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Nazi war criminal Seifert dead

| November 7, 2010 8:00 PM

ROME (AP) - Michael Seifert, a former Nazi SS prison guard known as "the beast of Bolzano" for his cruelty, died Saturday in an Italian hospital at age 86, officials said.

The Ukrainian-born Seifert was serving a life sentence at the Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison in southern Italy. He died in the nearby Caserta hospital, according to officials at the hospital and at the prison.

Seifert, tried in absentia by a military tribunal in Verona, was convicted in 2000 of nine counts of murder committed while he was an SS guard at a prison transit camp in Bolzano, in Italy's Alpine South Tyrol area.

He acknowledged being a guard at the SS-run camp but denied being involved in atrocities.

At his trial, witnesses testified that Seifert starved a 15-year-old prisoner to death, gouged out another person's eyes and tortured a woman before killing her and her daughter. A witness said he laughed while torturing inmates.

In 1944 and 1945, the Bolzano camp served as a transit point for Jews, Italian resistance fighters, Italians drafted for factory work and German army deserters who were being shipped north.

In 2008, Seifert was extradited to Italy from Canada, where he had lived since 1951, to serve his sentence. He had sought to stop the extradition.

Lionello Bertoldi, of the association that gathers World War II resistance fighters in Bolzano, said he hoped Seifert "in the little time he spent in jail, thought back on the horrors that as a young man he managed to inflict on other young men and women."

Gianfranco Maris, who was jailed at Bolzano camp in 1944, told the ANSA news agency that "Seifert was not merely an executioner of orders, but the interpreter of a will to destroy."

Seifert was transferred to the Caserta hospital with a fractured femur on Oct. 25 and underwent an emergency operation for a gastric complication days ago, Pasquale La Cerra, the medical director at the Caserta hospital, told The Associated Press.

The cause of death will be ascertained in an autopsy, he said.

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