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Nazi Commanders Could Have Avoided Executions of Jews, German Testifies

A top German student of events in Hitler Germany, testified here at the trial of ten members of a special SS unit on trial for the mass execution of thousands of Jews and others that there was no life-and-death pressure on SS members to commit executions.

In sharp challenge to defense assertions throughout the three months’ course of this trial that the defendants had to murder Jews and Lithuanians or themselves face the firing squad, Prof. Guenther Seraphim, director of the Goettingen Institute of Current History, testified that his extensive studies had not uncovered a single instance where a member of the SS was punished for refusing to carry out an execution order.

Prof. Seraphim cited orders by both Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo units that SS members who were too “soft” to execute people were to be transferred to other units. The individual SS members who chose could either volunteer for service at the front or ask for transfer to another unit, rather than act as an executioner, the expert witness said.

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