West Berlin Parliament Calls for Extending Prosecution of Nazis
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West Berlin Parliament Calls for Extending Prosecution of Nazis

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The West Berlin Parliament called yesterday for punishment of all Nazi criminals in deciding to support in the Bundesrat, the upper House of the Bonn Parliament, the extension of the statute of limitations on prosecution of Nazi criminals after next May 8. The Bundesrat will open debate on the issue next Friday. The lower house, the Bundestag is scheduled to start debate March 10.

Secretary of State Gunter von Hase, the West German Government spokesman, emphasized today that no pressure of any kind would be used against members of the Bundestag when they begin consideration of a report related to the controversy over extension of the statute of limitations on prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

He disclosed that Chancellor Ludwig Erhard was still in favor of extending the effective date of the statute though he had been outvoted by the Cabinet last November when the Cabinet decided not to extend the date beyond May 8, touching off worldwide criticism. The spokesman declined to say whether the Chancellor might use his constitutional prerogative to decide policy and reverse that Cabinet decision.

The subject of the March 10 meeting will be a report by the Justice Ministry of the results of a worldwide appeal made last year by West Germany to all governments, to submit any information they had on Nazi criminals, so that criminal proceedings could be instituted before May 8. Mr. von Hase said that “in the light of that report, a quite new situation might arise.”

He also discussed a related issue, a discussion in West Germany touched off by an interview in the Baltimore Sun with Dr. Karl Knappstein, the West German envoy to the United States, who spoke out strongly for extension of the cut-off date. He was quoted as saying “I have a right and a duty to speak. I have represented the views of my government as far as I could, but there are limits to this which are set by my conscience.”

Chancellor Erhard endorsed the right of the envoy to express his personal views on the issue. Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, the Chancellor said that matters of conscience cannot be dictated from above.”

Dr. Knappstein also said in the Baltimore interview that the statute of limitations for murder, which dates back to 1871, was irrelevant to cases of mass murder and racial extermination. He suggested that the 20-year limitation period for murder should be counted from 1949, when the Federal Republic was formed, or even from 1955, when West Germany achieved full sovereignty.


Mr. von Hase also noted that Chancellor Erhard had repeatedly stated that it was necessary to find a solution to the problem of trying Nazi murders even after May 8. He said that the East German Parliament, which has criticized the Bonn Cabinet decision, had refused to hand over to West German authorities incriminating documents on Nazis unless such transfer was done on a governmental level. Since West Germany does not recognize East Germany, this was “pure blackmail,” he added.

He emphasized that, whether or not the May 8 cut-off date went into effect, there would be trials against some 10,000 Nazi defendants.

Meanwhile, former Chancellor Dr. Konrad Adenauer proposed today that West Germany extend its statute of limitations for prosecution of major Nazi war criminals by four years, instead of permitting that statute to take effect next May 8. The extension, he said, is warranted by the fact that the operative date for beginning the 20-year limitation on such trials should be 1949, when the West German Government was established, rather than 1945, which marked the official end of World War II.

Dr. Adenauer’s name also figured here today in another report which alleged that, in 1960, he had made an agreement in New York with David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, to ship arms to Israel. Under that agreement, it was said, West Germany has shipped American-made tanks and anti-aircraft guns to Israel. Dr. Adenauer was accused in some quarters here of having bypassed the German Parliament by making that agreement with Mr. Ben-Gurion without parliamentary approval.

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