Germany's highest court today declined to hear the appeal of the admitted Nazi hitman Heinrich Boere, clearing the way for his trial this month for killing three Dutch civilians during the second world war. Boere, 88, was initially ruled unfit for trial owing to medical problems, but a Cologne appeal court overturned the decision in July. Boere's lawyers had appealed against that decision to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, arguing that their client suffers a serious heart condition and that to put him on trial would violate his human rights by putting him in a possibly life-threatening situation. The constitutional court, however, said it ruled on Tuesday that the claim was unfounded. The Cologne appeals court, in its evaluation of the possible health risk of the trial on Boere, "recognised the meaning and the scope of the fundamental right to life" in deciding it could proceed, the federal judges said in their written ruling.
Neither of Boere's lawyers were immediately available for comment on the decision.
The Aachen state court has scheduled 13 court sessions for Boere's trial on three counts of murder, to begin on 28 October and run through 18 December. Each session is to be limited to three hours, in deference to Boere's health.
Boere is accused of the killings of three men in the Netherlands in 1944 when he was a member of a Waffen SS hit squad that targeted civilians at their homes in reprisal for attacks by the resistance.
The son of a Dutch man and German woman, Boere was 18 when he joined the Waffen SS – the fanatical military organisation faithful to Adolf Hitler's ideology – at the end of 1940, only months after the Netherlands had fallen to the Nazi blitzkrieg.
Boere was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949, later commuted to life imprisonment. The Netherlands has sought Boere's extradition, but a German court refused it in 1983 on the grounds that he might have German citizenship. Germany had no provision at the time to extradite its nationals.
An Aachen court ruled in 2007 that Boere could legally serve his Dutch sentence in Germany, but an appeals court in Cologne overturned that ruling, calling the 1949 conviction invalid because Boere was not there to present a defence. He had fled to Germany.
State prosecutors in nearby Dortmund then reopened the case, relying heavily on statements to Dutch police preserved in the court file in which Boere details the killings, almost gunshot by gunshot.
Besides the police statements, Boere also gave an interview to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad newspaper in 2006 in which he recalled killing bicycle-shop owner Teun de Groot when he answered the doorbell at his home in the town of Voorschoten.
"When we knew for sure we had the right person, we shot him dead, at the door," he was quoted as saying. "I didn't feel anything, it was work. Orders were orders,
otherwise it would have meant my skin. Later it began to bother me. Now I'm sorry."