Polish Nazi On Trial

  November 5, 2000

          Pole Charged in Aiding Nazis at a Holocaust Death Camp


          WARSAW, Nov. 4 Prosecutors in Poland have charged a 77- 
          year-old Polish man with collaborating with the Nazis to help kill Jews
          in a death camp during World War II.

          It is the first such charge to be brought by the National Remembrance
          Institute, set up by the government to manage and investigate
          Communist-era police files and documents relating to Stalinist and Nazi
          crimes. It began work last June.

          The man was identified only as Henryk M., of Szczecin in northwestern
          Poland. He is accused of "taking part in acts of genocide" at the Chelmno
          death camp from Dec. 8, 1941, until April 7, 1943, the prosecutor,
          Zygmunt Kacprzak, said on Friday.

          He was arrested on Thursday and appeared on Friday in a court in the
          western Polish city of Poznan. Under Poland's 1944 decree on
          prosecuting Nazi criminals, he could face a life sentence if convicted.

          "I'm not guilty," the Polish news agency PAP quoted Henryk M. as
          saying in court. "I was acting under pressure, and I was only 16 then."

          Mr. Kacprzak said the defendant "beat prisoners, took away their
          valuables, clothes and other personal objects and led them into gas

          The central Polish town of Chelmno, also known by its German name
          Kulm, was the site of the first Nazi extermination camp. Jews were
          gassed to death by exhaust fumes of trucks there as early as 1941.
          Historians say the Nazis also used the deadly Zyklon B gas for the first
          time in Chelmno.

          About 3 million of the 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before World
          War II died in the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews across Europe.

          Polish sources say that up to 300,000 people, mostly Jews from the
          Lodz ghetto, were killed at Chelmno, said Witold Kulesza, who is in
          charge of investigations at the institute.

          Henryk M. is the only survivor of seven Poles who worked at the camp
          as technical staff, the investigator said. The others never faced charges.

          Poland's National Remembrance Institute was set up in part to handle the
          sensitive job of making Communist-era secret police files open to the
          public. It also is empowered to open investigations that could lead to
          trials in cases of political persecution and murders.

          The charges disclosed Friday are the first since 1973, when a Polish
          woman was sentenced for collaborating and working in a children's camp
          in the central city of Lodz, Mr. Kulesza said.

          The institute also is preparing an investigation into a 1941 massacre of
          1,500 Jews in eastern Poland allegedly carried out with the help of local
          residents collaborating with the Nazis.

          Prosecutors also plan to investigate the deaths of at least 15,000 Polish
          officers killed by Soviet secret police forces in 1940, known as the
          Katyn massacre.

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