Bonn (Jul. 8)
A court in Kiel today sentenced a former Nazi to seven years in prison for his complicity in the deportation of 25,000 Belgian Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp where they died in gas chambers in 1941 and 1942. The court said that Kurt Asche, 71, who was chief of police in charge of Jewish affairs in Nazi-occupied Belgium during World War II, played an important role in the deportation of the 25,000 Jews, 5100 of them children.
Presiding Judge Rudolf Dann said the jail term was insufficient punishment for Asche’s actions but for the former Nazi it would amount to a virtual life sentence in view of his age. Defense lawyers had asked the court to acquit Asche, saying the prosecution failed to prove his complicity in the deaths. But Dann said Asche was responsible for rendering Belgium “Jew-free” as quickly as possible and that he had carried out his duties in an “obliging and reliable” way.
Another former Nazi, Ernst Ehlers, was charged with Asche in the trial which began last December. Asche worked with Ehlers who was the chief of the gestapo in Belgium and who was Asche’s immediate superior. Ehlers, who served as a magistrate in Schleswig-Holstein until his retirement in 1974, committed suicide six weeks before the trial began when he learned that he was to be tried.
Belgian Jewry had tried in vain to bring Ehlers and Asche to court since 1962. Only in May, 1975 did anti-Nazi activists Beate and Serge Klarsfeld take drastic action to bring them to justice. They broke into Ehler’s home, with the help of seven Belgian Jews, and managed to collect documents on his wartime activities. Although detained by German police, they succeeded in preparing the evidence which led to the trial of Asche.