Alex Constantine - October 21, 2008
Also see: Death squad Nazi faces justice at age of 86, Telegraph, 10-16-08
German authorities are investigating a suspected Nazi war criminal after he was tracked down by a student working on a university project.
21 Oct 2008
The 89-year-old former member of the notorious Waffen SS, whose name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, is accused of participating in the murder of 60 Jewish slave workers in 1945.
The massacre took place in Deutsch Schuetzen in Austria and the victims were buried in a mass grave which was only discovered in 1995.
The name of the man first occurred in a trial in 1946, where witnesses claimed he took part in the execution. He was however never charged and returned to his home in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia where he still lives under his real name.
Andreas Foster, 27, a student of political science in Vienna, was researching the case for an university project and acquired documents on the man from German archives. After realising that authorities never attempted to arrest the man, he managed to track him down by a simple search in the telephone directory.
"The Waffen SS man was mentioned by name in court files and other documents and his identity has been known since 1946," said Mr Foster.
He alerted his university mentor, Professor Walter Manoschek, who then travelled to Germany unannounced and visited the alleged war criminal and interviewed him on camera. In the interviews, the man claimed not to be able to remember anything about the massacre but confirmed that he was stationed on the site as a member of the SS at the time when it happened.
Prof Manoschek then compiled a file on the case, including the video tapes, and sent it to German prosecutors who have now opened an investigation.
"We will examine and evaluate the vast amount of material and interview the possible witnesses," a spokesman for the prosecutors in charge of Nazi war crimes said.
Prof Manoschek also tracked down two former members of the Hitler Youth who were convicted for their role in the massacre in 1946 and both of them confirmed they knew the man. Other witnesses Professor Manoschek spoke to claimed they saw the man shoot other Jewish prisoners as the German army was fleeing the allies in 1945 because they were unable to march due to exhaustion.
"The astonishing thing is that the man has never made any attempts to hide his identity and he was very easy to find. He appeared in a very good shape, both mentally and physically. The question authorities now have to answer is why they never initiated an investigation," said Prof Manoschek.
He and his student have so far gathered a vast amount of historic material about the case, including interviews with the alleged war criminal, court files and witnesses' accounts, and are now looking for funding to produce a documentary film about their findings.