(photo credit: INIMAGE)
BERLIN – A court in Cologne on Tuesday rejected a prosecution case charging a 89-year-old man with participation in the massacre of 642 French civilians in 1944.
The former Nazi, Werner Christukat, was present in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in west-central France but denied complicity in the mass murder.
SS troops barricaded more than 400 women and children into a village church and torched the building. One woman survived the inferno, according to an article in the local paper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (KSTA). The Nazis shot 200 men in a barn, which was set on fire.
Two men were able to flee the mass shooting.
Christukat did not deny his membership in the SS mechanized infantry regiment “Der Führer,” which was present at the massacre. He was classified as a machine gunner.
He claimed that he was not involved in the shooting, oversight or transport in respect to the mass murder. The Cologne court said there was no evidence submitted of his complicity.
Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal's chief Nazi hunter, told The Jersualem Post, "This is a very unfortunate result. I find it hard to believe that the prosecution in Germany would go to court without solid evidence of the suspect's culpability, so perhaps there is a basis for an appeal which I hope will be filed."
In January, the court said, “The prosecutor’s office in Dortmund has charged an 88-yearold from Cologne over the murder of 25 people committed by a group, and with aiding and abetting the murder of several hundred people.”
Andreas Brendel, the prosecutor who is the head of the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crime in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told KSTA that the victims’ family members “had hoped that the massacre would be clarified before the eyes of the global community.”
Brendel added, “Of course, this is a disappointment that the court process was not pursued.
We are, however, lawyers and we have to clarify the factual situation. The court had a different opinion and we must accept that.”
The case against Christukat began in January after files located in East Germany’s Stasi (Secret Police) archives revealed six soldiers were still alive with connections to the 1944 slaughter.
During a trial in 1953, 20 soldiers were convicted for their complicity, but were eventually released. The 20 soldiers have since died.
Brendel said he will review the court’s 78-page decision and decide whether to appeal the regional court decision.