Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Beast of Bolzano" Extradited to Italy for War Crimes

Picture credit and article: Michael Seifert (above) as a young SS prison guard during World War II.

"[Bolzano was] controlled by the SS in Verona, and commanded by Lieutenant Titho and Marshal Haage, who had already occupied similar position at Fossoli. Under their command was a garrison comprised of Germans, South Tyroleans and Ukrainians (who, despite their youth, are sadly remembered for their brutality)."---ANED - Associazione nazionale ex deportati politici nei campi nazisti
Picture credit and article: NAZI war Criminal Michael Seifert (left) and his lawyer Doug Christie
Canada has extradited Michael Seifert (83) to Italy. Seifert, a WWII-era Nazi war criminal, was convicted of war crimes in 2000 by an Italian military court. Military prosecutor Bartolomeo Costantini pursued the case against Seifert, whose war crimes included murder, torture, and rape at the Bolzano prison/transit camp near Verona.
An on-line book about the camp by Dario Venegoni called Men, Women and Children in the Bolzano concentration camp: An Italian tragedy in 7,982 individual stories is available here.
Seifer's lawyer, Doug Christie, struck out at the Canadian extradition order by alleging that "Canada is a bankrupt and corrupt nation..."
On Aug. 27, 2003, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly committed Seifert to be extradited to Italy on seven of the nine murder offences.
The function of the Bolzano prison in Italy was to gather anti-fascist and anti-Nazi politicians, persons of Jewish religion, deserters and other persons rounded up in Italy who were destined to be transferred to the concentration and extermination camps in Austria (Mauthausen), Germany (Dachau, Flossenburg, Ravensbruck) and Poland (Auschwitz).
The camp also gathered family members of deserters from the German military who were captured in order to convince the deserters to return to the army. The prisoners were both men and women. There were also a few children, mainly Jewish. [Full text].
Seifert claims that he was only working at Bolzano prison/transit camp because he was serving a sentence there for a sexual assault against another Ukrainian guard.
The NAZIS often put dangerous criminals in charge of Jews and political prisoners. Possibly this may have been the case with Seifert, who was reportedly a member of the SS and a guard at the Bolzano prison/transit camp.
For example, Wikipedia notes:
Kapos received more privileges than normal prisoners, towards whom they were often brutal. They were often convicts who were offered this work in exchange for a reduced sentence or parole.
A Canadian man who was convicted of brutally torturing and killing nine people at a Nazi prison camp more than 60 years ago has been extradited to Italy.
Michael Seifert, 83, boarded a commercial plane bound for Italy at Pearson International Airport in Toronto at 3 p.m. ET, confirmed Alain Cherette, a spokesman for Canada's Department of Justice.
"Mr. Seifert was flown to Toronto and from there, he was handed over to Italian authorities,"he said Friday.
Seifert is set to face a life sentence in Italy where, seven years ago in an Italian military court, he was convicted in absentia of war crimes committed during his time as an SS guard in the Second World War.
The crimes took place in a Nazi prison camp in Bolzano, Italy, from 1944 to 1945.
Nicknamed the "Beast of Bolzano," Seifert was found guilty of being involved with nine killings and abuses at the police transit camp that imprisoned Jews, Italian resistance fighters and others, some of whom ended up being taken to Nazi concentration camps.
While working as a guard, Seifert was responsible for supervising prisoner work and performing prisoner rollcalls. He also took prisoners to trains destined for Nazi death camps. He got the job after he left Ukraine at the start of the war.
...Italian news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported Friday that Seifert will be transferred to a military hospital in Verona, where his war crimes took place.
Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said Seifert's extradition sends a clear message the Canadian government is taking a hard stance on Nazi-era defendants.
"This is excellent news. It's been a long time coming," he said "Sadly, other governments had turned a blind eye to the murderers around us. Hopefully this signals a change in attitude in Canada."
Farber said Holocaust survivors living in Canada can finally feel some kind of justice.
"It brings great solace and great comfort to Holocaust survivors who came here and discovered sadly that they were sharing their new-found land with their victimizers..." [Full text]

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