Man Stands Trial in Germany for Role in Wartime Massacre

A Ukrainian-born man of German descent is standing trial in Stuttgart for assisting in the murder of 17,000 Jews in Poland 56 years ago.

Alfons Goetzfried, 79, is charged with having played a role in the murder of Jews in the infamous “Harvest Festival” action of Nov. 3-4, 1943, at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland.

More than 2,000 local members of the SS and police units were assigned to this task. Goetzfried is alleged to have shot 500 people himself. According to the prosecution, Goetzfried already has admitted to these murders when he served as a witness in previous cases.

But in court yesterday he said all he did was “load the machine guns with magazines and loaded other pistols. But that was it. I cannot remember shooting anyone myself.”

He said the action “made me sick. I vomited. They gave me medicine, and later I had to load the weapons.”

When the judge asked how he had felt at the time, he answered, “It was completely sad and terrible. Men, women and children were shot. They were screaming and moaning.”

Born in 1919 in Odessa, Ukraine, Goetzfrid allegedly became a member of the SS after the Germans occupied the area in 1941.

Goetzfried was captured after the war on May 9, 1945 and held in a Soviet prison near Prague. In 1947, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 1991, he left the Soviet Union for Germany, where he was arrested in March 1998.

In addition to the current charges, Goetzfried is reportedly still under investigation for his alleged role in more than 40,000 murders near Lvov, Ukraine and Lublin, Poland.

Goetzfried came under suspicion after he provided testimony in an unrelated war crimes investigation in 1997. Prosecutors insist Goetzfried had said he shot 500 Jewish men, women and children in November 1943 at Majdanek. Goetzfried has testified in Nazi war crimes trials in Russia and Britain.

The trial is expected to last through mid-May. If convicted, Goetzfried faces a maximum 15-year sentence. But lawyers said the court would probably take into consideration his 13 years in a Soviet labor camp and his past year in custody in Germany.

NEXT STORY