Admitted Nazi hit man charged with 3 murders

>BERLIN (AP) – A German prosecutor has filed new murder charges against an admitted Nazi hit man who has avoided jail for nearly six decades despite being convicted in the Netherlands of killing civilians in reprisal for resistance attacks during World War II.

Dortmund prosecutor Ulrich Maass told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the charges involve the 1944 murders of three Dutch men while Heinrich Boere was a member of a Waffen SS death squad. AP was first to report last month that Maass had quietly reopened the case by beginning his own investigation of 86-year-old Boere.

Boere has acknowledged involvement in the killings, but describes them as a reality of wartime. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The old-age home where he lives said he checked himself into a hospital early this week.

Though Boere was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949 – later commuted to life imprisonment – German courts have blocked attempts to extradite him or enforce the verdict here. Maass will now seek a German trial for Boere.

“It’s high time that this happened, and I’m very pleased that the German prosecutors have finally moved against Boere,” Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.

“We’re running out of time, and every day that goes by without these people being put on trial is another chance they have to elude justice.”

Boere is among more than 1,000 Nazi cases around the globe that Zuroff’s office says were still open as of a year ago.

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 his country had fallen to the Nazi blitzkrieg.

After taking part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, he ended up back in the Netherlands as part of a unit known as Silbertanne, or Silver Pine, which was composed mostly of Dutch volunteers given the job of killing their countrymen in reprisal for attacks by the anti-Nazi resistance.

The unit is suspected of 54 killings, and Boere admitted after the war while in an Allied prison camp that he took part in three slayings, according to Dutch court documents.

Boere also described his participation in killings during an interview with a Dutch newspaper last year, but said he was working in an official capacity.

“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,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad.

Boere detailed the killings, almost gunshot by gunshot, in statements to Dutch police preserved in the court file.

The first was in July 1944: the killing of a pharmacist named Fritz Hubert Ernst Bicknese.

According to Boere’s statement, he and fellow SS man Jacobus Petrus Besteman – wearing civilian clothes – walked into the shop and asked the pharmacist if he was Bicknese. When he answered “yes,” Boere pulled a pistol from his right coat pocket and fired two or three bullets into Bicknese’s upper body, then Besteman fired two or three shots into the pharmacist as he lay on the floor.

The next victim, in September, followed a similar pattern: Boere and an accomplice named Hendrik Kromhout shot bicycle-shop owner Teun de Groot when he answered the doorbell at his home in the town of Voorschoten.

Boere and Kromhout then went to the apartment of F.W. Kusters, and forced him into their car. They drove him to another town, stopped on the pretense of having a flat tire and shot him dead.

“Kusters fell against the garden door of the Villa Constance and sunk to the ground on the other side of the street from the car,” Boere told investigators. “A strong, maybe 10- to 15-centimeter (4- to 6-inch), spurt of blood shot out of Kusters’ neck.”

Reflecting on that day some 63 years later in 2007, Boere was quoted by the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad as saying that “it was another time, with different rules.”