German Parliament Starts Debate Today on Statute of Limitations
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German Parliament Starts Debate Today on Statute of Limitations

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With the Bundestag, lower house of the West German Parliament, scheduled to start tomorrow debate on the question whether or not to extend the statute of limitations on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, more leading Germans joined today the ranks of those in this country who ask for the prolongation of the statute which expires on May 8. They included prominent jurists, clergymen and Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, the Bundestag president.

At a meeting of the dominant Christian Democratic Party at Hanover, today Dr. Gerstenmaier announced he favored the proposal made by former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to extend the statute to the fall of 1969, instead of letting it go into effect next May 8. The May 8, 1965 date had been fixed on the principle that the statute should go into effect 20 years after Nazi Germany was defeated.

Dr. Adenauer proposed that the cut-off date be fixed at 20 years after the Federal Republic was founded, in the fall of 1949, Dr. Gerstenmaier today said he favored that proposal instead of one suggested by some members of Parliament who want the statute extended by 30 years from the 1945 date, thus setting the cut-off date as May, 1975.

At the same session, Hans Willhelmi, chairman of the Bundestag’s Justice Committee, also declared himself as favoring extension of the statute. “In capital offences, application of justice is more important than the letter of the law,” he said.


Yesterday, 76 leading state judges and professors of law issued a statement appealing to the Bundestag to extend the statute. “There is no reason in law to oppose prolongation of the statute in murder cases, the jurists stressed. “There is no clear-cut promise to murderers anywhere that, after the statute period, they shall be able to escape trial and punishment. The law-givers can lengthen this statute. Nazi murders of their victims, mainly Jews, make this prolongation necessary so that justice should be done. Any other step would deeply affect justice.”

At an observance in West Berlin yesterday, marking the opening of Judeo-Christian Brotherhood Week, the famous Rev. Heinrich Gruber, who had been incarcerated in a concentration camp by the Nazis for helping Jews, protested against those who would let the statute of limitations go into effect May 8. If that is done he said, “nobody will believe in brotherhood if he is able to meet on the German streets the mass murderers walking around freely.”

“If we don’t shy away from the community of those whose hands are blood-stained, without their having even expressed repentance, “he said, “there is no possibility that the victims would believe that a true change has occurred here.” He upbraided the prewar Germans who allowed 4,000,000 lazis to influence 40,000,000 other Germans who were “lacking in moral fiber and were even downright cowards.”

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