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Germany

Accomplice of former SS member testifies in Nazi murder trial

A former Nazi SS member has testified via video link from the Netherlands in the German trial of a comrade from his unit accused of three murders in 1944.

Former Nazi SS member Heinrich Boere

Boere says he killed but only under coercion

An accomplice of Heinrich Boere, the former Nazi SS member on trial for murdering Dutch civilians during World War II, has testified that the SS were afraid of what would happen if they didn't follow orders.

Dutchman Jacobus Petrus Besteman testified on Friday by video link from the Netherlands.

"All those who participated were afraid of not following orders. It was very dangerous," he told the state court in the western German border city of Aachen.

Besteman added, however, that he never witnessed officers being punished for not following execution orders.

Only following orders

Boere was sentenced in absentia by a special post-war tribunal in Amsterdam in 1949.

Germany, though, refused to extradite the former SS member, saying it was unable to determine Boere's nationality. The 88-year-old was born in the western German town of Eschweiler, but his family moved to the Netherlands when he was two.

Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS

Himmler's SS were forced to kill, says Besteman

He told the court he volunteered for the SS in 1940 and served on the Eastern Front and in the Netherlands.

Boere admitted on the stand that he was involved in the 1944 killing of three civilians in the Dutch towns of Breda, Voorschoten and Wassenaar.

He has confessed to the three killings on previous occasions, claiming that he was merely following orders.

"Yes, I got rid of them," he told Focus magazine in 2008. "It was not difficult. You just had to bend a finger."

If convicted the wheelchair-bound Boere, who lives in a nursing home, is facing the rest of his life behind bars.

glb/AP/dpa
Editor: Tony Dunham

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