Former SS hit man begins German jail term at 90

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A 90-year-old former SS assassin began his life jail sentence Thursday handed down by a German court for shooting dead three civilians in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1944, officials said.

Heinrich Boere, who confessed to the killings as part of an SS hit squad, was brought to a prison hospital, the public prosecutor's office in the city of Aachen said, 21 months after being sentenced.

An expert had declared Boere -- who suffers from heart problems and is wheelchair-bound -- fit enough to begin his term provided certain medical care was provided, a spokesman said.

He had been staying at a nursing home until space became available at the prison hospital in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

On several occasions, Boere admitted to shooting in cold blood pharmacist Fritz Bicknese, bicycle shop owner Teunis de Groot and Frans-Willem Kusters.

But he argued that as a member of an SS commando unit tasked with killing suspected resistance members or supporters, he risked being sent to a concentration camp if he refused.

He spent six decades one step ahead of the law after escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp in 1947 and returning to his birthplace in Germany.

Boere, whose father was Dutch and who grew up in the Netherlands, was sentenced to death in Amsterdam -- in absentia -- in 1949. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Afterwards, he remained a free man -- working as a coal miner in Germany until 1976 -- as Germany refused to extradite him in the 1980s, saying it was unable to determine if he was German or stateless.

Germany as a rule does not extradite its citizens to stand trial in other countries.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center launched a new drive in Germany Wednesday to catch the last perpetrators of the Holocaust still at large based on a groundbreaking precedent set by the May conviction of former camp guard John Demjanjuk, 91.

© 2011 AFP

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