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Admitted Nazi hit man on trial for 1944 Dutch killings

Confessed killer Heinrich Boere, 88, was flanked by lawyers Gorden Christiansen (left) and Matthias Rahmlow during the start of yesterday’s trial. Confessed killer Heinrich Boere, 88, was flanked by lawyers Gorden Christiansen (left) and Matthias Rahmlow during the start of yesterday’s trial. (Henning Kaiser/ AFP/ Getty Images)
By David Rising
Associated Press / October 29, 2009

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AACHEN, Germany - Confessed Nazi hit man Heinrich Boere went on trial yesterday in the western city of Aachen, charged with the 1944 murders of three Dutch civilians in reprisal for partisan attacks.

The 88-year-old was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair and had a doctor by his side as the proceedings began, but looked alert and attentive as he answered the presiding judge’s questions with simple one-word responses.

The resident of Eschweiler, on the outskirts of Aachen, faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, if convicted of the killings of a bicycle shop owner, a pharmacist, and another civilian while part of an SS death squad code named “Silbertanne,’’ or “Silver Pine.’’

Protesters outside the state court building held up black banners that read “No peace for Nazi criminals’’ and “Don’t forgive, Don’t forget.’’ Jeers of “Nazis Out!’’ and “Nazi pigs!’’ broke out in the courtroom when two far-right skinhead supporters of Boere entered the viewing gallery.

However, the session was adjourned before lunchtime before the formal charges against Boere were read out after the five-judge panel said it needed time to consider a defense motion to have lead prosecutor Ulrich Maass removed from the trial.

The defense argued that Maass made statements to the Dutch and German press that called his objectivity into question, and Maass said he would need until Monday to respond to the allegations before the court.

“It’s just about getting a fair trial,’’ defense attorney Gordon Christansen told The Associated Press outside the courtroom.

Maass said the allegations were unfounded.

The delay meant disappointment for Teun de Groot, the son of one of Boere’s victims - the bicycle shop owner - who joined the trial as a coplaintiff as allowed under German law.

The opening of the trial was the first time he had ever seen in person the man who killed his father - the two sat about 20 feet apart on opposite sides of the courtroom - but he said he was not going to be able to personally attend in the future.

“I’m angry because of the tricks of the defenders,’’ he said in broken English. “I wanted to make a statement to Boere and now it is not possible.’’

He said his attorney will instead read a statement from him, but refused to say what it was he wanted to say to Boere.

Boere admitted the three killings to Dutch authorities when he was in captivity after the war. He was sentenced to death in the Netherlands in 1949 - later commuted to life imprisonment - but Boere has managed to escape jail.

In 1983, a German court refused to extradite him to the Netherlands because he might have German citizenship as well as Dutch, and at the time Germany had no provision to extradite its nationals. Another German court refused in 2007 to make Boere serve his Dutch sentence in a German prison because he had been absent from his trial, having fled to Germany, and unable to defend himself.

The trial is scheduled over 13 days.