German Expert Tells Court Nazis Could Reject Orders to Kill

SS and Security Police officers could refuse to carry out execution orders at no serious personal risk to their lives or positions, a West German historian has testified before the Ulm Jury Court.

“In all my extensive studies of Third Reich documents, I have not found a single case where refusal to carry out a death order led to serious punishment,” Dr. Hans-Guenther Seraphim, director of the Goettingen Institute for Contemporary History, told the court.

He presented his testimony in the re-trial of Werner Schmidt-Hammer, 53, and Pranas Lukys, 60, both former members of the Tilsit Einsatz-Commando. Schmidt-Hammer was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, and Lukya to seven years in August, 1958, for complicity in the murder of 526 persons. The Federal Supreme Court ordered the men’s retrial to determine the exact number of victims who had been killed, and to ascertain whether the defendants were aware that they had been ordered to execute innocent civilians.

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