updated 4/16/2008 9:08:14 AM ET 2008-04-16T13:08:14

An 86-year-old man who acted as a Nazi hit man for a Waffen SS death squad that executed Dutch civilians during World War II has been charged with three counts of murder, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Dortmund prosecutor Ulrich Maass told The Associated Press he had charged Heinrich Boere with the 1944 murders of three men as a member of the death squad code-named Silbertanne, or Silver Pine.

Maass had quietly reopened the case against Boere in a last attempt to bring him to justice.

1949 conviction
Boere was convicted for the same three murders in the Netherlands in 1949 and sentenced to death — later commuted to life imprisonment — but has managed to escape jail so far.

The son of a Dutch man and German woman, Boere at age 18 joined the Waffen SS — the fanatical paramilitary organization faithful to Hitler's ideology — at the end of 1940, only months after his country had fallen to the Nazi blitzkrieg.

After taking part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, he ended up back in the Netherlands as part of Silbertanne, a Waffen SS  death squad composed mostly of Dutch volunteers tasked with killing fellow countrymen in reprisal for attacks by the anti-Nazi resistance. The unit is suspected of a total of 54 killings, and Boere has admitted to taking part in three, according to Dutch court documents.

The murder charges were filed Tuesday with the state court in Aachen, a city in western Germany on the Netherlands border, Maass said.

Upscale old-age home
It was not immediately clear when Boere might be brought to trial, and his attorney, Gordon Christiansen, said he will remain living at his upscale old-age home in Eschweiler, near Aachen, while the process is under way.

Christiansen would not comment on the charges, saying he had not yet seen the official documents.

But he said that one of his first actions would be to file a  motion with the court to determine whether Boere is fit to stand trial.

"I'm no doctor, I can't say myself," Christiansen said. "It also depends on how long it takes for this process to begin;  one must see."

Extradition sought
The Netherlands, where he was convicted in 1949, has sought Boere's extradition, but a German court in 1983 refused on the ground that he might have German citizenship, and Germany at the time had no provision to extradite its nationals.

A state court in Aachen ruled in 2007 that Boere could legally serve his sentence in Germany, but an appeals court in Cologne overturned the ruling months later, saying the 1949 conviction was invalid because Boere was unable to present a defense.

It was after that ruling that Maass quietly reopened the case, effectively beginning from scratch to bring the case back to court for trial.

Boere is among more than 1,000 cases worldwide which the Nazi-tracking Simon Wiesenthal Center says were still open as of April 1, 2007.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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