Two former SS officers accused of the wanton murders of concentration camp inmates went on trial in Hannover this week after a four-year delay. The indictments against Alfred Grams, 74 and Friedrich-Wilhelm Rex, 67, were presented by the State Prosecutor in 1976.
They are charged with crimes committed in April, 1945, shortly before British troops occupied northern Germany. According to the indictments, Grams and Rex were in charge of the evacuation of the Hamburg-Neuengamme concentration camp whose 5000 inmates were ordered on April 7-8, 1945 to march some 60 kilometers to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Rex is accused specifically of shooting one inmate, Moses Soedermann, because he allegedly stole a piece of bread from an SS guard. He is also accused of shooting five other inmates in a fit of anger because he could not find his knapsack.
Two more inmates were murdered by Rex in a dispute over scarce food. In a number of other cases, he killed inmates who could not march fast enough. He is charged with ordering 7-9 inmates to dig their own graves and then shooting them.
Similar charges were brought against Grams. He is accused in one case of shooting an inmate who covered the body of a dead companion with a coat. Grams claimed in court that none of the charges was true. Rex refused to make a statement.
It was learned, meanwhile, that a court in Erfurt in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) sentenced Herbert Helbing of Magdeburg to 13 years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was also deprived of his citizen’s rights. Helbing is the first war criminal to be put on trial in East Germany in many years.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.