A 92-year-old former member of the Nazi Waffen SS has gone on trial in Germany for the murder of a resistance fighter in 1944.
Dutch-born Siert Bruins, who is a German national, entered the Hagen state courtroom using a walker on Monday. Despite his age, Bruins was found medically fit to stand trial. Trial sessions are being limited to a maximum of three hours in deference to his age and health.
Prosecutors accuse Bruins of having shot Dutch resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema after he was taken prisoner in the Netherlands.
According to prosecutors, Bruins and alleged accomplice August Neuhaeuser, who has since died, drove Dijkema to an isolated industrial area where they stopped and told him to go to the toilet.
As he walked away from the car, they fired at least four shots into him, including into the back of his head, killing him instantly, according to the indictment.
Bruins’ attorney, Klaus-Peter Kniffka, said after the short 35-minute opening session that it was unlikely his client would ever address the court personally.
“In general, I think it’s quite late for these things, I have to say. I think it’s questionable whether a 92-year-old should be dragged in front of a court again,” Kniffka told reporters outside the courtroom.
The senior prosecutor Andreas Brendel argued age should not prevent wartime suspects being brought to trial. “If I can accuse him of homicide, age plays no part,” he said.
No pleas are made in the German system, and Bruins offered no statement. He faces a possible life sentence if found guilty. The trial is set to resume on Thursday and is expected to extend over 11 hearings until the end of September.
Bruins told German television in July last year that although he was present at the shooting, it was his accomplice who pulled the trigger.
Bruins was among about 30,000 Dutch citizens who collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands. He obtained German citizenship via the Fuehrer’s Decree in May 1943.
Several years after the war, he was sentenced to death in his absence by the Netherlands in April 1949 for participating in three shootings, including that of Dijkema.
He fled to Germany from where he escaped a Dutch extradition order in 1978 because Germany does not hand over its own nationals.
German federal prosecutors are expected to announce they are recommending the pursuit of possible charges against about 40 former Auschwitz guards this week.