A German court on Tuesday threw out the case of a former SS man accused of involvement in the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France, saying there was not enough evidence to bring the 89-year-old to trial.
Cologne resident Werner C., whose last name has not been revealed in accordance with German privacy laws, was charged with murder and accessory to murder in connection with the 1944 slaughter in Oradour-sur-Glane in southwestern France.
The accused, who was then 19, had acknowledged that he was in Oradour-sur-Glane at the time and a member of the SS but disputed any involvement in the murders.
The male victims were mowed down with machine guns in a barn, with any survivors shot at close range with pistols before the barn was set ablaze.
Prosecutors had said that the accused then went to the village church where several hundred women and children were being held prisoner.
Members of the unit used explosives, automatic weapons and hand grenades to kill many of them, then set the church on fire.
In total 642 men, women and children were killed.
The suspect was accused of abetting the murder by either assuming blockade and surveillance duties within sight of the church or carrying flammable material to the church, prosecutors said.
Werner C. denies the charges, saying that he was at the village but never fired a shot and wasn't otherwise involved in the slaughter.
In its ruling, the Cologne state court said no witness statements are able to disprove the suspect's contention, nor is there any reliable documentary evidence that he was part of the massacre.
“In a trial it could probably only be proved the suspect was in the area during the massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane as he has consistently maintained,” the court said. “This mere presence is not enough to prove accessory to murder without the proof of other circumstances.”
The court's ruling can be appealed.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-12-09