Kin of Italian victims of Nazis may finally get compensation | World News - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Kin of Italian victims of Nazis may finally get compensation

The Economist
Jan 19, 2024 08:00 AM IST

But funds are scarce and some may never see a euro cent

HEARING GUNFIRE, Leonildo Pistoni ran from the stables of his farm on the outskirts of Monchio, a mountain village in central Italy. He did not get far before he was shot dead. His killer was a rifleman of the Hermann Göring 1st Paratroop Panzer Division. The date was March 18th 1944. Mr Pistoni’s only crime was to live in Monchio: the rifleman belonged to a detachment sent to avenge the nearby killings by local partisans of German soldiers, who had occupied Italy after it withdrew from the Second World War the previous September.

The Italian national flag flies near a monument to the unknown soldier overlooking a construction site for an underground station in Piazza Venezia in downtown Rome, Italy, on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Italy's economy stagnated in the third quarter � just dodging a recession as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni battles to keep output expanding while also limiting debt. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg(Bloomberg) PREMIUM
The Italian national flag flies near a monument to the unknown soldier overlooking a construction site for an underground station in Piazza Venezia in downtown Rome, Italy, on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Italy's economy stagnated in the third quarter � just dodging a recession as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni battles to keep output expanding while also limiting debt. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

The echoes of that lethal shot will reverberate again next month when the victim’s granddaughter, Walda Pistoni, presents a petition for compensation to a judge in Rome. It is the latest in an avalanche of applications to a €61m ($66m) fund set up by the Italian government. “The issue has become enormous,” says Giulio Arria, a lawyer representing several applicants, including Ms Pistoni. He estimates that up to 1,500 claims have been submitted.

Petitioners include descendants of victims of arbitrary killings, like Mr Pistoni; of executed partisans; of Jews and Roma who died in Nazi concentration camps; and of Italian soldiers, sailors and airmen sent to Germany to work as forced labourers. In cases already judged, the descendants of those forced to labour have received payouts of €30,000-40,000. The kin of those who died have been awarded much higher sums. Two sisters orphaned when their father died in a massacre in Tuscany got €270,000 each. That has raised questions over the adequacy of the fund, which was created to avert a crisis in relations between EU partners.

Germany has long argued that its liability for the actions of its armed forces in Italy was settled in 1962 when it handed over 40m D-marks (worth around €1.5bn today). But the cash was not primarily intended to compensate individuals and, to the extent it did, only applied to then-existing claims. Italian judges subsequently ordered the German government to pay awards to numerous survivors and descendants of victims, but Germany refused. Poland’s previous government has levelled vastly larger claims against Germany—it wanted €1.3trn. But there too, Germany says all debts were discharged in agreements struck decades ago.

In 2012 the International Court of Justice ruled in Germany’s favour on the grounds that governments were not subject to decisions by the courts of other countries. But two years later Italy’s constitutional court ruled that they were liable if the underlying offences violated international law. Italian judges continued issuing verdicts and in 2022 a court in Rome was poised to order the confiscation of German government-owned properties, including the Goethe Institute, a cultural agency. Italy’s previous government, headed by Mario Draghi, then stepped in and created the new fund. It was originally intended for outstanding claims, and set a 30-day deadline to file any new ones. But that deadline was pushed back in stages to the end of 2023, enabling hundreds more to be submitted.

Meanwhile, Italian government lawyers have taken the place of the German government’s representatives, fighting the applicants at every turn. Their objections have drawn fire from some politicians. “They’ve put up arguments that make your skin crawl,” says Dario Parrini, a senator for the opposition Democratic Party. Last May he submitted a bill to rein in the government’s lawyers. It attracted cross-party support but has since languished in committee.

Since the government appeals against every judgment, and appeals in Italy take years, some of the cash is unlikely ever to be disbursed. The two orphaned daughters, now in their eighties, may never see a euro cent. “From a juridical standpoint, I am not surprised,” says Mr Arria, the lawyer. “But as the grandson of a Jew who was deported to Auschwitz and never came back, I am horrified.”

© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, May 26, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On