BONN (Jul. 7)
Accused Nazi war criminal Josef Schwammberger testified Friday that he witnessed the mass shootings of Jews by the Gestapo when he was a concentration camp commandant in Nazi-occupied Poland, but denied he had been personally involved.
The 79-year-old former Waffen SS officer said at his war crimes trial in Stuttgart that it had not been his job to kill individuals.
“I had nothing to do with those killings, Therefore I cannot tell how many had been shot,” Schwammberger told the court, which began hearing the case June 26.
The Austrian-born Nazi has been charged with at least 45 counts of murder and with complicity in the murders of 3,377 people, most of them Jewish inmates of the Przemysl, Mielec and Rozwadow slave labor camps in Poland.
Arrested by French authorities in 1945 in Austria, he said he had been forced to sign a confession that he had killed scores of Jews. “This was false,” Schwammberger told the court.
The statement he signed in 1945 said he had killed 35 Jews.
Schwammberger is claiming he killed only one individual in his lifetime in what he says was an act of self-defense.
Schwammberger escaped to Argentina in 1948 and lived there for 42 years. He was tracked down in 1987 and finally extradited to West Germany last year.
The court ruled Friday that he is fit to continue standing trial despite acute medical problems. A geriatric psychiatrist was called in last week to examine him following a request by his lawyers.
The proceedings have been without incident since they opened June 26, when neo-Nazi supporters created disturbances. The protests subsided when the judge threatened to throw the agitators into jail.