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102 Witnesses Testify at Trial of Nazis Who Killed Minsk Jews

December 13, 1962
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A former Nazi police supervisor in the Minsk ghetto testified today in the trial of 12 former Nazis accused of wartime mass murders that one of the defendants, Artur Harder, of Frankfurt, tortured and burned to death six to eight Jewish men and women.

Adolf Ruebe, the witness, said that Harder, a former SS captain, had the victims stripped and chained in pairs to a stake with Georg Heuser, the principal defendant in the trial here, looking on. The 12 former Nazis are charged with the mass murder of some 35,000 Jews in the Minsk ghetto during the Nazi occupation of the Soviet city. Ruebe recalled in particular one atrocity in which one of the women freed herself from the stake but was thrown into the fire again.

Ruebe, a retired Karlsruhe Criminal Investigation Department member, said that, in 1943, Harder’s commando unit 1005 exhumed mass graves of murdered Jews in occupied Poland and Russia, and subsequently cremated the bodies to remove all traces of the crime. Ruebe was sentenced to prison after the war but was later released.

Court officials indicated today that the trial, which began on October 14, was not likely to be ended before the end of January. Of the total of 102 witnesses found by the prosecution, only 72 have been heard.

Max Luchner, a member of the German Air Force during the Nazi period, testified today that it was useless to appeal above Heuser to higher Nazi officials. He said that he saw Jews beaten to death by men under Heuser’s command. Asked why he did not protest, he told the court: “Would you denounce the devil to his own grandmother?”

Another witness, Otto Edel, a tax collector, described some of the atrocities committed against Jewish prisoners but contended that “Heuser was not responsible for any execution orders. He was merely transmitting orders.”

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