Ex-SS man tried in Germany over 1944 killing

The 92-year-old defendant denies involvement, 70 years on

Siert Bruins, a suspected Nazi war criminal, stands in a courtroom at the start of his trial in the German city of Hagen. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Siert Bruins, a suspected Nazi war criminal, stands in a courtroom at the start of his trial in the German city of Hagen. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

 


A 92-year-old former Nazi officer appeared in a German court yesterday, accused of murdering a Dutch resistance fighter 70 years ago.

Siert Bruins, a Dutch-born German citizen and former member of the elite Waffen-SS, could face a life sentence if found guilty of killing Aldert Klaas Dijkema on the Dutch-German border on September 22nd, 1944.

Wearing a beige jacket, navy jumper and white shirt, Mr Bruins walked into court yesterday with a Zimmer frame. In acknowledgement of his advanced age, court proceedings in the western German city of Hagen have been limited to three hours a day.

The accused said nothing yesterday apart from confirm his identity. “I am German since 1942; in 1941 I volunteered for the Waffen-SS,” he said.

Mr Bruin’s defence lawyer said he had his “doubts about whether it is right” to drag an elderly man before a court.

State prosecutor Alfred Brendel conceded it was more difficult than in usual SS cases to ascertain the motive of the killing. “Normally in Waffen-SS cases relatively gruesome deaths play a role . . . but this case’s distinguishing characteristic is malicious intent,” he said.

In an interview with German television Mr Bruins admitted witnessing the killing, near the Dutch town of Appingedam, but says he was absent when another soldier pulled the trigger.

The state prosecutor believes Mr Bruins and another SS man shot Mr Dijkema. After a post mortem in 1944, it was reported Mr Dijkema was spotted shot while trying to escape the SS officers during curfew.

A Dutch court handed down a life sentence in absentia for the killing in 1949, later commuted to life. The sentence was never imposed because Mr Bruins lived for three decades under a false name in Westphalia. When he was located, a Dutch arrest warrant was returned because Mr Bruins had confirmed his German citizenship.

In the 1980s Bruins served seven years in jail for his role in the murder of two Dutch Jewish brothers in 1945.

It is the latest in a series of Nazi court cases in Germany since a change of heart by authorities to allow legal action against more junior members of the Third Reich killing machine.