90-year-old charged with SS Jewish massacre

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A 90-year-old former member of the SS has been charged with 58 counts of murder for the 1945 killings of Jewish forced labourers in Austria.

The man is suspected of the killings near the Austrian village of Deutsch Schuetzen, a German state court said in a statement today.

"On March 29, 1945, the accused and his accomplices brought at least 57 Jewish forced labourers in several groups to a nearby forest area, where they had to give up their valuables and kneel by a grave," the court said. "The accused and other SS members then cruelly shot the Jewish forced-labourers from behind."

Though the court described the suspect simply as a "retiree from Duisburg," media reports have identified him as Adolf Storms, a former member of the 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking".

The day following the massacre, Storms is accused of personally shooting another Jewish prisoner who could no longer walk during a forced march in Austria from Deutsch Schuetzen to the village of Hartberg, the court said.

The remains of the victims of the Deutsch Schuetzen massacre were found in 1995 in a mass grave by the Austrian Jewish association. A plaque now marks the site.

Prosecutors opened the investigation of Storms at the end of 2008 after being alerted to his presence by an Austrian university student who had been researching the massacre.

Prosecutor Andreas Brendel said his investigation is still ongoing, but so far three former members of the Hitler Youth, who were helping the SS oversee the march, have provided witness statements in Austria. A fourth former Hitler Youth member, now living in Canada, is being interviewed this week.

"There are two who witnessed the shooting of the individual Jewish victim, but there are no people still alive who were part of the other shootings themselves," Mr Brendel said. There are, however, statements made during an Austrian trial of others involved that can be used as evidence against the suspect, he said.

In December, 2008, when German authorities raided Storms' home, they said he had invoked his right not to make a statement to them, but he has denied involvement in the shootings to others.

The suspect was interned in an American prisoner of war camp following the war, but was released in 1946.