1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Delayed justice

December 15, 2011

A 90-year-old former SS assassin has begun a life sentence in Germany after confessing to the murder of three Dutch civilians in World War Two. Heinrich Boere had avoided prison since his first conviction in 1949.

Former SS assassin Heinrich Boere
Boere targeted civilians in revenge for resistance attacksImage: picture alliance/dpa

Heinrich Boere, a 90-year-old ex-SS assassin, began a life prison sentence in Germany on Thursday for the murder of three civilians in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1944.

Almost 21 months after being sentenced Boere was moved from a care home in Aachen after space became available in the sick bay of an unnamed prison in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

A spokesman for the public prosecutors' office in Aachen said Boere, who suffers from heart problems and is wheelchair-bound, was pronounced fit enough to begin his term.

Boere managed to avoid a prison term for almost six decades after escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp in 1947 and returning to his birth place, Germany. Despite being sentenced to death in absentia in Amsterdam in 1949 - a sentence which was later commuted to life imprisonment - he escaped extradition.

Germany refuses to extradite persons who served in the wartime German armed forces. In the 1980s Germany also rejected a Dutch extradition request on the grounds that it could not determine whether Boere was German or stateless.

Assassin-style killings

The son of victim Teunis de Groot (right)
The son of victim Teunis de Groot, right, was in court during Boere's trialImage: picture alliance/dpa

The SS hit man, whose father was Dutch, had confessed to shooting pharmacist Fritz Bicknese, bicycle shop owner Teunis de Groot, and Frans-Willem Kusters in cold blood. The victims were believed to be opposed to German rule, and were killed in revenge for attacks by the Dutch resistance.

Boere argued he was acting on the orders of his superiors. He claimed if he had refused to kill resistance members or supporters, he risked being sent to a concentration camp.

During his trial Boere said that while serving in the SS, neither his conscience nor his feelings had suggested to him he was committing a crime.

"Today, 65 years after what we did, I obviously see it from a different point of view," he said.

Boere's imprisonment came a day after the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center launched a new drive in Germany to catch the few remaining perpetrators of the Holocaust still at large.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton