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86-year-old charged with Nazi-era killings in Netherlands
Germany Nazi Killin 5340656
Heinrich Boere is seen in front of his house in Eschweiler, Germany in this 2003 file photo. An 86-year-old man has been charged with three counts of murder for killings as part of a Waffen SS death squad that executed Dutch civilians during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, a prosecutor said Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Heinrich Boere was part of a Waffen SS death squad composed mostly of Dutch volunteers tasked with killing fellow countrymen in reprisal for attacks by the anti-Nazi resistance. - photo by Associated Press
    BERLIN — An 86-year-old man who acted as a hit man for a Nazi death squad that executed Dutch civilians during World War II has been charged with three counts of murder, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
    Dortmund prosecutor Ulrich Maass told The Associated Press he had charged Heinrich Boere with the 1944 murders of three men as a member of the Waffen SS death squad code-named Silbertanne, or Silver Pine.
    The AP was first to report last month that Maass had quietly reopened the case against Boere in a last attempt to bring him to justice.
    Boere was convicted of the same three murders in the Netherlands in 1949 and sentenced to death — later commuted to life imprisonment — but has managed to escape jail so far.
    The son of a Dutch man and German woman, Boere was 18 when he joined the Waffen SS — the fanatical paramilitary organization faithful to 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 Silbertanne, a Waffen SS death squad composed mostly of Dutch volunteers tasked with killing fellow countrymen in reprisal for attacks by the anti-Nazi resistance.
    The unit is suspected of a total of 54 killings, and Boere has admitted to taking part in three, according to Dutch court documents.
    Boere detailed the killings in statements to Dutch police preserved in the court file.
    The first was in July 1944, a pharmacist named Fritz Hubert Ernst Bicknese.
    The next two came that September: first bicycle-shop owner Teun de Groot then, later the same day, a man named F.W. Kusters, about whom the files say little.
    Reflecting on that day, Boere told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad in 2007 that ‘‘it was another time, with different rules.’’
    He recalled ringing de Groot’s doorbell and asking him for his papers.
    ‘‘When we knew for sure we had the right person, we shot him dead, at the door,’’ he said. ‘‘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.’’
    The murder charges were filed Tuesday with the state court in Aachen, a city in western Germany on the Netherlands border, Maass said.
    It was not immediately clear when Boere might be brought to trial, and he was not arrested after the charges were filed, Maass’ office said. Boere’s attorney, Gordon Christiansen, said he will remain living at his upscale old-age home in Eschweiler, near Aachen, while the process is under way.
    Christiansen would not comment on the charges, saying he had not yet seen the official documents.
    Boere checked himself into an Aachen hospital Monday for unspecified reasons, and could not be reached for comment, according to his old-age home.
    Christiansen said one of his first actions would be to file a motion with the court to determine whether Boere is fit to stand trial.
    ‘‘I’m no doctor, I can’t say myself,’’ Christiansen told the AP. ‘‘It also depends on how long it takes for this process to begin; one must see.’’
    The Netherlands, where he was convicted in 1949, has sought Boere’s extradition but a German court in 1983 refused on the ground that he might have German citizenship, and Germany at the time had no provision to extradite its nationals.
    A state court in Aachen ruled in 2007 that Boere could legally serve his sentence in Germany, but an appeals court in Cologne overturned the ruling months later, saying the 1949 conviction was invalid because Boere was unable to present a defense.
    It was after that ruling that Maass quietly reopened the case, effectively beginning from scratch to bring the case back to court for trial.
    Boere is among more than 1,000 cases worldwide which the Nazi-tracking Simon Wiesenthal Center says were still open as of April 1, 2007.