Former SS Men Say Fellow Officer not Guilty in War Crimes Trial
Three former Nazi SS soldiers refuted Friday the key testimony of a fellow officer who said that SS trooper Julius Viel murdered seven Jewish slave laborers at a concentration camp in 1945.
Viel, 82, is charged with shooting the seven men in cold blood while guarding prisoners in Leitmeritz, near the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what was then Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, in the spring of 1945.
The prisoners had been taken from the camp by Gestapo soldiers to dig an anti-tank ditch, and were guarded by members of an officers' school where Viel taught.
A member of the officers' school on guard duty that day, Adalbert Lallier, arrived from his home in Canada earlier this week and told the court in the southern city of Ravensburg that Viel had taken a rifle from a pile of weapons, shot 10 times at the slave laborers and killed seven.
However, the three SS soldiers who testified Friday -- Manfred Obst, Egon Hock and Walter Birk -- disputed Lallier's testimony that Viel had murdered the men and that they had witnessed the incident.
Obst admitted that he had heard shots but said he had not seen anyone shot.
Birk said he was no longer in Leitmeritz at the time of the incident, which is what Viel has also said in his defense.
Hock, who like the other two SS soldiers was 19 years old at the time, told the court he had never carried out an order that constituted a human rights violation.
The case was reopened when Lallier, an economist and former member of the Waffen SS, told prosecutors in the late 1990s that he had witnessed the crime and was willing to testify.
Lallier, whose testimony to prosecutors allowed the case to be reopened, told journalists after the three men's testimony that he believed they were still abiding by the SS code of silence.
US private detective and "Nazi hunter" Steven Rambam testified that Lallier had suffered professional and personal losses in pushing for Viel's prosecution.
Lallier, who plans to return to Canada this weekend, enlisted Rambam's help in locating Viel before he approached German criminal authorities about the case -- RAVENSBURG (AFP)
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