Ex-SS trooper Adolf Storms charged over mass shooting of Jews

Publié le par The Times - Roger Boyes

The Times publié le 18/11/2009 by Roger Boyes in Berlin

A 90-year-old former member of an elite Waffen SS unit has been charged with killing 58 Hungarian Jews who were forced to kneel beside an open pit before being shot and tumbling into their mass grave.

The man, named in the German press as Adolf Storms, becomes the lStorms Adolfatest pensioner to be prosecuted for alleged Nazi war crimes as courts rush to secure convictions before the defendants become too infirm and the witness testimony too unreliable. Mr Storms was found by accident last year, as part of a research project by Andreas Forster, a 28-year-old student at the University of Vienna.

The case against him was led by Ulrich Maass who is also the prosecutor in the trial of Heinrich Boere, 88, who is accused of shooting three Dutch resistance fighters. Later this month, another suspected war criminal John Demjanjuk, 89, is to face multiple murder charges stemming from his time as a guard in the Sobibor death camp. Mr Storms was a member of the 5th Panzer Wiking Division which fought on the Eastern Front, moving through Ukraine into the Caucasus, taking part in a bloody fight for Grozny and the tank battles of Kharkov and Kursk before wheeling back through Eastern Europe. By most accounts it left a trail of bodies behind.

By the spring of 1945 the unit was heading to Austria with the intention of surrendering to the Americans rather than to the Red Army. But first the Wiking Division, led in the early days by General Felix Steiner, who is still revered among neo-Nazis, decided to clean up the evidence against it and eliminate the slave labourers who had dug its fortifications and defensive lines. According to a statement issued by the regional court in Duisburg, where Mr Storms has spent most of his retirement, 57 of the 58 victims were killed near the Austrian village of Deutsch Schuetzen. The mass grave there was excavated in 1995 by the Austrian Jewish association and the bodies given proper funerals.

“On March 29,1945, the accused and his accomplices brought at least 57 Jewish forced labourers in several groups to a nearby forest area, where they had to surrender their valuables and kneel by a grave,” the court said. “The accused and other SS members then cruelly shot the Jewish forced labourers from behind.” The next day, Good Friday, Mr Storms allegedly shot another Jewish labourer who could not keep up on a forced march between Deutsch Schuetzen and the village of Hartberg. That victim may be pivotal to the case. Andreas Brendel, prosecuting, says that his investigators have found two living witnesses to that shooting.

As yet no living witness has been found to testify on the mass shooting; the case against Mr Storms for that alleged atrocity will be based on written statements made in previous trials. The mass grave was dug by a detachment of Hitler Youth teenagers. Mr Forster, who was studying the forest massacre for part of his university course, was reviewing the files on the Hitler Youth burial unit and came across the name of Mr Storms. He searched German telephone books and worked out that the Duisburg pensioner matched the description. Later his university supervisor travelled to meet the old man and confirmed that Mr Storms had served in the 5th Panzer Division. Mr Storms has told the prosecutor that he has some recall of his war service, but remembers nothing about the alleged massacre.

Publié dans Articles de Presse

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