published 02/09/2013 at 06:10
The trial of a 92-year-old former member of the SS has begun in Germany over the 1944 murder of a Dutch resistance fighter. Some 70 years after the end of World War Two, the trial is be one of the last of its kind.
Dutch-born German national Siert Bruins appeared in court on Monday in the western German town of Hagen.
He is accused of killing Dutch resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in September 1944 while stationed on the Dutch-German border. Dijkema was shot four times in the back shortly after he was captured by Bruins and an accomplice.
Bruins has admitted that as a member of the Waffen SS, the military arm of the Nazi Party, he was present at the time of the murder. He denies the killing, however, accusing his accomplice - who has since died - of pulling the trigger.
The 92-year-old faces a life sentence if convicted.
A court in the Netherlands convicted Bruins in absentia of participating in three shootings, including that of Dijkema, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He was sentenced to death in 1949, a ruling later commuted to life imprisonment.
Bruins avoided serving his sentence having fled to Germany, which does not extradite its own nationals. He had been awarded German citizenship via the Fuehrer's Decree in May 1943, which conferred German nationality on all foreigners who worked for the Nazis.
He did serve a seven-year jail term in Germany in the 1980's, however, after a court convicted him of being an accessory in the murder of two Jewish brothers in the Netherlands in April 1945.
Wartime convictions dwindling
Roughly 13,000 German or Nazi soldiers have been found guilty of war crimes since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946. As one of the last suspected Nazi criminals to be charged by German authorities, Bruins' trial is likely to be among the last.
Another former SS officer Heinrich Boere was sentenced to life in March 2010 for the murder of three Dutch civilians.
An estimated 30,000 Dutch citizens collaborated with the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands.