Why was it an issue?

Nazi atrocities against civilian population in Northern Italy: the trials in 2000s and the perceptions

In 2005, at a Military Tribunal held in the Italian town of La Spezia, ten former German officers and enlisted men, now all in their 80s, were found guilty of taking part in the massacre of 560 men, women and children in  Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany on August 12th 1944. They were all members of reconnaissance units in the 16th SS Panzergrenadier division which later that year also carried out the massacre at Monte Sole.  The men were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment but the punishments were not carried out due to their age.

One of the accused, Gerhard  Sommer, who had been an SS Officer in 1944, was interviewed on German television about the massacre and the 2005 trial and  said “I have an absolutely pure conscience”, suggesting that he believed at the time that he was only carrying out the legitimate orders of his superior officers.

60 years after the atrocities had been committed  questions were again being asked about whether actions that were clearly immoral and inhuman were also war crimes according to International Law in 1944 .