At Munich war crimes trial, militiaman says he was tortured

5th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

5 October 2004, MUNICH - A former member of a Nazi-led militia told a German war crimes trial Tuesday he had been tortured by communist authorities into a fake confession in 1962 and knew nothing whatever about alleged 1945 massacres. The Czech was the sole former member of the Edelweiss militia who agreed to testify at the Munich trial of Ladislav Niznansky, which may turn out the world's last trial of World War II atrocities. Niznansky, 86, is accused of massacring Slovak villagers and Jews during a hunt

5 October 2004

MUNICH - A former member of a Nazi-led militia told a German war crimes trial Tuesday he had been tortured by communist authorities into a fake confession in 1962 and knew nothing whatever about alleged 1945 massacres.

The Czech was the sole former member of the Edelweiss militia who agreed to testify at the Munich trial of Ladislav Niznansky, which may turn out the world's last trial of World War II atrocities.

Niznansky, 86, is accused of massacring Slovak villagers and Jews during a hunt for partisans. He and Tuesday's witness were recruits in Edelweiss, a half-German, half-Slovak force that on paper answered to Slovakia's puppet government.

The witness, 80, said of the alleged massacres in January and February 1945: "I never heard a thing, and I never knew a thing." He said he had deserted from the unit in December 1944.

Niznansky, who obtained German citizenship in 1996, has confirmed to the court that he was a captain in the Slovak section of Edelweiss but denies the killings. He is accused of killing 164 people, among them women and children, at Ostry Grun, Klak and Kamen.

A Slovak court sentenced him in absentia to death in 1962 for treason and murder. The witness, who was handed a 14-year jail term at the same trial, said Tuesday he confessed to save his life.

"They tried to break my neck using the arm of a chair," he said, rejecting the 1962 indictment as propaganda. He said his signature on interrogation notes was forged and a tape played to the Slovak court of him confessing had been manipulated.

"They stitched together different dates, places and persons," he said, and added, "I have never discussed it with Niznansky."

The defence lawyer, Steffen Ufer, warned the court not to trust the 1962 court verdict saying it could not be used as a "one-to-once source of evidence". Niznansky had not been present then to oppose the charges.

At the end of the war, Niznansky moved to Germany, where he was in the research section at Radio Free Europe. German authorities dropped an earlier investigation against him because they did not trust the evidence put to the 1962 Slovak trial. 

DPA

Subject: German news 

 

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