Heinrich Boere, 92, Dies; Member of Nazi Hit Unit in Netherlands
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 2, 2013
Heinrich Boere, who murdered Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi Waffen SS hit squad during World War II but avoided justice for six decades, died on Sunday in a prison hospital in Fröndenberg, Germany. He was 92.
Martin Meissner/Associated Press
The North Rhine-Westphalia Justice Ministry announced the death.
Mr. Boere was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals until his arrest and conviction in 2010 on three counts of murder. He was serving a life sentence.
“It’s a comforting thought to know that Boere ended his life in a prison hospital rather than as a free man,” said Efraim Zuroff, the center’s top Nazi hunter.
During his trial, Mr. Boere admitted killing three civilians as a member of the Silbertanne, or Silver Fir, a unit of largely Dutch SS volunteers responsible for assassinating countrymen considered anti-Nazi. He told the court in a statement that he had had no choice but to obey orders.
But the presiding judge said there was no evidence that Mr. Boere had even tried to question his orders. The judge said that Mr. Boere and his accomplices, in civilian clothes, had surprised victims at their homes or workplaces in hit-style killings.
“These were murders that could hardly be outdone in terms of baseness and cowardice,” the judge said in his ruling. Mr. Boere remained unapologetic.
He was born to a Dutch father and German mother in Eschweiler, Germany, on the outskirts of Aachen, and moved to the Netherlands when he was an infant.
After the Germans had overrun the Netherlands, the 18-year-old Mr. Boere saw a recruiting poster for the Waffen SS, signed by Heinrich Himmler. It offered German citizenship after two years of service and the possibility of becoming a police officer after that. He was one of 15 chosen from 100 applicants, all Dutchmen. “I was very proud,” Mr. Boere told the court.
After fighting on the Russian front, Mr. Boere ended up back in the Netherlands as part of the Silbertanne squad. After the war he escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp and returned to Germany.
He was sentenced to death in the Netherlands in 1949 — the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment — but the case seemed to fall through the cracks. The Netherlands sought Mr. Boere’s extradition, but a German court in 1983 refused on the ground that he might have German citizenship; at the time, Germany had no provision to extradite its own nationals.
A state court in Aachen ruled in 2007 that Mr. Boere could legally serve his Dutch sentence in Germany, but an appeals court in Cologne overturned the ruling, calling the 1949 conviction invalid because Mr. Boere had not been there to present a defense.
A prosecutor in Dortmund reopened the case and charged Mr. Boere with the three murders in 2008. During his trial, Mr. Boere told the court that he had never married, knowing that he might be pursued by the authorities.
“I always had to consider that my past might catch up with me,” he said. “I didn’t want to inflict that upon a woman.”