The Culprit's Law (II)

Italy pays reparations for Germany’s Nazi war crimes, while Germany gets off scot-free. The German (“coalition of values”) government has successfully enforced “sovereign immunity” for Germany.

ROME/BERLIN (Own report) – Italy’s government pays reparations for German Nazi war crimes, while Germany gets off scot-free. This is the consequence of a ruling by Italy’s Constitutional Court, made public in late July. According to the ruling states there are no legal objections to Rome funneling off approximately €60 million from the EU Corona reconstruction fund for token reparations to families of victims of massacres committed by Germany’s Wehrmacht and SS. This ruling terminates the decades-long legal dispute involving massacres like the one on June 29, 1944, when an SS unit attacked the village of Civitella, near Arezzo murdering more than 200 inhabitants. Italian courts had repeatedly ruled that Germany should pay reparations. Repeatedly, Berlin had appealed the verdict even to the International Court of Justice in The Haag, claiming the so-called sovereign immunity even in cases of the Nazi’s worst crimes. The current German (“coalition of values”) government has finally achieved success.

Immunity for Germany

The descendants of Italian victims’ efforts to receive reparations from the state of the culprits for German mass crimes has dragged on for decades. On October 20, 2008, the victims’ relatives believed to have achieved an initial breakthrough, when the Court of Cassation in Rome (Corte Suprema di Cassazione), Italy’s highest judicial body, ruled that Germany must pay reparations for the massacre committed on June 24, 1944. At the time, a unit of SS attacked the village of Civitella near Arezzo murdering more than 200 inhabitants. The German government opposed the ruling by filing suit against Italy on December 23, 2008, before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Haag. The German government alleged that Italy had violated the principle of sovereign immunity, which forbids private citizens from bringing lawsuits against foreign states. From Berlin’s perspective, this mass crime committed by the Nazis falls under acts of sovereignty, against which the descendants of the victims may not file suit. The ICJ ruled in Germany’s favor on February 3, 2012.[1]

Resistance in Italy

The Italian judiciary did not accept the affront that victims and their descendants are not supposed to have the right to have the culprits and their state prosecuted. Thus, the court of cassation in Rome ruled on October 22, 2014 that the ICJ ruling of February 3, 2012 is not in accordance with Italy’s constitution. Therefore, reparation suits against Germany for crimes committed by Nazis are still permissible in Italy. The descendants of Nazi victims accordingly filed new lawsuits. In Sulmona in Abruzzen a court ruled in 2017, that the German government must pay reparations for the Nazi massacre of 128 people in nearby Roccarasso. In 2018, the civil court in Rome ruled that Germany must pay reparations to the son of the Italian, Paolo Frascà, who had been arrested by German police, tortured, and on March 24, 1944 murdered along with 334 other civilians in the Ardeatine caves in the south of Rome. By spring 2022, the first 15 judgements had been rendered against Germany, with others expected. In order to execute the reparations payments, the Italian judiciary was considering targeted compulsory auctions of German property in Italy, such as the Goethe Institute.[2]

Rome under Pressure

Obviously unable to withstand the pressure from Berlin and confront the EU’s predominating power on an issue where such a large sum of money was at stake, the Italian government decisively intervened to stop the courts. It issued a legislative decree, establishing a fund for reparations, in which around €60 million should be deposited to pay the descendants of the victims of Nazi crimes a bit of compensation.[3] Rome, itself, agreed to transfer the sum to the fund; Berlin got off without contributing a single cent to the fund. With consternation, Italian media reported that the German government – an alleged coalition of values, comprised of SPD, Greens and FDP – has “explicitly welcomed with goodwill” Italy’s willingness to relieve the culprits’ state from having to pay reparations for the crimes committed by its legal predecessor.[4] Responding to a parliamentary interpellation, the federal government confirmed it had no intentions “of participating in an Italian reparation fund,” and has “no ... plans” of creating a reparation fund of its own for the victims’ families.[5]

“A Joke”

Thus, under the current circumstances, the decision is final, particularly after Italy’s constitutional court’s rejection on July 4 – published on July 21 – of objections to the government’s April 2022 decree.[6] This means that the reparations funds may now be used and are the only available means for descendants of the victims to receive compensation. According to media reports, there are already 780 cases in line with claims that could total at least €800 million,[7] not including another “hundred civil suits pending on behalf of around 13,000 persons,” who are also demanding reparations.[8] Among other things, the fact that the fund is limited to €60 million is met with indignation – because the fund is being financed from the Corona Reconstruction Fund allotted by Brussels,[9] – which does not even permit a modicum of reasonable reparations,. Giulio Disegni, Vice President of the Union of the Jewish Community of Italy (UCEI) the umbrella association of the Jewish community of Italy called it a “joke.”[10] The fact that the indignation is directed at Rome is in Berlin’s favor. The culprits’ country can calmly sit back and observe the scene from afar.

The Republic of Values

With its categorical refusal to pay reparations for Nazi war crimes, Germany remains true to itself. For decades is has been adamantly refusing reparations to the families of Nazi victims in other countries, such as Greece,[11] it also refuses to pay reparations being demanded by Greece or Poland.[12] Whereas the Nazi Reich was able to invest enormous sums, to invade foreign countries, to wage wars of annihilation with mass murder, its legal successor is unwilling to spend even a cent in material compensation. As long as German culprits remained alive, each German government has even been engaged in ensuring their impunity or at least their lightest possible punishment, if the culprit happens to already be detained. The war criminals, responsible for the massacres in Italy, also profited from this. ( reported.[13])


[1], [2] See also Folgenlose Kriegsverbrechen.

[3] See also Das Recht des Täters.

[4] Giuseppe Scarpa: Pignorato a Roma il Goethe-Institut tedesco per risarcire una vittima delle SS. Ma spunta il decreto beffa: a pagare per i suoi morti sarà l’Italia. 04.05.2022.

[5] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Sevim Dağdelen und der Fraktion Die Linke. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 20/3283. Berlin, 02.09.2022.

[6] Corte Costituzionale: Decisioni. Sentenza N. 159 Anno 2023. 21.07.2023.

[7] Giuseppe Salvaggiulio: Le vittime delle stragi naziste: “Ora Berlino ci deve 800 milioni”. 05.07.2023.

[8] Kritik am „Schlussstrich”. 16.08.2023.

[9] See also Das Recht des Täters.

[10] Kritik am „Schlussstrich”. 16.08.2023.

[11] See also Der Schaum der deutschen Diplomatie.

[12] See also Die Berliner Reparationsverweigerung and Reparationsabwehr aus der Trickkiste.

[13] See also Die andere Staatsräson.