International

Life term for Nazi hit man

Nazi hitman Heinrich Boere sits in his wheelchair during his trial on Tuesday.Photo: AP

Nazi hitman Heinrich Boere sits in his wheelchair during his trial on Tuesday.Photo: AP   | Photo Credit: Hermann J. Knippertz

A German court on Tuesday convicted an 88-year-old of murdering three Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi hit squad during World War II, capping six decades of efforts to bring the former Waffen SS man to justice.

Heinrich Boere, number six on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most-wanted Nazis, was given the maximum sentence of life in prison for the 1944 killings.

“These were murders that could hardly be outdone in terms of baseness and cowardice — beyond the respectability of any soldier,” said presiding judge Gerd Nohl. Boere sat in his wheelchair, staring at the floor and showing no visible reaction as the verdict was announced.

For Dolf Bicknese, it was the first time he had seen in person the man who killed his father in 1944 — but he said he felt little emotion staring Boere in the face.

During the trial, which began in October, Boere admitted killing a bicycle-shop owner; Bicknese's father, a pharmacist; and another civilian as a member of the “Silbertanne” hit squad — a unit of largely Dutch SS volunteers responsible for reprisal killings of countrymen who were considered anti-German. He said he had no choice but to follow orders to carry out the killings.

“And I knew that if I didn't carry out my orders I would be breaking my oath and would be shot myself.”

But the prosecution argued that Boere was a willing member of the fanatical Waffen SS, which he joined shortly after the Nazis overran his hometown of Maastricht and the rest of the Netherlands in 1940.

Judge Nohl noted that there was no evidence Boere ever even tried to question his orders.

He characterised the murders as hit-style slayings, with Boere and his accomplices dressed in civilian clothes and surprising their victims at their homes or places of work late at night or early in the morning. “The victims had no real chance.”

Though sentenced to death in absentia in The Netherlands in 1949, later commuted to life imprisonment, Boere has managed to avoid jail until now.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 3:05:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Life-term-for-Nazi-hit-man/article16598901.ece

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