Previously convicted Nazi criminal goes on trial in Germany

Jobbik calls for ban of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Hungary.

By REUTERS
September 2, 2013 20:21
3 minute read.
SIERT BRUINS.

SIERT BRUINS 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A former Nazi guard who spent much of the 1980s in jail for his actions during World War II appeared in a German court on Monday, charged with the 1944 murder of suspected Dutch resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema.

Siert Bruins, a Dutch-born member of the Waffen SS who acquired German citizenship while serving as a German security and border guard in the Netherlands during World War II, had previously been sentenced to seven years in jail for being accessory to the murder of two Jewish brothers in April 1945.

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He was sentenced by the same court in which he is now being tried.

“The accused is alleged to have taken Mr. Dijkema on the orders of his superior...

in a car near to a factory,” the court wrote in a statement. “There, the accused and his accomplice are alleged to have shot Mr. Dijkema four times.”

“He was hit in the back of his head among other places and died immediately.

Later on, the accused and his accomplice admitted that Mr. Dijkema was shot as he tried to flee,” the statement continued.

The trial is expected to extend over 11 hearings until the end of September.

Bruins’s trial comes at a time in which many of the Holocaust survivors and those who perpetrated crimes during that time are elderly and dying. Efforts at identifying and prosecuting elderly people accused of crimes committed during the Holocaust have met with a mixed reaction in Germany.

Many Germans are keen to leave the dark legacy of the Holocaust in the past and seal the post-war democratic identity of their nation. Some find distasteful the pursuit of old men, often in poor health, for crimes committed nearly 70 years ago.

Others say that it is never too late and prosecution helps to fight those who still engage in denial and distortion of the Holocaust.

In recent years, some German prosecutors have begun to actively seek out surviving Nazis such as, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

However, it is “almost impossible to generalize” regarding Germany’s efforts in this respect due to the country’s “decentralized” judicial system, he cautioned.

While in some provinces prosecutors have been “proactive in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice,” in some parts of the former East Germany “there have not been any Nazi war crimes investigations, let alone prosecutions, in many years.”

There have also been cases of “Nazi war criminals who are living in Germany who have been protected by the courts from extradition and/or punishment, such as Soeren Kam,” Zuroff added.

Germany on several occasions has turned down Danish requests for Kam’s extradition due to the Dane’s service as an officer in the SS during the war, Zuroff said.

In July, the Simon Wiesenthal Center launched what it called a Operation Last Chance II, a last-ditch campaign to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.

Zuroff considers the campaign, which featured posters and rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Nazi war criminals, to have been a success.

The public response, he said, was more than he had been expected.

“We’ve received far more information than we ever anticipated,” Zuroff said. “There are a few cases that look promising and I’m going to Berlin next to meet with our researcher and to deal with the next steps in terms of handling these cases.”

Such efforts have prompted Jobbik, the third-largest parliamentary faction in Hungary, to call for a ban of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Jobbik, which has been described as a Neo-Nazi party by the World Jewish Congress, took issue with complaints made by Zuroff following the raising of a banner praising recently deceased Hungarian accused war criminal László Csatáry during a soccer match.

George Szilagyi, a Jobbik MP, said Zuroff is leading a smear campaign and inciting against Hungary while the party website accused the Simon Wiesenthal Center of being a “direct and serious threat to national security.”

In response, Zuroff stated that the call “to ban the Wiesenthal Center and expel its non-Hungarian employees can be best described as the most convincing proof that the center’s efforts to bring Hungarian Nazi war criminals and collaborators to justice... have made an important impact in Hungarian society and are playing a significant role in preserving the accuracy of the Holocaust narrative in Hungary.”

Asked about Jobbik’s comments regarding the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a government spokesman replied that “the Hungarian government does not comment on any political statements that fall outside the framework of the rule of law.”


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