Nine Germans convicted of World War II deaths in Italy

An Italian court has sentenced nine German men in absentia to life in prison for killing hundreds of civilians during World War II.

The Verona court found the defendants guilty of the murder of more than 140 people in the Modena region in 1944.

The nine, who were said to be aged in their 80s and 90s, were also convicted of massacres in other parts of northern Italy.

Three other accused died during the seven-month trial.

Seven of the nine were named in reports as Wilhelm Karl Stark, 90, then a sergeant, Ferdinand Osterhaus, 93, a second lieutenant, and Helmut Odenwald, 91, a captain, Herbert Wilke, 92, Erich Koeppe, 91 and Hans Georg Karl Winkler and Karl Friedrich Mess, who are both in their 80s.

Prosecutors said the men had been part of a German division that had tried to quash the Italian resistance by indiscriminately killing civilians in the latter stages of the war.

Wednesday evening's sentencing was attended by officials from the towns where the massacres took place as well as relatives of those killed in German attacks on mountain towns in the Italian provinces of Modena, Arezzo and Reggio Emilia in the early months of 1944.

In 2009, a 90-year-old former German infantry commander, Josef Scheungraber, was jailed for life in Munich for his role in the killing of 14 civilians in an Italian village during World War II.

Scheungraber had previously been sentenced in absentia by an Italian military court to life in prison for the killings in Falzano di Cortona, in Tuscany, on 26 June 1944.

Germany generally does not extradite its citizens without their consent.

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