On Tuesday Germany and Italy's foreign ministers announced a joint historical commission that will investigate Germany's treatment of Italian prisoners during World War II.
The two men visited La Risiera di San Sabba, the site of the only Nazi concentration camp near Trieste, where between 3,000 and 5,000 Jews and resistance fighters were killed between 1943 and 1945. They laid a commemorative wreath in honor of the victims and Seinmeier solemnly noted that the "apalling things that happened here in the name of Germany are a part of our collective history." He called the concentration camp one of the "places of memory which represent the betrayal of civilization by Germany."
Steinmeier and Frattini then announced the plans for a joint historical commission which would focus the treatment of the more than 600,000 Italian prisoners who who were deported to Nazi Germany and used as slave laborers. Italian and German historians will meet next summer at Villa Vigoni, a 19th-century estate on Lake Como that has been converted into a German-Italian cultural center.
Steinmeier said that "by jointly coming to terms with the historical events, we can create a common culture of memory, that can be direted toward a better common future."
The German minister did not, however, want to discuss a lawsuit that has caused some tensions between Berlin and Rome. The case dates back to a masscare of Italians by German soldiers in the northern Italian town of Civitella in 1944. Last month, Italy's highest court, the Cassation, awarded damages of 1 million ($1.26 million) to the relatives of the victims. Worried that the precedent could unleash a flood of similar litigation from other war-era victims, the German government has filed an appealwith the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague in an effort to overturn the ruling.
On Tuesday Frattini told reporters that Italy will "respect" the decision of the ICJ. Frattini had earlier expressed concern about the Italian High Court's ruling, worrying that case-by-case adjudication of war-era crimes could make "the principle of state immunity become capricious."
If Germany loses its appeal, the Italian Court could begin to seize German assets in Italy to pay reparations. What kind of assets could be repossessed? One potential target is the Villa Vigoni, the meeting site for next summer's historical commission.
cpg -- with wire reports
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