Former SS member involved in WWII massacre faces new investigation

A 96-year-old former SS member who was involved in a 1944 massacre of 86 French men and boys is facing a new investigation by German prosecutors.

Karl Münter was sentenced to death in absentia by a French court in 1949, but has never served any form of sentence for his part in the indiscriminate killings, which were carried out as a reprisal for a French Resistance attack.

It was ruled last year that he cannot be retried in Germany for his role in the massacre because of European Union double jeopardy rules.

But German prosecutors have now opened a new investigation against him on suspicion of hate speech over comments he made in a television interview last year.

“If I arrest men, I have responsibility for them, and if they run away, I have the right to shoot them,” Münter told Germany’s ARD television.

He also denied the Holocaust took place, claiming: “There weren’t millions of Jews at the time, that’s alreay been disproved. I’ve recently read somewhere that the number which is talked about is not right.”

The 96-year-old served as a non-commissioned officer in the SS’ notorious 12th Panzer Division “Hitler Youth”, which was involved in multiple war crimes.

On the night of April 1, 1944, a train carrying three companies from the division was derailed near the northern French village of Ascq by explosives laid by local resistance fighters.

The officer in charge of the transport, Obersturmführer Walter Hauck, ordered reprisals. All the men in the village were arrested, dragged to the railway tracks and shot. The youngest victim was 15, the oldest 75.

The Nazi authorities claimed incident was justified because the SS troops were attacked by “terrorists”.

After the war, Hauck and eight other members of the unit involved were found in Allied prisoner-of-war camps. They were tried by a French court in 1949 and all but one were sentenced to death.

The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at the request of the widows of the French victims, and they were released in 1957.

Münter was also tried in absentia but escaped punishment because he was in Germany, where the constitution forbids the extradition of German citizens.

He worked for many years at his local post office and has become an icon for German neo-Nazi groups, appearing at far-Right events.

His original sentence can no longer be enforced because the French statute of limitations has expired.

The great-grandson of one of the victims launched an effort to have him prosecuted in Germany in 2013, but a new trial was ruled out last year because under EU rules some one cannot be tried twice for the same crime in different member states.

He is now under investigation for suspected incitement under Germany’s strict hate speech laws, and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.