Saturday, 17 September 2011

Distomo massacre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

German troops in front of buildings set ablaze in Distomo, during the massacre.
The Distomo massacre (Greek: Η σφαγή τού Διστόμου; German: Massaker von Distomo 
or Distomo-Massaker) was a Nazi war crimeperpetrated by members of the Waffen-SS in 
the village of Distomo, Greece, during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War I.

1 History
2 Compensation demands
3 See also
4 Notes
5 External links

On June 10, 1944, over two hours, Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier 
Division under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Lautenbach went door to door 
and massacred Greek civilians, reportedly in revenge for a partisan attack. A total of 218 men, women and children were killed.[1]According to survivors, SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."[1]

In the course of a 'retaliation measure' against partisan resistance members of the 4th SS-police-armoured-infantry-division murdered 218 completely uninvolved town dwellers on the 10th June 1944 in Distomo, a small village near Delphi. The battle report states that 'members and suspects of gangs' were killed. However, survivors of the massacre reported afterwards that men as well as children were shot, women were violated and slaughtered. No soldier was ever held responsible for the massacre.

Argyris Sfountouris (protagonist of the film "A song for Argyris") was nearly four years of age in June 1944 and survived by chance. He lost his parents and 30 family members. Up until this day he and the other survivors and relatives have not received a single cent as compensation even though the Areopag, the Greek High court, has passed a legally binding decision in May 2000 obliging the Federal Republic of Germany to pay a sum of altogether 28 million Euro as compensation to the victims.

In the meantime Italian courts have likewise awarded compensation to Italian victims of the German occupation. The Greek victims were successful in their claim for enforceability of their legal titles against German property 
in Italy awarded by Greek courts. Germany has objected to this by saying that these were 'sovereign measures' and has claimed 'state immunity' for the war crimes and the crimes against international law. Both the Areopag as well as the Italian court of appeal have rejected this argument. In December 2008 the German government has 
filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in Den Haag in order to circumvent the enforcement of the compensation claims. Its aim is to establish once and for all that this kind of lawsuits does not fall under the competence of the Italian courts, that their rulings constitute an infringement of international law and that they constitute an infringement of Germany' sovereignty rights. Germany attempts to reverse the roles and 
presents itself as a victim in these proceedings.

In the course of a 'retaliation measure' against partisan resistance members of the Mountain-Sapper-Battalion 818 murdered completely uninvolved inhabitants on the 27th June 1944 in Falzano di Cortona, a small Tuscan village. A 74-year old woman and a 14-year old boy as well as 3 men aged between 21 and 55 were shot during searches. 13 men between the ages of 15 and 74 were arrested, 11 of which were locked up in the 'Casa Canicci'. The house was mined and blown up. Miraculously the then 15-year old Gino M. survived. Angiola Lescai lost two of her relatives in the massacre.

In September 2006 the responsible officers of the unit, Herbert Stommel - commander of the battalion - and Josef Scheungraber - company commander - were sentenced in absence by the military court of La Spezia to lifelong imprisonment. Given that German law does not allow the extradition of German citizens the 90-year old Josef Scheungraber who is still fit to stand trial is standing trial since September 2008 at the jury court division of the 
district court of Munich. 65 years after the massacre many witnesses have died, the hearing of evidence is difficult and the outcome uncertain. Angiola Lescai is one of the co-plaintiffs in this trial.

Following the massacre, a Secret Field Police agent accompanying the German forces informed the authorities that, contrary to Lautenbach's official report, the German troops had come under attack several miles from Distomo and had not been fired upon "with mortars, machine-guns and rifles from the direction of Distomo". An inquiry was convened. 
Lautenbach admitted that he had gone beyond standing orders, but the tribunal found in his favour, holding that he had been motivated, not by negligence or ignorance, but by a sense of responsibility towards his men.[2]

The Distomo Memorial by sculptress Aggelika Korovessi

In the 1960s, the government of West Germany paid Greece 115 million marks in restitution.[3] However this figures can not be compared with 500n trillion of euro (today figures) as per Paris Treaty Germany obliged to pay Greece for restitution. Later, 
London Treaty just give ermany possibility to postpond payment till reunification of Germany.

As the matter of reparations and restitution between Greece and Germany is not closed, survivors and relatives of the victims made claims for individual compensation and sued in the German courts and the European Court of Human Rights, which could have made Germany liable for several billion dollars in reparations. The claims were denied by the European Court of Human Rights and by German lower courts and in June 2003 were rejected by the Federal 
Court of Justice.[1][4] Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled in March 2006, it didn’t have to pay compensation to individuals seeking damages over war crimes.[3]

In November 2008, a court in Florence ruled that the families of the 218 men and women killed should be awarded a villa in Menaggio, near Lake Como, which is owned by a German state nonprofit organization, by way of restitution. Germany appealed against the Italian ruling.[5] In January 2011, Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou announced that the 
Greek Government will be represented at theInternational Court of Justice in relation to the claim for reparations by relatives of victims.[3][5]

See also

Hellmuth Felmy
List of massacres in Greece
Krupki massacre
Szczurowa massacre
Massacre of Kalavryta
Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, which occurred on the same date.

^ a b c "Greeks lose Nazi massacre claim." 26 June 2003 BBC.
^ Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993), at pages 212 to 214
^ a b c Eleni Chrepa; Maria Petrakis (2011-01-12). "Greece to Join Hague German War Reparations Case". Bloomberg. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
^ "German Supreme Court: Distomo Massacre Case, BGH - III ZR 245/98 (June 26, 2003)." International Law In Brief, American Society of International Law. 25 July 2003.
^ a b "Greece to join Distomo trial". Kathimerini. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
[edit]External links

Municipality of Distomo on massacre
German website describing the Distomo massacre
Ein Lied für Argyris (A Song for Argyris). A documentary with Argyris Sfountouris, a survivor of the massacre.
1944 Life Magazine report on massacre beginning on page 21

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