Austria Plans War Crimes Trial, the Country’s First in Two Decades
Menu JTA Search

Austria Plans War Crimes Trial, the Country’s First in Two Decades

Download PDF for this date

A former Nazi doctor who allegedly conducted experiments on children and went on to become a celebrated Austrian neurologist was expected to be charged this week with the murder of at least five children.

The move follows a decision by Austria’s Justice Ministry that Dr. Heinrich Gross, 83, should stand trial for “participation in the murder of five of the estimated 700 children killed at the Am Spiegelgrund Children’s Clinic at Steinhof in Vienna,” according to a ministry spokesman.

The decision marks the first time in 20 years that Austria has authorized a war crimes trial.

Gross was tried and convicted of a single charge of manslaughter in the 1950s, but the verdict was later overturned by a higher court, which ordered a retrial.

But the retrial was never held and the case was subsequently abandoned. Gross was permitted to return to work and became one of Austria’s most eminent neurologists.

The case was reopened after fresh evidence, including declassified papers, was released two years ago from the archives of the former East German secret police.

Last year, prosecutors moved to seize thousands of papers and 400 preserved brains from Gross’ “private collection.”

For the past 14 months, Austrian prosecutors have been assessing whether there was sufficient evidence to put the aging psychiatrist on trial.

In a recent interview, Gross said he remembered little of his wartime experiences.

He did admit to referring children to the euthanasia board, but he denied that he himself had ever killed anyone.

Gross’s lawyer, Nikolaus Lehner, said he would study the indictment over the next few days “to see if we can have it thrown out in a pre-trial review.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund