are people who have already filed a claim for compensation but who think that Germany should pay, not Italy.

On the other hand, there are other people who have not yet had the chance to file a claim and may not do so now due to the lengthy bureaucratic process involved.

euronews Gt

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