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Acquittal Seen Possible for Two Former Nazis on Trial for War Crimes

January 20, 1972
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Legal experts said today that the trial of the two former Nazis who built and installed the gas chambers and crematoria at the Auschwitz death camp may last seven weeks and could end with the acquittal of the accused if the court chooses to interpret the law “liberally.” Walter Dejaco, 63, and Fritz-Karl Ertl, 64, went on trial today for war crimes.

Both were assistant chiefs of the Central Building Corp, of the Waffen SS in Auschwitz whose task it was to build and install four huge crematoria where the remains of tens of thousands of Auschwitz victims were cremated after they had been put to death in the gas chambers. The ovens had a capacity of 4,000-5,000 bodies a day. Dejaco, a businessman in Reutte in the Austrian Tyrol, today pleaded not guilty. No plea was reported for his co-defendant, Ertl, who lives in Linz.

Dejaco is also charged with the “perfidious murder” of a detainee whom he allegedly beat to death with a shovel in Oct. 1940. He murdered another detainee a month earlier, the charge sheet stated. Legal circles said that if the accused were found to be only “indirectly guilty” of the charges, the jury might decide to acquit them on grounds that the charges were formally filed after the statute of limitations on war crimes came into effect. The statute is inapplicable only in cases where the accused is charged with direct, premeditated murder.

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