Michael Seifert

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 01.06.2016 )
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facts

Michael Seifert was born in Landau – a little town which today is part of Ukraine – on 16 March 1924. He was an SS corporal in charge of the Bolzano Transit Prison Camp in Northern Italy. He was dubbed the “butcher of Bolzano” because of the acts of homicide and torture he allegedly committed against the camp’s prisoners. Amongst other things, he let a 15 year old prisoner die of hunger, gouged a young man’s eyes out and tortured a woman before killing her and her daughter.

Seifert emigrated to Vancouver in Canada in 1951. He pretended to be Estonian and lied about his previous actions. He later obtained Canadian citizenship.

Seifert went unpunished for nearly 50 years, until in 1994 new documents were found in Italy about the crimes committed by the occupying power during World War II. In 1999, an Italian Prosecutor began proceedings against Seifert, of which he was immediately notified.

legal procedure

Seifert went unpunished for nearly 50 years, until in 1994 new documents were found in Italy about the crimes committed by the occupying power during World War II. In 1999, an Italian Prosecutor began proceedings against Seifert, of which he was immediately notified.

On 24 November 2000, the Military Tribunal of Verona condemned him in absentia to life imprisonment, on 18 counts of murder and torture. He was found guilty for the murder of 11 prisoners, and for the torture of many others. Seifert admitted to have been a guard at the Bolzano camp, but continued to maintain his innocence concerning the accusations of murder and torture. He therefore appealed against the guilty verdict to the Military Court of Appeal, which confirmed the judgment on 18 October 2001. He made a new appeal to the Italian Court of Cassation, which was also rejected on 8 February 2002.

In May 2002, he was arrested in Vancouver. He was released on bail in April 2003. In August 2003, the Federal Court of Canada ordered his extradition. This decision was confirmed in 2004 by another provincial court. Seifert then made an appeal to the Minister of Justice. In December 2005, the Canadian Minister of Justice rejected Seifert’s appeal against the extradition decision and ordered him to surrender to the Italian authorities. In August 2007, the Court of Appeal of British Columbia confirmed the extradition request and ordered that Seifert be detained. The Court also rejected Seifert’s appeal that was based on the argument that the judge at the original trial was biased because of his Jewish origins. On 17 January 2008, the Canadian Supreme Court refused to deliver a verdict on Seifert’s appeal, thereby paving the way for his extradition to Italy. He was extradited to Italy on 15 February 2008 and immediately imprisoned.

Due to his age and poor health, Seifert was soon able to take advantage of kinds of punishment alternative to imprisonment.

In addition, from April 2002, procedures for the revocation of Canadian citizenship were launched in conjunction with the court proceedings. In November 2007, a federal court authorised the forfeiture of the Canadian citizenship acquired by Seifert, due to the fact that his entry into the country was based on a distortion of reality and on the lack of disclosure of important material facts.

Micheal Seifert died in Italy on 6 November 2010, at the age of 86 years.

context

From 23 September 1943 to 25 April 1945 Italy was occupied by Nazi Germany, during which time it put in place the puppet regime of the Italian Social Republic.

In the summer of 1943, the allied forces, mainly consisting of British and American troops, landed in Sicilly. In order to avoid repression and with the support of King Vittorio Emanuele III, the Italian elite arrest Mussolini on 25 July 1943 and surrender him to the allied authorities. The capitulation of Italy is signed on 3 September 1943

The German command reacted strongly and launched a counter attack on 8 September 1943. They organised the escape of Mussolini to Bavaria. He was put under the surveillance of and was threatened by the SS and on 22 September 1943 the new “Italian Social Republic” was founded in order to control the northern part of Italy.

The Nazi plan for Occupied Italy included the demobilization and disarmament of the Italian Army which occurred with only a small resistance. All officers that aided the resistance or the allies were to be shot, the rest used as workers or else deported to the Eastern Front. With Italy under their control, German troops and SS units were free to perpetrate their terror against the civilian population. It was sometimes part of the German command’s orders to troops to act violently against the population and in contravention of International Law. Amongst Nazi Germany’s war crimes in Occupied Italy were the arrest and deportation of Jews from Rome and the massacre in the Adriatic caves on 23 March 1944, where Italian political prisoners were executed in response to a bombing that occurred on the German police forces during a defile.

In their retreat from Allied forces in Italy, German units also adopted a scorched earth policy. Orders were to delay the Allies as much as possible so as to allow time for mass deportations, killings and destruction.

The Italian Social republic ended on 25 April 1945 during a final offensive by the Allies, joined by a general partisan uprising, which managed to defeat the Germans. On 28 April, the partisans shot Mussolini as well as several ministers and other Italian Fascists.