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Longest Nazi War Crimes Trial Ends

December 10, 1971
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The longest and most expensive Nazi war crimes trial in history has ended here with the release of three of the nine defendants on grounds of health. The remaining six defendants received sentences ranging from eighteen months to seven years imprisonment. The defendants were charged with murder and complicity in the deaths of hundreds of Jews killed in Latvia during World War II.

The trial lasted more than two years, cost the State over $1 million and heard testimony from 181 witnesses and five technical experts. During the trial the jury made special trips to Israel and the US and four trips to the Soviet Union to gather testimony and trial documents.

Three of the defendants were released Tuesday by the court because of their “incapacity to stand trial” for medical reasons. The other six were found not guilty of murder but guilty of complicity in murder. Sentenced on those counts were Karl Strott of Wiesbaden, 68. a hotel owner, seven years; Erhart Grauel, 61, a senior civil servant and departmental director from the Saar, six years; Otto Reiche, 65, a Justice Department official from Baden Baden, five years; former police Major Georg Rosenstok of Hanover, 21/2 years; senior detective Gerhardt Kuketta of Cuxhaven, 63, two years; and Paul Fahrbach of Cologne, 65, 18 months.

The Federal Supreme Court in Wiesbaden meanwhile has confirmed the sentences imposed by a lower court in Stuttgart on two former SS battalion leaders found guilty of complicity in the murders of hundreds of Jews on the Eastern front during the war. A 41/2 year sentence was handed down on March 13, 1969 against Sturmbandfuhrer Hans Sohns. His co-defendant, Hauptsturmbandfuhrer Fritz Zeitlow was sentenced to 21/2 years. Both appealed the sentences on grounds that they were too harsh.

Two former SS officers who participated in killings at the notorious Auschwitz death camp in Poland will go on trial in Vienna next month. The trial will be the first in Austria relating to events at Auschwitz where many guards and camp workers were of Austrian origin. The accused, Sturmbandfuhrers Walter Dejaco and Fritz Ertl, are charged with murder and complicity in murder in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews. They are also charged with theft. More than 50 witnesses are expected to testify in the trial which will last about six weeks.

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