91-year-old German charged with Nazi crimes

A 91-year-old former member of the Nazis' Waffen SS has been charged with murder in the 1944 slaying of a Dutch resistance fighter who was allegedly executed shortly after he was captured, prosecutors said Monday.

Dutch-born Siert Bruins, who is now German, already served time in the 1980s for the wartime murder of two Dutch Jews.

Now, Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel told The Associated Press, the suspect is accused of killing resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in September 1944 in the town of Appingedam, near the German border in the northern Netherlands.

Bruins and alleged accomplice August Neuhaeuser, who has since died, are accused of driving Dijkema to an isolated spot shortly after he had been apprehended and then stopping the car and telling him to "go take a leak."

As he walked away, one of the men fired at least four shots into Dijkema, including two into the back of his head.

"We don't know exactly who fired the shots, but to be criminally guilty that plays no role," Brendel said. "If both were there with the goal to kill him, it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger."

The two then reported that the prisoner had been shot while trying to escape, Brendel said.

The case has now been turned over to a court in Hagen to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial, and Bruins has been taken into custody, Brendel said.

"This is wonderful," said Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a telephone interview from Israel. "It again reinforces that it is still possible to bring Nazi war criminals to justice."

Bruins was already sentenced to death in absentia in the Netherlands in 1949, later commuted to life in prison, but attempts to extradite him were unsuccessful because he had obtained German citizenship through a policy instituted by Adolf Hitler to confer citizenship on foreigners who served the military of Nazi Germany.

Born in 1921 in the Netherlands in an area near the German border, Bruins volunteered for the Waffen SS in 1941 after the Nazis had overrun his homeland.

He fought on the eastern front in Russia until 1943 when he became ill and no longer fit for combat duty, Brendel said.

Transferred back to the Netherlands, he served first in the Sicherheitsdienst - the Nazi internal intelligence agency - and then the Sicherheitspolizei, or Security Police, with a unit looking for resistance fighters and Jews.

While with the Waffen SS, Bruins had risen to the rank of Rottenfuehrer - equivalent to a corporal - and once back in the Netherlands he was promoted to Unterscharfuehrer - equivalent to sergeant - but Brendel said it was not clear what rank he held at the time of the crime.

In 1980 he was convicted in the killing of two Dutch Jews, brothers Lazar and Meyer Sleuterberg, who were discovered in hiding in Groningen, in the northern Netherlands, just days before the area was liberated by the Allies.

He was sentenced to seven years for being an accessory to murder. He settled in the town of Breckerfeld, near Dortmund, upon his release.