Category Archive: Times of Israel

German ‘Graffiti Grandma’ fined on Yom Kippur for painting over neo-Nazi slogans

Irmela Mensah-Schramm, who has spent 30 years removing racist slurs, to appeal $330 fine handed down on same day as Halle synagogue attack: ‘I did not do anything wrong’

 74-year-old German woman who has spent three decades painting over neo-Nazi graffiti was convicted of property damage and fined some $330 for painting hearts over graffiti which read “NS-Zone” (Nazi Zone) in the central German town of Eisenach.

The €300 fine was handed down to Irmela Mensah-Schramm last Wednesday, Yom Kippur, the same day that a neo-Nazi German gunman attempted to break into the synagogue at Halle, a two-hour drive away, and massacre the Jews inside, failed to do so, and shot dead two bystanders nearby. Mensah-Schramm was also ordered to pay court costs.

She was convicted on Wednesday of painting hearts over the “Nazi Zone” graffiti four times last December, after she was filmed by a local resident who filed a police complaint against her.

“I scratched off the first sticker in 1986, at a bus stop in front of my house,” Mensah-Schramm told the Associated Press when it profiled her in 2011. The sticker demanded “Freedom for Rudolf Hess” — Adolf Hitler’s deputy, who at the time was still alive and in prison in Berlin. “The sticker was there all day and I couldn’t understand why nobody else took it off — people can be so ignorant,” she said.

Since then, Mensah-Schramm has taken it on herself to clean away neo-Nazi propaganda scrawled by skinheads and other right-wing groups. She calls herself the “political cleaning lady of the nation” and says that she has scraped away tens of thousands of stickers.

She said seeing racist slurs sprayed on walls across the German capital with its atrocious Nazi past made her angry and she felt a personal responsibility to do something about them.

“Freedom of speech ends where hatred and racism begin,” Mensah-Schramm said.

Since her retirement in 2006, Mensah-Schramm, who worked helping students with special needs, has worked to track down and remove Nazi propaganda in the German capital Berlin and beyond.

Irmela Mensah-Schramm from Berlin painting over a swastika sign on a street in Berlin’s Schoeneweide district in 2011. For about the last 30 years Irmela Mensah-Schramm has walked through the streets of Berlin and other cities to paint over or remove paintings, stickers or slogans from neo-Nazis from walls, street lamps and other places. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Before she makes the racist slogans disappear, she documents everything, taking pictures of all the “evil stuff” she has found. She keeps several folders with hundreds of stickers demanding “foreigners get out,” “Jews into the oven” or “Sieg Heil” — the infamous salute used by the Nazis.

Some passers-by applaud Mensah-Schramm spontaneously when they see her grass-roots response to neo-Nazi graffiti, but others get upset.

While it is illegal in Germany to express Nazi ideology in words or images, police say it is not always legal to remove the graffiti either, because the process may deface or destroy other people’s property.

Skinhead groups have posted taunts about her online and several times property owners have reported her to the police. Until last week, she had never been punished for her actions.

“Neo-Nazis and private security personnel have harassed and bumped me more than once,” Mensah-Schramm said, adding that she has given up calling the police for support “because they rarely ever help me anyway and don’t remove racists slogans even if I tell them to do so.”

Irmela Mensah-Schramm pictured on a street in Berlin’s Schoeneweide district. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mensah-Schramm, who is not Jewish, said that even though new stickers or graffiti often appear again soon after she’s removed them, she will never give up her work.

“I may be the craziest woman in all of Germany,” she said. “But the only way to get rid of those Nazis is to consistently work against them.”

Germany shooting latest indication of increasing anti-Semitism worldwide

Jewish leaders warn of growing and ‘lethal’ Jew hatred from the far-right and Islamic extremists

A memorial for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. (Hane Grace Yagel via JTA)

A memorial for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. (Hane Grace Yagel via JTA)

The shooting that left two dead and several injured in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday — when Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for their faith — has shined a spotlight on the worldwide rise of anti-Semitic incidents.

The attack in Germany, where investigators are pursuing anti-Semitic motives after the assailant shot at the door of a synagogue in an attempt to gain entry, drew swift condemnation from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and renewed calls from Jewish groups in the US to step up cooperation in combating anti-Semitism.

Harris added that Wednesday’s Yom Kippur attack in Halle, coming on the heels of the one-year anniversary of an anti-Semitic shooting that killed 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, “should all be triggering alarm bells. The question is whether they are.”

An armed man on a street in Halle, Germany, following a shooting outside a synagogue in that city which killed two. (Screenshot/Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP)

Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, issued a statement calling on people “of every background around the world to combat the increasing waves of hatred and intolerance against all people, including anti-Semitic, racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic violence.”

