FRANKFURT (Dec. 11)
The biggest postwar trial of Nazis accused of mass murder of Jews, involving 22 former officials and a former inmate who was a trustee in the Auschwitz extermination camp, where millions of Jews were annihilated, will open here on December 20, it was announced here today. But the presentation of evidence against the defendants will probably not begin until February or early March, it was indicated by the chief prosecutor, Dr. Hans Grossman.
Dr. Grossman said it would take at least one to two months before completion of all preliminaries, including opening statements from each of the 22 defendants. Eighteen attorneys have been retained by the defendants. The trial, which will be held in Frankfurt City Hall, will draw more than 100 reporters from West Germany and other countries.
After the first session on December 20, the next hearing will be on December 30. The trial has been in preparation since 1959. The chief defendant, Richard Baer, who was the last Auschwitz commandant, and who was arrested for the trial, died last June in prison.
The 23 defendants were chosen from about 1,000 suspects on the basis of evidence supplied by 1,300 survivors of the murder camp in which an estimated 4,000,000 men, women and children–mostly Jews–were put to death during the war. The indictment covers 700 pages, and evidence from the 1,300 survivors totals about 16,000 pages. The prosecution plans to call 254 witnesses from 13 European countries, Israel, the United States and Australia.
The court will be made up of three judges and three supplementary judges; and six regular and four supplementary jurors. Chief Prosecutor Grossman is the head of the political section of the Frankfurt Prosecutor’s office. He will be assisted by three other district attorneys. The victims will be represented by 15 “private accusers,” close relatives of Jews slaughtered in Auschwitz. The defense lawyers are either of their choice or appointed by the government.
The most important defendants are Robert Mulka and Karl Hoecker, who were adjutants of Rudolf Hoess, the first commandant; and of Baer. Others are the former camp dentist, SS officer Willi Frank; Dr. Franz Lucas, former camp physician; Dr. Viktor Capesius; SS officer Franz Hofmann, camp druggist; Wilhelm Boger, aide to the chief of the political division; Oswald Kaduk, and SS male nurse Josef Klehr. Hofmann has already been sentenced to death for his murders in the Dachau camp.
They are variously charged with mass and individual shootings, selections for gassing, mass and individual tortures, gassing, trampling inmates to death, hangings, medical experiments, injections and other crimes. The camp was established in April 1940 under Hoess, who was tried by Polish authorities in the first Auschwitz trial in Warsaw in April 1, 1947, and hanged at the camp.