14 German Policemen of Nazi Era on Trial for Burning 2,000 Jews Alive in Bialystok
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14 German Policemen of Nazi Era on Trial for Burning 2,000 Jews Alive in Bialystok

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Fourteen members of a German police unit accused of the mass murder of Jews in the Bialystok ghetto in 1941, went on trial in Wuppertal today.

They are charged with having set fire to the main synagogue in the Polish city on June 27, 1941, after forcing at least 800 Jews into the building. An estimated 2,000 Jews were burned alive when the synagogue was drenched with benzine and ignited with hand grenades. Despite the gravity of the charges, none of the accused is in custody. Among them are Hans Behrens, 72, a former high police official now receiving a pension; Heinrich Schneider, 53, a former police lieutenant now a businessman in Wuppertal; Police Commissar Rolf Joachim Buchs; and Wilhelm Schaffraph, 65. Originally there were 24 accused but nine died and one committed suicide.

Only two Jewish witnesses to the crime survive, a fireman and a doctor. Both live in Israel and are coming to Wuppertal to testify. Surviving members of the police battalion, No, 309. have also been ordered to testify.

The prosecution said that the 175-page indictment shows that the accused had displayed “abnormal delight” in their deed.

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