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Italy Frees Its Last Major Nazi War Criminal

January 24, 1985|United Press International

ROME — Nazi war criminal Walter Reder, who had been serving a life term for the massacre of at least 600 men, women and children in 1944, was freed by the Italian government today and flown to his native Austria.

He was the last major war criminal held in an Italian jail.

In Vienna, a Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that Reder is in Austria but declined to give his location, saying, "He doesn't want to be contacted."

Reder, 69, had been serving a life term in the fortress at Gaeta for the massacre in mountain villages between Bologna and Florence in August and September, 1944.

Although the Bologna court that sentenced him in 1951 found him guilty of "around 600" murders, officials in the mountain village of Marzabotto have always put the figure at 1,830 victims.

Reder joined Adolf Hitler's Nazi SS troops at an early age.

In May, 1944, shortly before the liberation of Rome, he was transferred to Italy as a major in command of the 16th Battalion of the Reichsfuehrer SS Division. He was 29 years old at the time.

On Aug. 9, 1944, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring took Reder's battalion out of the combat line to prepare the way for the German retreat toward northern Italy.

According to testimony in postwar trials, Reder led his battalion in a "march of death" during August and September, sacking and burning villages in the mountains between Florence and Bologna.

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