Nazi War Criminal SS Assassin Sentenced to Life In Prison
A verdict has been reached in one of the last war crimes trials to take place in Germany. Heinrich Boere, now 88, will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of three Dutch civilians in 1944.
One of the last war crimes trials in Germany came to an end at the Aachen regional court on Tuesday, with a guilty verdict for the accused. The defendant -- 88-year-old Heinrich Boere -- had already confessed to shooting three civilians in 1944, as part of a Nazi hit squad operating in occupied Holland. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In sentencing, the court was following the recommendation of the public prosecutor's office. The defense had pleaded for the case to be dismissed under EU law. Three sons of two of the victims were co-plaintiffs in the prosecution and they also filed a motion accusing Boere of being involved in seven further murders.
Boere admitted to the murder of the three Dutchmen before the court. In one of the statements read out by his defense lawyers the defendant stressed that he had been obeying orders. Boere's defense lawyers had asked for the case to be dismissed or, in the case of a verdict, that he be given a maximum penalty of seven years.
Boere Murdered Three Innocent Civilians
Boere was born in 1921 in Eischweiler, a municipality in the district of Aachen near the German-Dutch border and had been living in a retirement home in the region. He was accused of having murdered three innocent civilians in 1944, as a member of the "Germanic SS in the Netherlands," as Boere's group was known. According to the charges levied against him, Boere killed 22-year-old pharmacist Fritz Bicknese in Breda, on July 14, 1944 and bike-shop owner Teunis de Groot on Sept. 3, 1944 in Voorschoten. He also is charged with having murdered Frans-Willem Kusters in lower Wassenaar.
At the end of 1940, at the age of 18, Boere joined the SS and fought for almost two years on the Eastern front. He himself described himself as a "fanatic" member of the SS. In 1942 he returned to the Netherlands, then occupied by the German army, where he was assigned to a special SS unit comprised of 15 men called "Feldmeijer."
Obeying orders that came directly from Hitler and that were classified as "secret state business," this unit was charged with breaking any signs of resistance in Holland via arbitrary shootings of civilians regarded as being anti-German. Dozens of Dutch apparently fell victim to the SS contract killers.
The SS 'Gave Us The Names and We Got Going'
"We didn't know the men. The security service of the SS gave us the names and we got going," Boere told SPIEGEL ONLINE in 2007. "They told us they were partisans, terrorists. We thought we were doing the right thing."
Boere had already been convicted of the murders in absentia, in October 1949, by a special court in Amsterdam and sentenced to death. That sentence was later transmuted to life in prison. However, Boere, the son of a German woman and a Dutch man, was already living back in Germany by then and the German authorities would not extradite him back to the Netherlands.
Unlike other accused war criminals, Boere never disputed the accusations. For decades the German justice system refrained from prosecuting Boere. The regional office for investigating Nazi crimes, based in Dortmund, closed an investigation into him in the early 1980s on the grounds that his actions were justified under international law as repressive measures by an occupying force. The case was not re-opened until 2007.
Nazi War Criminal Now Just 'Waiting For Death'
One of the arguments that Boere's defense presented to justify their proposal that the case be dismissed was the fact that the deeds were done so long ago. "After 66 years the person who did those things is not the same person anymore," they said.
Boere, who attended the proceedings in a wheelchair, told the court that he regretted his actions. "I am sorry for what happened in 1944," he said. "Every night I pray for the murdered and for all those who fell in the war." On the other hand he said that the outcome of the trial did not really concern him anymore because he did not have much longer to live. "I am waiting for death," he concluded.