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Ex-Nazi SS soldier charged in WWII massacre in France

Jan. 8, 2014 at 8:35 PM

COLOGNE, Germany, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A former Nazi SS soldier was charged in Germany Wednesday with taking part in the largest massacre in occupied France during World II.

The 88-year-old suspect, identified only as Werner C. of Cologne, was named on 25 counts of murder in the June 10, 1944, slaughter that nearly wiped out the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The prosecutor's office in Dortmund said the man, who was 19 at the time of the massacre, also is accused of aiding and abetting the killing of hundreds more villagers, the British newspaper said.

The massacre of 642 people, including 205 children, allegedly was retaliation for the kidnapping of a German officer by the French resistance.

Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel said the suspect maintains he is innocent.

"He acknowledged he was in Oradour-sur-Glane at the time and a member of the SS but disputes any involvement in the murders," Brendel said.

Rainer Pohlen, an attorney for the suspect, asserted his client's innocence in a telephone interview with the New York Times and noted his client's young age at the time of the killings.

He said in recent years authorities have taken a broad view of Nazi crimes, "which means you don't only have the decision makers or perpetrators or whatever, but they're taking everyone they can get their hands on."

"I doubt that it is justified," Pohlen said. "That people are being brought to justice who were still juvenile at the time, who were very young and probably not even mature and developed enough to stand up for themselves. There's something weird about that. That's not how you reconcile anything."

Five other men could be charged in the case as well, Brendel said.

The village has been left untouched since the massacre, serving as a reminder of what happened there.

The Telegraph said the charges came the same day the case against another former SS member, Siert Bruins, a 92-year-old Dutch-born German citizen accused of killing a Dutch resistance fighter during the war, was dropped in Hagen, Germany, for lack of evidence.

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