23 March 2010
A court in Aachen, Germany has handed Heinrich Boere, a 88-year-old former member of the SS, a life sentence for the murder of three Dutch civilians in 1944. Boere killed a bicycle shop owner, a pharmacist and a member of the resistance as part of a Nazi death squad but said he was following orders and would have been shot for not doing so. Prosecutors said Boere was a willing member of the SS, which he joined after the Netherlands was invaded in 1940.
In December, Boere testified that he had shot Fritz Bicknese, a chemist and father of 12; bicycle seller Teun de Groot, who helped Jews go into hiding; and Dutch resistance member Frans Kusters. He told the court that he and fellow members of his SS death squad had been informed by their superiors that the men were to be killed in retaliation for attacks by the resistance. "I knew that if I did not carry out my orders I would be breaking my oath and would be shot myself…At no time in 1944 did I act with the feeling that I was committing a crime," he said, adding. "Today, after 65 years, I naturally see things from a different perspective."
Judge Gerd Nohl said in his ruling all three killings had been carried out "on a totally random basis" and constituted murder. "These were murders that could hardly be outdone in terms of baseness and cowardice – beyond the respectability of any soldier."
Members of the death squad had worn "civilian clothes, rain coats, and carried out the crimes either early in the morning or late in the evening", and the risk to Boere when he shot the three men had been "zero", he added.
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