Germany Urged to Charge Ex-SS General with Alleged Atrocities
LONDON (AP) _ A legislator called Thursday for international pressure on West Germany to charge a former Nazi SS general after a new book alleged Wilhelm Mohnke ordered the massacres of British, U.S. and Canadian prisoners of war.
Meanwhile, West Germany, which promised 15 months ago to re-open investigations, announced it would send a government prosecutor to Britain next week to examine still-secret government files on the 78-year-old Mohnke.
″The governments (of Britain, Canada and the United States) must either bring enormous pressure on West Germany to charge Mohnke on the facts available or remove his name from the United Nations list of suspected war criminals and explain why,″ legislator Jeff Rooker said.
He was speaking at a publication party to launch the book, ″Hitler’s Last General,″ written by two Nazi era researchers, Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting.
The book said that evidence in the British files includes death-bed testimony in 1947 by an SS corporal, Oskar Senf, to a war crimes investigator that Mohnke ordered the 1940 killing of 80 to 90 unarmed British prisoners at Wormoudt, France.
The book also described Mohnke as a ″key link″ in the chain of command during the killing of 72 American prisoners shot at Malmedy in the Ardennes on Dec. 17, 1944, and in the shootings of some 35 Canadian prisoners in Normandy in June 1944.
Mohnke has denied all the charges.
The authors published the names of 11 of the 12 SS troopers who, they say, are identified in the secret British files as having herded the captured troops into a barn at Wermoudt, near Dunkirk, and mowed them down with gunfire and hand grenades. The authors said three or four of these men were believed to be alive.
After World War II, allied investigators entered Mohnke’s name in the U.N. War Crimes Commission list as one of some 25,000 ″A″ class suspects accused of serious crimes.
But Mohnke, who was in Hitler’s bunker in Berlin when the Nazi leader committed suicide April 30, 1945, was captured by the Soviets and they refused to extradite him. After 10 years in a Soviet jail, Mohnke was released to West Germany.
He became a businessman and attracted scant publicity.
In 1973, West German prosecutors said they had dropped investigations on grounds there was insufficient evidence.
Britain asked West Germany to re-open the inquiry last year after Sayer said he had traced documents showing Mohnke had been sought separately by British, American and Canadian investigators.
Mohnke told German newspapers he had done nothing wrong, but took no action against Sayer or newspapers that published the claims.
Neighbors described Mohnke as a ″nice, quiet, friendly old man.″
″The West German authorities have grudgingly opened their own investigation but ... the safest refuge on earth for a fugitive Nazi war criminal is West Germany,″ Sayer said Thursday.
He added that during the previous West German investigation, the prosecutors never asked to see the British files. They had also never asked to see 70 boxes of files with references to Mohnke held by the U.S. Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations or the relevant Canadian government records, said Sayer.
After the war 77 SS officers and men were convicted of taking part in the massacre of the Americans at Malmedy and jailed.
Rooker, whose constituents include one of five veterans who survived the Wermoudt massacre, said ″public-spirited″ people had given the authors access to some of the secret files on the Wermoudt massacre.
The material has been classified under Britain’s Official Secrets Act as confidential until the year 2021. Rooker said government ministers have told him that this is ″to avoid embarrassment″ - apparently to relatives of the men of the SS, Hitler’s notorious stormtroopers.
Rooker, the authors and the five elderly surviving veterans of the Wormoudt massacre all said Thursday they thought there was scant chance that Mohnke would be prosecuted.
″If anyone wanted to do it, they’d have done it sooner,″ said 76-year-old veteran Charles Daley, who survived in the barn, his leg blown off, under a pile of corpses.
Next month, legislators are to vote on whether to allow the first war crimes trials in Britain. A government inquiry this year said there is sufficient evidence to charge three British residents, former nationals of Soviet-occupied territories, with atrocities against Jews.