BONN (Nov. 26)
A former SS officer accused of complicity in the deaths of at least 15,000 Jews in the Polish city of Lodz during World War II, may get off with a relatively light sentence after a trial that lasted five-and-a-half years, one of the longest in post-war Germany.
The State Prosecutor in Bochum demanded an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for Helmut-Georg Krizons, 68, who was commander of the guards posted in the Lodz ghetto in 1942. According to the prosecution, Krizons ordered at least 15,000 Jews deported to the Kuklmhof concentration camp in full knowledge that they would be killed in the gas chambers. He personally selected the victims for deportation and organized the transports, the prosecution said. A verdict is expected shortly.
But the prosecution was forced to drop its original charge that Krizons himself murdered 24 Jews because of conflicting testimony by survivors. During the trial, the jury made more than 40 trips to Israel, Poland, Argentina and Australia to interview witnesses who could not or would not come to Germany to testify.
Krizons joined the Nazi Party in 1934, at the age of 18 and soon volunteered for the notorious SS “Lieb-standarte Adolf Hitler” division. In 1942 he was assigned to the Lodz ghetto from which a total of 160,000 Jews were eventually deported to nearby death camps. This was known as “Operation Reinhard” after SS commander Reinhard Heydrich who was assassinated in Czechoslovakia.
Krizons maintained throughout his trial that he was only following orders from his superiors and that to do otherwise would have put his own life in danger. The prosecution rejected this, noting that Krizons was present at every deportation.