MUNICH (Jan. 24)
Former SS General Wilhelm Harster, on trial here since yesterday — with two other Nazis –of responsibility for the murder of thousands of Dutch Jews by deporting them to death camps, admitted at the trial today that a court in the Nether lands had convicted him of “abuse of duty.” He said the Administration of the West German State of Bavaria nevertheless gave him a civil service post with “full knowledge” of his Dutch record.
While Harster and his two co-defendants were testifying today, members of the Association of Victims of Nazi Persecutions continued to picket outside the court house. The picketing was begun yesterday, when the trial opened. The demonstrators carried placards showing the portrait of Anne Frank, the young girl whose diary had become famous throughout the world, and distributed leaflets accusing Harster of having been “the most successful and most cruel of the murderers of Dutch Jews.” Miss Frank was one of the victims of the Dutch-Jewish deportations. she died at Bergen-Belsen.
The two other defendants also testified today and admitted to having been members of the Nazi Party since 1933, the year Hitler came to power. They are Gertrud Slottke, 64, who acted as Harster’s secretary as well as chief of the women’s division of the department he headed in Holland, dealing with the Jews; and former SS Major Wilhelm Soepf, 58, who had been Harster’s principal aide.
ONLY 1,070 OF THE DEPORTED JEWS SURVIVED: 93,328 PERISHED
In the court proceedings, all three defendants are charged in 23 indictments of knowingly sending to the Nazi death camps, mainly at Auschwitz and Sobibor, 94, 398 Dutch Jews, of whom only 1, 070 had survived.
Arrested in Holland after the war, Harster was convicted by a Dutch court and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. After serving six years, he was freed. He returned to Germany, where a denazification court declared him “mildly incriminated.” In 1956, the Bavarian civil service appointed him to a school department post in Upper Bavaria, specializing in community finances. He retired three years ago “on grounds of illness,” and has been living on a civil service pension.
Appearing in the court room in full SS officer’s uniform, Harster told the court today that Bavaria had known all about his record, including his conviction by a Dutch court. The chief prosecutor told the court that, during pre-trial examination, he had conceded that, when he ordered the Dutch Jews deported to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor, he knew that “as a whole, the Jews were going to their deaths.”
Harster told the court he had studied law, as a youth, at Erlangen University, joined the Nazi Party in 1933, serving in the police division and advancing rapidly to a high post in the security division which he headed in occupied Holland. He is 62.
In her testimony today, Miss Slottke said she knew when she worked under Harster in Holland that his office “was concerned with the Jews.” Zoepf claimed in testifying that he had tried unsuccessfully, after being sent to Holland to aid Harster, to get a transfer because “what was being done to the Jews was a dreadful crime.”
Among the witnesses scheduled to appear at the trial for the prosecution is Otto Frank, father of the late Anne Frank.