Two Dutch journalists from the TV current affairs programme Een Vandaag will stand trial in the German town of Eschweiler for breaching German privacy laws. In 2009, Jan Ponsen and Jelle Visser filmed an interview with former Dutch Nazi Heinrich Boere with a hidden camera while he was staying at a nursing home in Eschweiler.
The trial date has been set for 9 February. If convicted, the two reporters face a maximum of three years in prison. The website of Een Vandaag says they expect Ponsen and Visser will be found guilty of the charges.
Hostile, then friendly
The site explains that Boere’s lawyer cancelled an interview appointment which Een Vandaag made after it became known that Boere was to stand trial in Germany for crimes committed during the Second World War.
The reporters then went to Eschweiler with a hidden camera. A report on the Een Vandaag website, which was broadcast in the TV programme in 2009, shows Boere first behaving in a hostile way towards the journalists, but then gradually becoming friendlier. He talked about his dogs but brushed off any questions about his involvement in Nazi crimes.
Families of the victims had made several attempts to contact the former SS member, but had never received any correspondence from Boere, says Een Vandaag.
Boere first filed a complaint in 2010 with the Netherlands Press Council, which ruled in favour of the reporters. The council said the two had not behaved dishonourably.
Killed resistance members
The former Nazi, whose father was Dutch and mother German, grew up in the Netherlands. He was a member of an SS commando unit tasked with killing suspected resistance members or supporters during the Second World War.
On several occasions, he admitted to shooting in cold blood pharmacist Fritz Bicknese, bicycle shop owner Teunis de Groot and Frans-Willem Kusters. But he argued that, as a member of an SS unit, he risked being sent to a concentration camp if he refused.
Escaped from camp
In 1947, he escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp and returned to his birthplace in Germany. He was sentenced to death in Amsterdam in absentia in 1949. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.
Afterwards, he remained a free man, working as a coal miner in Germany until 1976. Germany refused to extradite him in the 1980s, saying it was unable to determine if he was German or stateless.
Indicted 60 years later
In 2008, Boere was indicted in Germany for the shooting of the three Dutch civilians. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010 after confessing to the killings. Last December Boere, who is in a wheelchair, was taken by ambulance from his nursing home in Germany to a prison hospital.
A German court rejected an appeal against his jail term and a medical expert said he was fit to serve his sentence at a "suitable" facility.
Families dismayed by journalists’ trial
The Bicknese and De Groot families say they’re dismayed by the German decision to prosecute the Een Vandaag journalists. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff and the Simon Wiensenthal Center in Jerusalem also expressed surprise.
The leader of the Dutch Socialist Party, Emile Roemer, and conservative VVD MP Ard van de Steur said they will offer public support to the journalists.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide