Karl Hass, born October 5, 1912, in Kiel, Germany.
Hass was an SS officer and
spy who was convicted of mass murder for his participation in one of Italy's worst massacres
of World War II.
Karl Hass joined the Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi Party's intelligence service where his ruthlessness earned
him the respect of his senior officers. After the downfall of Benito
Mussolini, and the occupation of Italy by the Germans, Karl Hass was sent to Rome to set up a network of radio operators and to organize saboteurs behind
the invading Allied lines. While in Rome, under SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer
(Lieutenant-Colonel) Herbert Kappler, Karl Hass aided in the deportation
of more than 1,000 Jews to Auschwitz.
Karl Hass was also the officer who lured Princess Mafalda
of Savoy, the daughter of King Victor Emanuel III of Italy,
to his headquarters in Rome with claims that there was a message from
her husband who was then being held in Berlin.
On her arrival at the German command, Hass had the princess arrested
and shipped to Germany where at Buchenwald she was executed.
Following a March 23, 1944,
bomb attack in the Via Rasella by Italian resistance fighters that killed
33 German soldiers, Karl Hass with Capt.
Erich Priebke and his fellow officers rounded up 335 Italian men
and young boys and the next day transported them to the Ardeatine caves
at the outskirts of Rome. A cold, calculating killer, Hass, Priebke,
and their soldiers systematically executed every one of them with a
shot in the back of the head. The Ardeatine massacre is one of the most
notorious in the Italian history of World War II.
After the War, SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Hass was captured
by the Allies but rather than facing an International Military Tribunal
for his war crimes,
he was used by the United States Army Counter-intelligence Corps to
spy on the Soviet Union. Only Herbert Kappler was ever charged with
the Ardeatine cave massacre. In the early 1990s, Capt.
Erich Priebke, who had helped Karl Hass with the executions, was
found hiding in Argentina by an American television crew and eventually extradited to Italy to stand trial. In exchange for immunity, Karl Hass returned to Italy to testify against his fellow SS murderer. However, on the night
before he was due to testify, Hass decided to remain loyal to his Nazi past and attempted to flee from his hotel room by climbing down
from an outside balcony. He seriously injured himself after slipping
and falling from the balcony and was taken to hospital where he ultimately
gave testimony to Court officials. In the court records, Karl Hass admitted
to executing two civilians but defended his actions by claiming he was
only following orders.
His attempt to flee meant that Karl Hass lost his legal
immunity from prosecution and he was finally brought to justice. Tried
and convicted for his heinous crimes, in 1998 he was sentenced to life
in prison. But, because of his advanced age and poor health, instead
of a cellblock, Hass was held under limited house arrest in a retirement
villa in his favorite area of Switzerland where he had resided for a
number of years after the War. Given the freedom to leave for brief
periods, Karl Hass spent his last years in the splendor of the beautiful
Swiss Alps not far from his daughter who visited him regularly from
her home in Geneva. He died in Switzerland on April 21, 2004.