A brief look at the state of global anti-Semitism:

United States and Canada

The Anti-Defamation League, which called the Germany shooting “heartbreaking” in a Wednesday statement, reported earlier this year that violent anti-Semitic episodes in the United States doubled in 2018. Wednesday’s holy day of Yom Kippur also saw an anti-Semitic incident reported in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement condemning what he called “the desecration of a Holocaust memorial” in the city of White Plains on the eve of the holiday.

In Canada, the government reported a 4% dip in anti-Semitic attacks last year — but only after a sharp rise in 2017.


Anti-Semitism is a top concern in Germany, where data shows reported, anti-Semitic incidents rose 10% last year, according to Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center, and where the trial of a group of alleged neo-Nazis for planning an attack in Berlin began last week. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government earlier this year affirmed its commitment to protecting Jews who wear skullcaps from anti-Semitic threats.

But beyond Germany, several other nations are grappling with spiking reports of anti-Semitic sentiment as well as behavior.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaks during the ‘Berlin wears kippa’ event, with more than 2,000 Jews and non-Jews wearing the traditional skullcap to show solidarity with Jews on April 25, 2018 in Berlin after Germany was rocked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents.(AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

In the United Kingdom, the Community Security Trust charity recently reported a 10% rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the first six months of this year. In the Czech Republic, the Federation of the Jewish Communities reported a rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year.

Wiesenthal Center warns synagogue attack precursor to Kristallnacht anniversary

Director criticizes slow police response to deadly shooting spree and urges Germany to step up security ahead of anniversary of Nazi pogrom

Schoolchildren and others brought to watch the burning of synagogue furnishings on Kristallnacht in Mosbach, Germany, November 1938 (courtesy)

Schoolchildren and others brought to watch the burning of synagogue furnishings on Kristallnacht in Mosbach, Germany, November 1938 (courtesy)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday warned German authorities that the deadly Yom Kippur shooting attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle could be a precursor to further attacks on the upcoming anniversary of Kristallnacht.

In a letter to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Shimon Samuels, the center’s director for international relations, noted that the Halle synagogue was one of those destroyed in the Nazi-instigated pogrom in Germany and Austria in which 91 Jews were killed, 30,000 Jews were arrested, 1,400 synagogues were set on fire, and countless homes and businesses were vandalized.

“It is known that both extreme right and Islamist terrorists often act to mark anniversaries,” he said. “If so, this may be a precursor to [the] Kristallnacht [anniversary].”

German synagogue attacker, identified as by media as neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet during his rampage in Halle (Screencapture)

At least two people were shot dead in the anti-Semitic attack Wednesday, with the gunman, identified by German media as neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet, 27,  filming the assault and posting a 35-minute video online.

After failing to blast his way into the synagogue, he shot dead a passerby in the street and then a man at a kebab shop, before being wounded and arrested by police.

“The delayed reaction by the authorities in an obvious case of anti-Semitic terror demands an official investigation,” Samuels wrote. “Next month’s Kristallnacht commemoration will require a maximum national alert.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the deadly shooting, adding an expression of “solidarity for all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur.” The chancellor later attended a vigil at Berlin’s main synagogue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “terrorist attack on the community in Halle in Germany on Yom Kippur is a new expression of anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe.”

“I urge German authorities to continue to act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Jewish community leader Max Privorotzki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the religious site came under assault.

An armed man on a street in Halle, Germany, following a shooting outside a synagogue in that city which killed two. (Screenshot/Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP)

“We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door,” he said.

“The man looked like he was from the special forces. But our doors held firm,” Privorotzki said.

“We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that “in between, we carried on with our service.”

Between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue on a day when Jews around the world were marking one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, Privorotzki said.

Germany has been on high alert following several attacks in recent years, including some claimed by the Islamic State group, as well as neo-Nazi plots.

Aging Holocaust survivors hope to sue in US courts over Nazi-era insurance

Up to $25 billion could be at stake; survivors group optimistic that recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing may finally yield the legislation they need

In this, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 photo, Vera Karliner, right, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Aventura, Fla., along with her husband Herb, left, who was on the ship named the St. Louis that was full of Jewish refugees but was turned away from the U.S. in 1939. Aging Holocaust survivors are trying to recover insurance benefits that were never honored by Nazi-era companies, which could be worth billions of dollars. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 photo, Vera Karliner, right, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Aventura, Fla., along with her husband Herb, left, who was on the ship named the St. Louis that was full of Jewish refugees but was turned away from the U.S. in 1939. Aging Holocaust survivors are trying to recover insurance benefits that were never honored by Nazi-era companies, which could be worth billions of dollars. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

AVENTURA, Florida (AP) — When David Schaecter was a child in Slovakia in the 1930s, he counted more than 100 people in his extended family. By the end of World War II, he alone survived. The rest had been killed in Nazi concentration camps or by roving SS death squads.

