Court rules former SS officer not ‘too old’ for murder trial

A Cologne court ruled Tuesday that an 88-year-old former SS-member must stand trial in Germany for a triple-murder that took place in Netherlands during World War II.

Court rules former SS officer not 'too old' for murder trial
A file folder of SS officers during WWII. Photo: DPA

The decision by Cologne’s appeals court requires Heinrich Boere to stand trial in an Aachen courtroom, reversing the ruling of an Aachen judge who deemed Boere unfit to stand trial in January 2009. Aachen’s regional court has yet to set a date for the hearing.

According to findings by the Dutch justice office, Boere joined Waffen SS in 1940 and was later drafted into the German SS in the Netherlands. As part of a special commando, he shot three men whom German occupiers suspected of being resistance sympathizers in 1944 in Breda, Vorschooten. Dutch authorities imprisoned Boere in May 1945. He later admitted to the murders.

“It was not difficult,” he told the German newsmagazine Focus. “It was just a matter of pulling the trigger.”

Following a one-day trial on October 18, 1949, in a special post-war tribunal in Amsterdam, Boere was given the death penalty, a punishment that was later reduced to life behind bars. But in 1947, the SS-man fled police custody. Today Boere, who lived as a miner in Germany during the 1950s, resides in a retirement home near Aachen.

The process brings a long legal tug-of-war to an end. Already in 1980, the Netherlands had requested Boere’s extradition, albeit without success. And in 2003, the Dutch justice department called for German authorities to carry out the court’s life imprisonment sentence, a move Cologne’s higher regional court rejected two years ago.

Though the triple-shooting was ruled a murder according to German law, the court ruled that the sentence violated basic norms for a fair trial. In absentia, the court said, Boere would have lacked effective legal protection to fight his conviction.

But prosecutors in Dortmund maintained that Boere’s case could be retried in a courtroom, since the Dutch court’s sentence was not properly enforced. The renewed charges brought against Boere were thrown out by Aachen’s regional court in January because it said he was too old.

But the Cologne judge reversed the Aachen court’s ruling, saying that Boere was fit to stand trial despite suffering a heart attack and other health issues. Legal proceedings could be tailored to meet the special conditions of the trial, leaving time for sufficient breaks and medical care.