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West German Court Sentences Ex-nazi to Life Imprisonment

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A former SS official at Auschwitz was sentenced to life imprisonment on Saturday, ending legal proceedings that began 13 years ago and cost some $3 million dollars.

A Lueneburg court found Horst Czerwinski guilty of at least two killings when he was in charge of Lagischa, a work camp that was part of the Auschwitz complex.

Lagischa housed about 700 prisoners, including Jews, Poles, French, Russians and others. Witnesses described how Czerwinski brutally killed inmates who were brought to his office after unsuccessful attempts to escape.

The court ordered the immediate arrest of Czerwinski, citing the risk of his fleeing.

Czerwinski was convicted largely on the testimony of a fellow SS officer at Lagischa, Josef Schmidt, who served time in Polish prisons for war crimes.

Some of the crimes were actually committed by Czerwinski, the Lueneburg court said.

Schmidt agreed to testify for the prosecution to avoid standing trial himself for murders committed at Auschwitz.

Another key witness was Abraham Schaechter, a Holocaust survivor from Israel, who described how he saw Czerwinski murder a Russian inmate.

The 66-year-old Czerwinski was first brought to trial in 1976 in Frankfurt, but the proceedings were canceled because of his health problems.

His current trial, begun in 1985, was interrupted several times because of the defendant’s illness. Testimony was taken from 204 witnesses.

Unitl he was arrested again in 1985 on new evidence, Czerwinski worked as a butcher in Celle, about 25 miles northwest of Hanover.

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