BONN (Apr. 19)
A doctor and three former women guards at the notorious Moidanek concentration camp were acquitted by a Dusseldorf court today for lack of positive identification as the persons involved in the murders of 250,000 inmates, most of them Jews, during World War II. Although the verdict was not unexpected inasmuch as the prosecutor himself had recommended acquittal, it touched off a near riot among spectators in the courts who overturned benches and shouted “Nazi murderers.”
The defendants were Dr. Heinrich Schmidt, 66, who had been charged with selecting children, sick and elderly inmates for the gas chambers and camp guards Charlotte Mayer, 61 and Rosa Suess and Hermine Boettcher; both 60, charged with assisting in the selection process. They went on trial almost four years ago along with nine other former guards at Maidanek a death camp near Lublin, Poland.
Last month, Public Prosecutor Dieter Ambach called for their acquittal because the evidence was “too inexact for a verdict.” The court agreed to separate proceedings for Schmidt and the three women. According to Ambach, surviving Maidanek inmates from Poland and Israel who testified were unable to establish positive identification. The trial of the other nine defendants will continue. One of them is former Queens housewife Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan who was deported from the U.S. four years ago because she lied about her Nazi past when applying for citizenship.
HAUSNER DENOUNCES VERDICT
(In Israel, Gideon Hausner, head of the Yod Vashem said the trial in Dusseldorf was conducted in an “insufferable atmosphere” and that its verdict would now be used to justify ending the prosecution of Nazi war criminals under the statute of limitations which, unless it is abolished, will go into effect Jan. 1, 1980. Speaking on Israel Radio, Hausner, who was the prosecutor in the Adolf Eichmann trial, noted that the entire trial of the four Nazis must be extensively criticized in view of the hostile manner in which witnesses were treated during its almost four-year duration.
(He pointed to the dismissal of certain witnesses on the basis that they had “Jewish teachers” and could not therefore be objective about the Maidanek concentration camp and the thousands of Jews who perished there. “This verdict will undoubtedly be added to a series of other contentions which claim that after so much time, it is impossible to prove one’s guilt,” Hausner said, referring to the Bundestag debate on the statute of limitations.) (See related story P.3.)