German Minister of Justice Insists on Ending Prosecution of Nazis

Minister of Justice Ewald Bucher told the West German nation in a radio broadcast last night that he is still opposed to extension of the statute of limitations on the prosecution of major Nazi war criminals beyond the cut-off date of May 8. He is under pressure from members of the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, to stretch the statute, while hundreds of German and foreign petitioners around the world have requested that Germany keep the door open for trying Nazi war criminals beyond next May.

“We should depart neither to the left nor to the right,” said Dr. Bucher, “from existing law. This means we should neither draw a final line, releasing criminals already caught, nor extend retroactively the validity of the penal code.” The Bundestag is scheduled to open debate, March 10, on several draft measures, which would extend the statute of limitations for periods ranging from 10 years to 30 years.

Dr. Bucher said that it would not be Germany’s fault if “some” Nazi criminals were to benefit from the statute of limitations if that statute were to make further trials impossible after next May. The Allied powers, he said, would be at fault for carrying out their “silly denazification program, subjecting each unimportant little party member to petty questioning instead of prosecuting those really guilty.” He criticized foreign petitioners on this issue.

Dr. Franz Boehm, one of West Germany’s outstanding fighters against neo-Nazism for many years, appealed to Dr. Bucher today to extend the statute of limitations, not only for crimes committed against Germans in Germany but also for crimes committed by Germans during the war abroad. An influential member of the dominant Christian Democratic Party, Dr. Boehm is one of 40 members of that party urging extension of the statute of limitations through a bill now pending in the Bundestag.

As chairman of the Sudeten German Landsmanschaften, Dr. Boehm also criticized Czechoslovakia for “doing little or nothing” to bring to justice those “guilty of crimes against humanity” during the expulsion of Germans from the Sudeten region. He accused Czechoslovakia of employing “a double standard” in urging Germany to try more Nazi war criminals while failing to try those who were responsible for similar atrocities against Sudeten Germans.

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