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Obituaries

Karl Hass, 92; Nazi Convicted of WWII Massacre

April 23, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Karl Hass, a former Nazi officer convicted of the wartime massacre of 335 Italian civilians, died Wednesday in Rome. He was 92.

Hass had been living at a rest home near Rome. His health had been failing recently, said the home's director, Riccardo La Rosa, and on Wednesday morning he suffered a heart attack.

The former SS major was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for the killings at the Ardeatine Caves on the outskirts of Rome when the Italian capital was under German occupation during World War II.

German soldiers rounded up and shot the civilians -- among them 75 Jews -- in retaliation for a bomb attack in Rome by Italian resistance fighters that killed 33 Germans.

Hass had been spared prison because of his age and frail health. He was allowed to live out his sentence in the rest home.

Also convicted by a military court in the same case was former SS Capt. Erich Priebke. He is serving a life sentence under house arrest in Rome.

Hass and Priebke insisted that they had no choice but to follow orders or be shot themselves. Hass admitted killing two victims, shooting them in the back of the head.

Hass returned to Italy from Switzerland in 1996 at prosecutors' request to testify against Priebke. But he changed his mind and injured himself when he jumped from his hotel balcony in a bid to avoid taking the stand. He broke his pelvis and was forced to testify from his hospital bed. He was indicted after he acknowledged participating in the massacre.

Hass became a member of the Nazi Party in 1933 and worked in the party's intelligence division.

He was sent to Rome in 1943 and worked under the local head of the SS.

Survivors include a daughter who lives in Switzerland.

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