An 88-year-old former member of Adolf Hitler's fanatical Waffen SS went on trial Wednesday on three counts of murder for the wartime hit-style killings of three civilians in the Netherlands.
Heinrich Boere admitted to the three killings to Dutch authorities when he was in captivity after the war but has managed to avoid prosecution for decades — first escaping from the Netherlands before he could be brought to trial, then successfully eluding the courts in Germany.
Cries of "Nazis get out, no fascists here" broke out in the court room as two skinheads, wearing black neo-Nazi-styled garb entered and took seats in the back.
After a few minutes, everybody settled down and the trial began.
Teun de Groot, the son of one of Boere's victims and a co-plaintiff, stared long and hard at Boere, who sat across the room in his wheelchair.
‘Don't forgive, Don't forget’
Ahead of the trial's start, de Groot had told reporters that he hoped Boere would be convicted.
"I'm in a good mood and I feel like it will go to a good result." he said.
Outside the court building, a handful of protesters held up a pair of black banners that read "No peace for Nazi criminals" and "Don't forgive, Don't forget."
Elisabeth Souvignier, an Aachen elementary teacher and one of the protesters, said that "It has taken far too long for this case. I'm here today because I should be."
Boere faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted of the 1944 killings of a bicycle-shop owner, a pharmacist and another civilian while part of an SS death squad codenamed "Silbertanne," or "Silver Pine."
The son of a Dutch man and German woman, Boere was 18 when he joined the SS at the end of 1940, only months after German forces had overrun his hometown of Maastricht and the rest of the Netherlands.
After fighting on the Russian front, Boere ended up back in Holland as part of "Silbertanne" — a unit of largely of Dutch SS volunteers like himself tasked with reprisal killings of their countrymen for resistance attacks on collaborators.
In statements after the war to Dutch authorities, which are expected to form the basis for the prosecution's case, Boere detailed the killings, almost shot-by-shot.
No details on defense strategy
Boere's attorneys have declined to say how they will try to counter the confession, but could try to argue that their client was simply following orders.
"I don't want to talk here of the defense's strategy." Boere's attorney Gordon Christiansen said outside the court room.
In a 2007 interview with the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, Boere himself attempted to justify the killings, saying he was sorry for what he had done but that it was "another time, with different rules."
The trial is currently scheduled over 13 days through December 18 but could last longer if more time is needed.