A former member of the SS, who was part of a group that massacred 86 French civilians in 1944, is now facing hate speech charges in Germany that might finally land him in jail.
Karl Münter, aged 96, was tried in absentia in 1949 by a French court and sentenced to death for taking part in the indiscriminate slaughter of 86 French men and boys. The massacre was in reprisal for an attack carried out by the French resistance during WWII.
Münter was a non-commissioned SS officer in the infamous 12th “Hitler Youth” Panzer Division that was responsible for many war crimes. On the night of April 1, 1944, three companies of the 12th Panzer Division were on a train when it was derailed by explosives laid by the French Resistance. The incident took place near the village of Ascq, in northern France.
After this incident, Obersturmführer Walter Hauck, the officer in charge of the transport, ordered that reprisals be carried out. All the men from the village were rounded up and dragged to the railway line. Then they were all shot.
The oldest man slaughtered was 75 years old, and the youngest was 15 years old. The Nazi authorities justified the crime by saying that “terrorists” attacked the SS train.
After the war, Hauck and eight other members of the unit were tried for this horrendous act. The court found them guilty, and eight of the nine accused were sentenced to death. The widows of the French men requested that the death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment. In 1957, the men were released.
As Münter was not in France at the time of the trial, he has never spent a day behind bars for this crime, despite being found guilty of it.
He could not be extradited from Germany as the German constitution does not allow German citizens to be extradited. Now, as the French statute of limitations has expired, he cannot serve his original sentence.
In 2013, the great-grandson of one of the victims attempted to have Münter retried for the original crime. This was not successful as the European Union rules of double jeopardy came into effect meaning he could not be tried a second time for the same offense in different states.
Münter was an employee in the post office. He was a vocal and popular icon of the Neo-Nazi movement in Germany and could often be found at far right-wing gatherings.
However, German prosecutors may well have the last laugh as they are now investigating Münter for suspected incitement. The investigation relates to an interview that Münter gave for a German television program.
Münter told the interviewer that if he arrested men, he was responsible for them. Consequently, if they ran away, he had the right to shoot them.
He also denied that the Holocaust ever took place as there were not millions of Jewish people alive at the time. He said that it had already been disproved and that the numbers quoted were not right.
Now, Münter may well find himself spending the next five years in jail, not for his original crime but for hate speech.