German prosecutors have indicted a 90-year-old man on 58 counts of murder over his suspected role in the March 1945 massacre of a group of Jewish laborers near the Austrian village of Deutsch Schützen.
An Austrian student discovered the 90-year-old’s name while researching the killings.
The court has identified the suspect only as “a retiree from Duisburg,” but The Associated Press reported that news reports had identified him as Adolf Storms, a former member of the 5th SS Panzer Division.
“On March 29, 1945, the accused and his accomplices brought at least 57 Jewish forced laborers in several groups to a nearby forest area, where they had to give up their valuables and kneel by a grave,” the court said in a statement. “The accused and other SS members then cruelly shot the Jewish forced-laborers from behind.”
The authorities also accused Mr. Storms of personally shooting to death another Jew who could no longer walk during a forced march from Deutsch Schützen.
In 1995 the Jewish Community of Vienna found the remains of the victims of the massacre in a forest near Deutsch Schützen and had them reburied in accordance with Jewish tradition. The Austrian government placed a plaque on a church near the site to commemorate the victims. There are more details of the massacre in a German-language Wikipedia entry. The mass grave is included in a sobering list of similar sites in Austria.
Last year Andreas Forster, a student at the University of Vienna, found a reference to Mr. Storms in documents related to the massacre. His professor Walter Manoschek told the BBC that after Mr. Forster checked with an archive in Berlin he simply looked Mr. Storms up in a German telephone book and discovered that “there was only one person with this name.” Reports in the Austrian press suggested that Mr. Storms had changed the spelling of his name after the war, which may have helped him to escape scrutiny until Mr. Forster dug into the archives.
After alerting German authorities of his student’s research, Mr. Manoschek visited Mr. Storms at his home in Germany and conducted extensive interviews with him. Mr. Manoschek told The A.P. that the Mr. Storms claimed to have no recollection of the killings.
Spiegel Online reported that during a raid of his home last December, Mr. Storms “said he didn’t remember any of the events he was being accused of.”
Andreas Brendel, a Duisburg prosecutor, told The A.P. that three former members of the Hitler Youth who were helping the SS at the time have provided witness statements in Austria. A fourth former Hitler Youth member, now living in Canada, is being interviewed this week.