A former SS sergeant who worked unnoticed for decades as manager of a rail station has been charged with 58 counts of murder after a student doing undergraduate research uncovered his alleged involvement in a massacre of Jewish forced labourers.
Andreas Forster, a student at the University of Vienna, was working on a project about the massacre, which took place in a forest near the Austrian village of Deutsch Schützen, when he stumbled across Adolf Storms' name in witness testimony.
According to his professor, Walter Manoschek, Mr Forster then obtained files from federal archives in Berlin that enabled him to link the former sergeant to the massacre.
Professor Manoschek visited Mr Storms, 90, at his home in the city of Duisburg several times last year after finding him in the phone book. He conducted about 12 hours of interviews in which Mr Storms repeatedly said that he did not remember the killings.
Mr Storms and unidentified accomplices are accused of forcing at least 57 of the Jewish labourers to hand over their valuables and kneel by a grave before shooting them dead from behind. The killings took place on 29 March 1945. Mr Storms is accused of shooting another Jew the following day, during a forced march from Deutsch Schützen to the village of Hartberg.
The court described the suspect simply as a "retiree from Duisburg," but German authorities have previously identified him as Adolf S. His full name was given in previous trials in Austria related to other suspects in the massacre. He has also been identified as a former member of the 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking".
The Duisburg court must decide whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
Mr Storms does not appear on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals, but the organisation's top Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, said: "This is a case that clearly shows it is possible, even at this point, to identify perpetrators who bear responsibility for serious crimes committed during the Second World War and bring them to justice."
The remains of the victims of the Deutsch Schützen massacre were found in 1995 in a mass grave by the Austrian Jewish association. A plaque now marks the site.Reuse content