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Ex-nazi Officer Says He Was Sent to Front for Refusing to Kill Jews

March 26, 1964
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A former SS Major told a court trying five other former SS officers on charges of slaughtering 5,200 Jews today that he had been court-martialled for refusing to obey a wartime order to round up Jews and shoot them.

Franz Klaus, 63, was a prosecution witness against the five former officers of the Second Cavalry Regiment of the SS. They are accused of complicity in the killing of the Jews in Pinsk in White Russia. The five defendants have contended that refusal to obey orders to kill the Jews in Pinsk would have meant their own execution.

Klaus testified that he was reduced to the rank of private and sentenced to five years in jail for his refusal. The sentence was later commuted to permanent service in front-line “suicide commando” squads on the Russian front.

Former General von Dem Bach-Solewski, now serving a life sentence for the murder of Jews and partisans during the war, also testified. He said “I doubt if Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler would ever have put up for court-martial an officer who refused to obey such orders.” He said this was so because such action would have made public knowledge of the fact that such orders were being issued. He added that “maybe Major Klaus did not realize he was risking his life.”

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