VIENNA (Oct. 6)
A Vienna jury handed down a verdict today which, in effect, acquitted Franz Novak, chief transport officer for Adolf Eichmann, of responsibility for the wartime deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews. The 53-year-old former SS captain obtained the verdict on a re-trial after he had previously been sentenced to an eight-year term, in 1946. The Austrian Supreme Court overturned that verdict on a technicality.
In the second trial here, the jury of five women and three men agreed, seven to one, that Novak knew that the Jews for whose transport he arranged were scheduled to die in the ovens at the Auschwitz death camp. Thereby, the jury held, he had endangered the lives of the victims. However, the jury deadlocked, four to four, on whether Novak acted under duress. Such a verdict, under Austrian law, means acquittal.
At his first trial, Novak contended that he was only a “cog” in the Nazi program and that he had not known of the fate awaiting the Jews. The jury then acquitted him by a five to three vote of aiding and plotting mass murder, but found him guilty “with extenuating circumstances” of “endangering” the lives of the Jewish men, women and children.