Enjoying a Peaceful Old Age Suspected Nazi War Criminal Eludes German Justice System

The suspected Nazi war criminal Klaas F., who is number five on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's most-wanted list, is enjoying a quiet retirement in Bavaria. While some alleged former Nazis are facing trial in their old age, the 87-year-old has managed to slip through the cracks in the German justice system.


Quietly evading justice? The alleged war criminal takes a stroll.
Arnold Karskens

Quietly evading justice? The alleged war criminal takes a stroll.

Klaas F. and his wife, were nice people, the affable neighbor said on the phone, apparently they "kept themselves to themselves" but were "very decent." They went walking a lot, had three sons and drove around in a red Audi. "He used to work in an office," the woman says. "He can tell you the rest himself."

But Klaas F. remained silent. The 87-year-old has yet to answer a written interview request from SPIEGEL ONLINE. He must have his reasons.

Klaas F. ranks number five on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of the 10 most wanted Nazi war criminals. In 1947, F. was sentenced by a Dutch court to life in prison for multiple murders during World War II. But the former Nazi collaborator escaped from prison with a gang of fellow inmates and fled across the border into Germany.

The former menswear salesman, who was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands, has lived in an apartment building in Ingolstadt in the German state of Bavaria since the 1960s. While other suspected Nazi criminals such as Heinrich Boere, 88, and Ivan Demjanjuk, 89, have to face charges relating to their roles in World War II atrocities despite their old age, F. no longer has anything to fear from the German justice system.

A Missed Opportunity

"I no longer consider this an injustice, but a scandal," Arnold Karskens, who is chairman of a Dutch foundation that investigates war crimes, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "He has kept a low profile for decades and that seems to actually have worked. It must be unbearable for the relatives of his victims."

That view was shared by Germnany's recently appointed justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, back when she was just the leader of the Bavarian branch of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party. "I demand that Germany's chief public prosecutor or one of the relevant agencies on the national level review the case, to see what they can do to either extradite him or start legal proceedings in Germany," she said as recently as July.

In the meantime, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has become justice minister. Nevertheless, she remains powerless to do anything about the situation, as a spokesperson from her ministry told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The situation is regrettable, but the minister cannot change anything about it," said Ulrich Staudigl. The Bavarian judiciary had missed the opportunity to "get things moving in the case," he said, explaining that it was now too late.

So Klaas F., it seems, can live out his old age without fear of prosecution -- to Germany's shame.

A Waffen-SS Volunteer

Dutch court documents seen by SPIEGEL ONLINE showed that F. volunteered for the Waffen-SS in July 1940 of his own accord.

During questioning after the war, F. said it was "quickly made clear ... that one would be incorporated into the SS when the training came to an end. I did not want that." He would later tell prosecutors that he had refused to take the oath "to the Führer" and had, after a few months, gone back to the Netherlands.

There, F., whose father and brother were both also ardent Nazis, joined the Weerbaarheidsafdeling, which was similar to the Nazis' Sturmabteilung (SA) stormtroopers in Germany. For 18 guilders a week, F. served the Dutch Nazi leader Anton Adrian Mussert as a bodyguard and came across as someone who was suitable for higher-level duties. F. "has proved himself to be a conscientious and reliable employee," noted one superior, according to the documents. He did not have a problem with "alcohol abuse and/or debts," the document noted, "as far as is known."

F. went on to become a constable in the state police. In September 1944, he was assigned to the SS's Security Service in Groningen in a support function. According to statements by several former comrades, F. is said to have executed several Dutch resistance fighters during this period. In March 1946 he confessed to his interrogators that he had "shot one of the detainees" during an execution in the Westerbork transit camp.


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