Even after 65 years:

No peace with NS war criminals
No state immunity for NS war crimes -
Withdrawal of Germany’s lawsuit against the Italian sentences on compensation in Den Haag

During its occupation of Italy and Greece the German Wehrmacht created havoc in June 1944.

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.

The survivors and the relatives demand that responsibility for the German massacre be taken according to criminal and civil law. Given the failure to prosecute the culprits on time it is indispensable to compensate at last the victims of the NS crimes. The action filed by Germany at the International Court of Justice makes mockery of the victims. It must be withdrawn.

Public meeting on the 20th April 2009, 7 p.m.
Gasteig, Rosenheimer Straße 5, 81667 München

with Argyris Sfountouris and Angiola Lescai
Martin Klingner, German lawyer of the victims of Distomo and
Gabriele Heinecke, lawyer (member of the Federal Executive of the RAV/legal representative of the co-plaintiff in the trial against Scheungraber)

Chair: Michael Backmund (member of the executive of the Federation of German journalists (dju) at the München caucus)

Organizer: Republikanischer Anwältinnen und Anwälteverein e.V. (RAV), Anwältinnen und Anwälte für Demokratie und Menschenrecht, AK Distomo Supporters: VVN, Initiative Bayerischer Strafverteidigerinnen und Strafverteidiger e.V.

Germany has to pay!

We demand: Immediate compensation for all Greek Nazi-victims!

On 10th of June 2004 the residents of the village Distomo celebrate the 60th commemoration dedicated to the 218 inhabitants killed in the year 1944 by German SS-troops. In April 2000 the highest Greek Court of Justice (Areopag) sentenced Germany to pay approx. 28 million Euro as compensation to the survivors of the massacre. Yet Berlin refuses to accept this legally binding sentence – and refuses to pay.

For today's tourists Greece is a beautiful vacation spot, associated with sun, taverns and the remnants of the Greek Antique - Akropolis, Delphi or Olympia. About recent history, in particular the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War, most people only know a little. Greek villages such as Distomo, Kalavryta, Kommeno and Kessariani for many years were not listed in any travel guide. However, they stand as examples for the National Socialist crimes committed against the Greek civilian population and for the memory of the harm done in those times.

On 6th of April 1941 the German Wehrmacht invaded Greece. The military occupation persisted until 3rd of November 1944. In this time a pervasive terror prevailed against the Greek civilian population. The country was economically plundered under acceptance of thousandfold hunger death. Approx. 15 % of the Greek population died during this time. To the guerilla warfare of the Greek resistance the Germans reacted with indiscriminate atrocities. At least 30,000 Greek civilians became victims of so-called retaliation actions of the German occupation troops, thousands died in prisons and concentration camps, hundreds of villages were destroyed. The Jewish population of Greece was systematically seized, deported and murdered in extermination camps. 58,000 Jewish people, i.e. approx. 83 % of the Greek Jews were killed, the large Jewish Community of Thessaloniki almost completely destroyed, her fortune was robbed.

German courts so far never sentenced any author of all these crimes. The Greek victims of the massacres of Wehrmacht and SS like most survivors of the Holocaust have not received any compensation up to now.

Even if the present German Federal Government now states "mourning and shame" (like Federal President Rau in Kalavryta), the attitude towards compensation claims has not changed. The answer is always the same: We will not pay!

This categorical refusal - even to enter into negotiations - led to a wave of lawsuits against the Federal Republic of Germany, particularly before Greek courts.

Germany is under obligation to pay an appropriate compensation to all victims of the National Socialist crimes. The refusal of the Federal Government is a permanent humiliation of the victims. Nearly 60 years after the end of the German occupation finally justice has to be done to the survivors.