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Israeli Opera Conductor Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Helping Nazis

Hirsch Birenblatt, Israeli National Opera conductor, pleaded not guilty today to charges of wartime collaboration with the Nazis in Poland in persecution of Jews, and trial was set for March 11

Birenblatt, who was a police chief in Bedjin, Poland, in 1942, was indicted on 12 counts under the 1950 Israeli law for the punishment of Nazis and their collaborators. The charges included alleged extortion of money from Jewish prisoners, beating Jews, compelling them to work in Nazi forced labor camps and helping the Nazis to steal sewing machines and other property of the Jewish victims. He faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison if convicted.

Birenblatt, who came to Israel in 1958, was arrested after a survivor from Bedjin said he recognized the musician when the latter appeared as a piano accompanist in a concert at a kibbutz.