Schaecter lost not only his family, but all they owned, including life insurance covering his murdered relatives. And as time runs out on aging Holocaust survivors, some are trying to recover insurance policies that were not honored by Nazi-era companies, which could be worth at least $25 billion altogether in today’s dollars, according to the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA.

For nearly two decades, the foundation members have tried and failed to gain access to US courts.

In this, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 photo, David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF), gestures as he speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Aventura, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

As another season of high holy days concludes for Jews with Yom Kippur on Wednesday, the Holocaust survivors group is optimistic that a recent hearing before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on the stolen insurance issue may lead to change.

“This is our last hope,” said David Mermelstein, also 90, who leads a Miami-Dade chapter of the group. “How can a Holocaust survivor be a second-class citizen under American law?”

The answer is complicated.

The Nazis under Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” killed an estimated 6 million Jews and others deemed undesirable by the German government, including gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled. It began slowly once Hitler rose to power, with Jews prevented from certain jobs and schools, and then the 1938 attack by Nazi gangs on Jewish homes, stores and synagogues known as Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass.”

Synagogue in Hanover, Germany, set ablaze during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938 (public domain)

Since the war’s end, the German government has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations to Holocaust survivors and other victims of the Third Reich. The International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims, formed in the 1990s with US backing, has paid out $305 million on these issues, plus $200 million in humanitarian aid.

Germany, and insurance companies such as Munich-based Allianz SE and Italy’s Assicurazioni Generali, say the commission’s actions should provide finality — “legal peace,” in the terminology of the deal — on the insurance claims.

They also say they will repay verifiable claims, but verification is difficult given the passage of time and the wartime destruction of so many records. The companies have demanded original paperwork, such as death certificates, that were simply not available after the war.

The insurers had close Nazi ties. A former Allianz chairman in 1933 became Hitler’s economics minister. The company today is one of the world’s largest insurers, and insists it will not shy away from the past.

“While we cannot undo any aspect of our company’s history, we can learn from it and work to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust are never again repeated,” Anja Rechenberg, Allianz’s corporate responsibility spokesperson, said in an email. “To this day, Allianz continues to pay any verifiably unsettled claims.”

One of several photographs taken during the deportation of Oswiecim’s Jews to death camps and ghettos in the region during the Nazi occupation of Poland. (Auschwitz Jewish Center)

Mermelstein recalls as a child his parents having a plaque in their house labeled “Generali”, the name of the Italian insurer with which they had a policy. He also recalls an insurance agent coming around to collect the premiums.

“Of course we have no documents for obvious reasons,” he said.

In this, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 photo, David Mermelstein, right, President of Miami-Dade Holocaust Survivors (and Vice President of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF), speaks during an interview with The Associated Press along with David Schaecter, rear, President of HSF, in Aventura, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Trieste-based Generali said it’s committed to paying claims whenever possible.

“Generali’s long-standing commitment to resolving claims of victims of the Holocaust and their heirs is well established and unequivocally remains in place today,” the company said in an email.

In Congress, bills have been filed over the years to allow American Holocaust survivors access to the US courts. None have passed, and other Jewish groups have opposed them. These groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, have decided instead to support the claims arrangement created in the 1990s.

In addition to permitting lawsuits against insurance companies, many of the bills would have required the companies to disclose lists of policies held by Jews before World War II.

The survivors say given the efficiency and meticulous record-keeping of the Third Reich, it’s hard to believe such lists don’t exist.

“If you know German bureaucracy, there isn’t a ‘T’ that hasn’t been crossed. They kept a real strict record,’ said Vera Karliner, whose husband Herb was on the ship named the St. Louis that was full of Jewish refugees but was turned away from the US in 1939. Herb Karliner, now 93, survived the Holocaust.

‘Only Congress can provide the necessary remedy’

As the aging Holocaust survivors await congressional action on their long-ago stolen insurance policies, many are in frail health, in need of assistance for things like prescription drugs and medical needs. All of them say they simply want justice.

Their lawyer, Sam Dubbin, says it’s time for lawmakers to do something.

“Because the current law is a result of court decisions based on misleading and unprecedented executive branch positions, only Congress can provide the necessary remedy — legislation to require the companies to publish policy information and to provide a clear right of action for claimants in US courts,” Dubbin said.

