Hubert Lanz. Devout Catholic. Mass murderer.
Hubert Lanz was a conventional high achieving Nazi officer. Catholic. Fascist. Well educated. High intelligence. Right wing politics. He rose to the rank of General. Commanding the newly formed XXII Mountain Corps in 1943. Tasked with ending the resistance in Greece.
In 1943, with Italy soon to surrender, the Germans feared an Allied landing in Greece and were engaged in continuous anti-partisan sweeps, during which several hundred villages were evacuated and often torched. Collective punishment of entire localities for guerrilla attacks was common, with directives to execute 50 to 100 hostages for each German casualty; only four days before Lanz assumed command, men of the 98th Regiment of 1st Mountain Division under Lieutenant-Colonel Josef Salminger, an ardent Nazi, had executed 317 civilians in the village of Kommeno.
Despite Lanz’s personal misgivings and his clashes with his subordinate, General von Stettner, over the treatment of civilians, reprisals remained a standard tactic: following the death of Salminger in a guerrilla ambush in late September, Lanz issued an order demanding “ruthless retaliatory action” in a 20 km area around the place of the ambush. As a result, at least 200 civilians were executed, including 87 in the village of Lingiades alone
Lanz went on to Cephalonia. Occupied by the Italians.
On 8 September, 1943 Italy surrendered to the Allies. This began a race to disarm and intern the Italian garrisons of the Balkans before the Allies could take advantage of it. Lanz was tasked with overcoming the Italian forces in Epirus and the Ionian Islands. In two cases, in Cephalonia and Corfu, the Italians offered resistance. Lanz himself was initially in favour of negotiating the Italian surrender, but in the end followed his orders and stormed these islands. In Cephalonia, the battle raged for a week before the Italians surrendered. After their surrender, and according to a directive from Hitler himself, more than 5,000 Italians were executed by the Germans. Lanz was present in Cephalonia both during the battle and the subsequent massacre. In Corfu, resistance lasted only for a day, but all 280 Italian officers on the island were shot and their bodies were disposed of in the sea, on Lanz’s orders.
As all readers of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin will know. A horrible, barbaric, illegal execution of over 5,000 unarmed men was Lanz’s command. What is less well know is what happened to Lanz after his surrender to US troops on 8 May, 1945.
Lanz was brought to trial in 1947 in the so-called “Southeast Case” of the Nuremberg Trials, along with other Wehrmacht generals active in the Balkans. The trial was concerned with the atrocities carried out against civilians and POWs in the area. In Lanz’s case, the biggest issue was the Cephalonia massacre. However, his defence team was willing to lie and able to cast doubt on the allegations. The Italians did not present any evidence against him, for whatever reason, and Lanz was able to convince the court that he had in fact resisted Hitler’s directives and that the massacre did not happen. He claimed that his report to Army Group E reporting the execution of 5,000 soldiers had been a ruse employed to deceive the Army command in order to hide the fact that he had disobeyed the Führer’s orders. He added that fewer than a dozen officers were shot and the rest of the Acqui Division was transported to Piraeus through Patras. His defence also falsely claimed that the Italians were under no orders to fight from the War Office in Brindisi, and would therefore have to be regarded as mutineers or franc-tireurs who had no right to be treated as POWs under the Geneva conventions.
In the end, Lanz was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, a comparatively light sentence compared with other commanders involved with operations in the Balkans, like Lothar Rendulic. However, after only three years, on 3 February 1951, he was released.
To date, he is the only person to have served a prison sentence for the atrocities committed in Epirus or the Ionian islands. Happy to lie about the work he carried out with pride.
After his release, Lanz became active in the ranks of the FDP party in Germany and served as its adviser on military and security issues. In 1954, he published a book on the history of the 1st Mountain Division. He lived a comfortable middle class life, attending Catholic church weekly. He was forgiven for all his sins, killing many thousands in cold blood and then lying to the Court about events that an honest man would have owned up to. He died in Munich in 1982, and is currently in Heaven, as a good Christian.
My question is. How did the law not follow this cold blooded killer when his lies about the Italian murders in Cephalonia became known?
He is only one of many cold blooded catholic Nazi killers who were not made accountable for their crimes in Greece.