Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alleged Nazi Under Investigation for Mission Harvest Festival massacres

Prosecutors have reopened an investigation in which a 95-year-old former SS officer is accused of being involved in two 1943 massacres of Jews in the Polish city of Lublin.

The prosecutors' office made the decision based on a letter that suspect Erich Steidtmann wrote in October 1943. Steidtmann was a captain in the Nazi's elite force, the SS, and also the head of a company belonging to the infamous Hamburg Polizeibataillon 101.

The prosecutor said a new understanding of an abbreviation in the letter could indicate that Steidtmann was not on home leave when the shootings of thousands of Jews took place, as he had told prosecutors during earlier investigations in the 1960s.

The abbreviation in question was a military code to indicate that the sender of the letter was in the field. The letter itself was dated October 31, 1943 - three days before the massacres began.

During the so-called "Mission Harvest Festival" massacres on November 3 and 4, 1943, tens of thousands of Jews in the district of Lublin were shot by Nazi officers, among them members from Steidtmann's Hamburg Polizeibataillon 101 company.

Soefker said her office was searching archives and contacting witnesses for further proof that Steidtmann was in Lublin when the shootings took place.

"We have contacted the federal archives in Berlin to find out if they still have a record of when exactly Steidtmann was on home leave," Soefker said.

Steidtmann's involvement in Nazi crimes has been investigated several times in the past, including his alleged involvement in killings at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, but there has never been sufficient proof to convict him of any crimes.

Click here for the entire article. (CBS News)

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