BERLIN – BERLIN (AP) — Germany is looking into the possibility of jailing an 88-year-old man who was convicted of Nazi war crimes in the Netherlands more than 60 years ago, the Justice Ministry said Monday.
"The ministry thinks it might be possible to enforce the Dutch sentence in Germany," spokesman Ulrich Staudigl said. Former SS member Klaas Carel Faber was convicted on several counts of murder in 1947, but fled to Germany in 1952 and has lived freely in Bavaria for decades.
Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has asked Bavarian authorities re-examine the case, Staudigl said.
However, Bavarian prosecutors in Ingolstadt and Munich who have dealt with the case told The Associated Press that, without new evidence or a renewed request for help by the Netherlands, no action can be taken.
"Judging from current knowledge, we have no option to do anything," said Helmut Walter of the prosecutor's office in Ingolstadt, where Faber lives.
Likewise, Munich prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said the evidence currently available is not enough to reopen the case.
Faber, who was born in 1922, is currently number 5 on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's "most wanted Nazi war criminals." The Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, works to hunt down Nazi criminals and fight anti-Semitism.
According to the Center, Faber volunteered for Hitler's SS, a paramilitary organization loyal to Nazi ideology, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in the 1940s.
"He came from a Dutch Nazi family," the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem branch director, Efraim Zuroff, told the AP in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. "He was a Nazi," he said of Faber.
In 1947, a Dutch court sentenced Faber to death on at least 11 counts of murder as a member of an execution squad that killed Dutch resistance members, Nazi opponents, and people who hid Jews, Zuroff said. The sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1948. Faber escaped to Germany in 1952.
Two years later, a German court in Duesseldorf decided not to extradite Faber. He was legally considered German because of his former SS affiliation, Munich prosecutor Steinkraus-Koch said.
In 1957, another Duesseldorf court decided against opening a German trial against Faber because it said it did not have enough evidence to prove his crimes, Steinkraus-Koch said. Faber was allowed to walk free and, according to media reports, the father of three went on to work for automaker Audi in Ingolstadt until he retired.
In 2004, a court in Ingolstadt turned down a Dutch request to enforce Faber's life sentence in Germany. The court cited the 1957 Duesseldorf decision not to try Faber, Steinkraus-Koch said.
Two years later, in 2006, Munich prosecutors received new evidence from the Netherlands and looked into reopening the files. Weighing the evidence, prosecutors found that the former SS man may have been guilty not of murder but only of manslaughter — and the statute of limitations for that crime had expired, Steinkraus-Koch said.
Only if new evidence is received showing that Faber might be guilty of murder could there be another full-blown investigation, he said. And the Ingolstadt court might reconsider its 2004 decision not to enforce Faber's life sentence in Germany only if a new Dutch request is made, he said.
The Wiesenthal Center has recently tried to increase public interest in Faber's case, Zuroff said.
"This case strikes me as a terrible travesty of justice," he said. "We want to induce German authorities to bring Faber to justice. That would send a very positive message to the world."
Federal Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wrote to her Bavarian counterpart regarding Faber two weeks ago, but her spokesman said that had nothing to do with the Center's campaign.
A spokesman for the Bavarian justice ministry, Stefan Heilmann, said Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger's letter has arrived and will be answered, but he did not say how long that would take.