'Captain Corelli' soldier may face court

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The Independent Online

Italy is seeking the extradition of the German officer responsible for the massacre that formed the central tragedy of Louis de Bernières's novel, Captain Correlli's Mandolin.

The novel portrays the German soldier Gunter Weber, who takes part in the massacre, sympathetically. But Italy has decided his true-life model, Otmar Muhlhauser, 88, should answer in an Italian court for his actions. More than 5,000 Italian soldiers are believed to have been shot dead on the Greek island of Cephalonia in 1943, weeks after Mussolini's resignation prompted Italy to switch to the Allied side in the Second World War.

The Italian Acqui Division, commanded by General Antonio Gandin, landed on the island just as their nation changed sides. General Gandin gave his soldiers the choice of joining the Germans, surrendering or fighting. They decided to fight. However a week later, they surrendered; the Germans responded by shooting thousands of them dead.

Mr Muhlhauser is accused of plotting General Gandin's murder. He lives near Munich and is said to be in good health. In 2004, he said: "The Italian division was only spoken of by [German] officers as traitors... To betrayal there was only one reply: execution."