Russia pardons alleged Hitler kin

MOSCOW — A person believed to be a relative of Adolf Hitler was among a group of German and Austrian citizens recently pardoned by Russia, a Moscow daily newspaper reported.

The 61 Germans and 13 Austrians exonerated last month — most of them posthumously — were convicted as war criminals by Soviet military courts during and after World War II.

Ignaz Koppensteiner was arrested in Germany by Soviet military police in May 1945 and sent to a Moscow prison.

According to the Kommersant Daily, he was charged four years later on the basis of having been a relative of Hitler and that he was therefore guilty of having "approved of [Hitler's] criminal plans against the USSR."

Koppensteiner, who was not accused of any war crimes, died in a Moscow prison in 1949.

According to a recently declassified criminal file, Koppensteiner was apparently the husband of one of Hitler's first cousins.

Austria had asked for his posthumous pardon.

During and after World War II, Soviet courts convicted as war criminals more than 200,000 foreign citizens who fought in the Axis armies.

Some of them were involved in the slaughter of Jews in areas of the Soviet Union that had been overrun by the Nazis.

In 1991, Russia passed a law rehabilitating citizens who had been victims of communist repression. The law was extended to foreigners the following year.

Since then, about 8,000 foreign citizens have been pardoned. Some 2,000 people — among them people found guilty of killing Jews — have been denied pardons.