German court rules Nazi hit man fit for trial

Heinrich Boere accused of WWII execution-style killings of 3 Dutch civilians when he was a member of a Waffen SS death squad.

Heinrich Boere 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Heinrich Boere 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
After years of legal wrangling, a court ruled Tuesday that Nazi hit man Heinrich Boere must stand trial in Germany for murder for the execution-style killings of three Dutch civilians during World War II. A Cologne appeals court ruled that despite his medical problems, the 88-year-old is fit to stand trial, overruling a lower court's decision made this year. Dortmund prosecutor Ulrich Maass, who brought the charges against Boere, said that no more appeals were possible. "This is very positive news," he told The Associated Press. Boere's attorney, Gordon Christiansen, said he had no immediate comment. Boere is accused of the 1944 killings of three men in the Netherlands when he was a member of a Waffen SS death squad that targeted civilians in reprisal killings for resistance attacks. In January, the Aachen state court ruled that he was not fit to stand trial on the charges, after hearing testimony that he suffered a serious heart condition and could not take the stress. That ruling was based on a two-day medical exam. Maass appealed, saying that, despite Boere's old age and poor health, he should be made to answer for his crimes. In overturning the lower court's ruling, the Cologne court interviewed caregivers from the retirement home where Boere lives, and said it concluded he could stand trial. Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, hailed the decision and pushed for a speedy start to the trial. "We are very pleased that the authorities have decided to prosecute Heinrich Boere - this is an important step in finally achieving justice in his case," he told The AP in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. The son of a Dutch man and German woman, Boere was 18 when he joined the Waffen SS - the fanatical military organization faithful to Adolf Hitler's ideology - at the end of 1940, only months after the Netherlands had fallen to the Nazi blitzkrieg. Boere was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949, later commuted to life imprisonment. The Netherlands has sought Boere's extradition, but a German court refused it in 1983 refused on grounds that he might have German citizenship. Germany at the time had no provision to extradite its nationals. A state court in Aachen ruled in 2007 that Boere could legally serve his Dutch sentence in Germany, but the appeals court in Cologne overturned the ruling, calling the 1949 conviction invalid because Boere was not there to present a defense. He had fled to Germany. Maass reopened the case, relying heavily on statements to Dutch police preserved in the court file in which Boere details the killings, almost gunshot by gunshot. Besides the police statements, Boere also gave an interview to the Dutch Algemeen Dagblad newspaper in 2006 in which he recalled slaying bicycle-shop owner Teun de Groot when he answered the doorbell at his home in the town of Voorschoten. "When we knew for sure we had the right person, we shot him dead, at the door," he was quoted as saying. "I didn't feel anything, it was work. Orders were orders, otherwise it would have meant my skin. Later it began to bother me. Now I'm sorry."