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Germans Charge Former SS Soldier

November 1, 2002

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ An 87-year-old former member of Adolf Hitler’s elite SS troops, who escaped from a Netherlands prison 50 years ago, has been charged with murdering a Dutch resistance fighter during World War II, a prosecutor said.

If Herbertus Bikker goes to trial nearly 60 years after allegedly shooting Jan Houtmann in a Netherlands barn, it is believed he would be the last known SS member tried in Germany for his crimes.

Prosecutor Ulrich Maass, who filed charges against Bikker on Sept. 27, said Thursday a court now must decide whether to proceed with the trial, given Bikker’s age.

``I can imagine that given his age he would not be fit to stand trial,″ Maass said.

In 1949, a Dutch court sentenced Bikker to death for murder. That sentence later was commuted to life in prison, which he was serving in the city of Breda when he escaped in December 1952 and fled across the border to Germany. He has lived here ever since.

Bikker was granted German citizenship during World War II for his service to Hitler’s Third Reich, and was protected from extradition by German law.

For decades, Dutch prosecutors sought to have Bikker returned. Maass said Dutch prosecutors were ``most helpful″ in building his case against Bikker.

Statements by a Dutch woman, who was on the farm where Houtmann was shot in November 1944, also helped the case, Maass said.

A court in the German city of Hagen is reviewing the charges against Bikker.

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