NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA, GERMANY – A 92-year-old former SS officer was to appear in court Monday in one of the last trials of its kind in Germany, accused of the murder of a Dutch resistance fighter in 1944.
Nearly 70 years after the events, Siert Bruins, a Dutch-born German national, will take the stand in the western German town of Hagen and could face a life sentence if found guilty.
The nonagenarian is accused, along with an accomplice who has since died, of murdering the Dutch resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in September 1944 when the two men were stationed on the Dutch-German border.
Bruins is accused of shooting Dijkema four times in the back on the night of Sept. 21, 1944, after the resistance fighter was taken prisoner. Dijkema died shortly afterward.
Tracked down and interviewed on German television in July 2012, Bruins admitted to being present at the shooting but claimed it was his accomplice who actually pulled the trigger.
Bruins was one of around 30,000 Dutch citizens who collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands.
After the collapse of the Third Reich, he was condemned to death in his absence by the Netherlands in April 1949 for participating in three shootings, including that of Dijkema. The sentence was subsequently commuted to a life sentence. But the Dutch authorities failed to arrest Bruins, who had fled to Germany.
Bruins was, however, detained by the German authorities and sentenced to a prison term of seven years in February 1980 for complicity in the murder of two Jewish brothers in Delfzijl in the Netherlands in April 1945.