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Verdict in Trial of Nazis Who Killed 5,000 Jews Expected This Week

August 26, 1958
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Officials of the court in which a group of former Gestapo and SS members of the Tilsit Einsatz Commando are being tried for the murder of more than 5,000 men, women and children, indicated today that a verdict could be expected on August 29.

Most of the concluding testimony consisted of pleas by the ten defendants that they had acted under orders and in “good faith.” Most of them also stressed that they were aware of the burden of “moral guilt” they had placed on themselves.

Werner Hersmann, the Tilsit SS leader, declared he was “deeply ashamed” to have become one of Hitler’s “instruments and that he bowed his head “in guilt before the victims of the Jewish people.” Hersmann, for whom the prosecution has asked a life sentence, pleaded he had enough time to repent, declaring that since 1945 he had been detained in 18 internment camps and 19 prisons, serving 10 years and five months.

Preliminary investigation in preparation for the forthcoming trial of a number of Nazi guards and SS leaders at the Mauthausen concentration camp is expected to continue into the fall, the prosecutor’s office here announced today. It is believed that the main trial will get under way early next year.

Chief defendant will be SS leader Karl Chmielewski. Evidence against him has been amassed from the testimony of more than 100 witnesses already questioned. Other Mauthausen guards have been turned over to the authorities in Cologne and Bonn for trial.

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