Schindler honored by children of those he saved — and a single survivor

As group congregates to mark 45 years since German industrialist’s death, one woman says her parents, whom he saved, begat over 150 descendants: ‘It is all your doing’

Descendants of Jews saved by Oskar Schindler gather at his gravesite in Jerusalem on October 7, 2019 (Channel 13 screenshot)

Descendants of Jews saved by Oskar Schindler gather at his gravesite in Jerusalem on October 7, 2019 (Channel 13 screenshot)

A group of Israelis who owe their lives to German industrialist Oskar Schindler visited his grave site in Jerusalem on Monday, to mark 45 years since his death.

With the number of Jews who lived through the Holocaust dwindling every year, the assembly at Mount Zion’s Catholic cemetery was made up mostly of the children of those he saved — and one lone survivor.

But Sachs was among some 1,200 people Schindler saved from the Nazi death machine by claiming them as essential workers at his factories that were supplying ammunition to the German army.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Sachs at Oskar Schindler’s gravesite in Jerusalem on October 7, 2019 (Channel 13 screenshot)

Sachs was among a group of several hundred women workers who nearly perished after being sent to Auschwitz by mistake — as depicted in Steven Spielberg’s 1994 film “Schindler’s List.”

Once there, it was nearly impossible to convince German officials to allow them to leave. But thanks to a campaign of lobbying and bribes to officials, Schindler managed it after a few weeks.

Also at the cemetery, Lea Guterman said her parents, saved by Schindler, “raised five children. Those five children reared 36 grandchildren and over 120 or 150 great-grandchildren — after 120 we stopped counting.”

The grave of Oskar Schindler in Jerusalem. Stones are a Jewish sign of respect for the dead (YouTube screenshot)

And, she said to Schindler’s tombstone, “They are all yours, they are all Jews… it is all your doing.”

Schindler is a controversial figure. Before he made the decision to try to save as many Jews as possible through his business, Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, thoroughly exploited his Jewish employees. He also served as a spy for Nazi intelligence in Czechoslovakia until 1940.

German industrialist Oskar Schindler waves after his arrival in Israel in 1962, to be honored for saving the lives of over 1,000 Jews during World War II. (Keystone/Getty Images via JTA)

He was known as greedy, a gambler, a drinker and a womanizer.

But Lily Haber, whose father was saved by Schindler, told Channel 13 his story was proof that it was impossible to categorize or stereotype people.

“He was debauched and a drinker and greedy — it’s all true,” she said. “But I’m alive thanks to him.”

Despite his complex character, he is widely regarded as a hero and was recognized by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1993 — the honor bestowed upon non-Jews who courageously saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

He died in 1974 and was buried in Jerusalem — the only former member of the Nazi party ever granted that distinction. He passed on October 9 — which this year falls on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Wikipedia page on Warsaw death camp where 200,000 were killed was 15-year fake

Haaretz shows online encyclopedia since 2004 hosted false entry on Nazi camp complete with gas chambers where Poles were murdered; untrue claims made way onto other Wikipedia pages

Illustrative: German soldiers in Warsaw during the Nazi invasion of Poland, September 1939. (AP Photo)

Illustrative: German soldiers in Warsaw during the Nazi invasion of Poland, September 1939. (AP Photo)

A Wikipedia article describing a World War II Nazi death camp in Warsaw in which large numbers of Poles were gassed was full of falsehoods and may have been the online encyclopedia’s most enduring hoax before it was rewritten in August, an Israeli newspaper has established.

The false Wikipedia article on the “Warsaw Concentration Camp” said the facility contained gas chambers and that 200,000 people died there. Both claims are unfounded, yet they remained on the English-language Wikipedia page for most of the last 15 years, the Haaretz daily reported Friday.

There is a kernel of truth to the claims — there was a group of internment centers around the same location during the war, but it was a far cry from the “extermination camp” described in the misleading entry. The existence of the actual internment centers likely helped provide cover for the false claims, the Haaretz report said. The Wikipedia article had also claimed that the camp’s files were burned and its gas chambers blown up, leaving little evidence. Between 4,000 and 20,000 people actually died at the KL Warschau camps.

“There is no historical evidence of German gas chambers ever existing in Warsaw, and nowhere near 200,000 people died in the cluster of Nazi internment centers that did stand at the basis of the myth of KL Warschau,” Haaretz noted. It quoted Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Havi Dreifuss, a Yad Vashem expert on Poland and the Holocaust, curtly dismissing the claim of Nazi gas chambers in Warsaw as “fake history.”

The effort is part of a larger trend in Poland to distance itself from culpability in the Holocaust and portray the Polish people solely as victims of Nazi persecution, despite growing research on the depth of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes.

Politicians from Israel and Poland have long been at odds over Warsaw’s stance toward the genocide.

Warsaw has also long been at pains to state that Poland as a nation did not collaborate in the Holocaust, although individual Poles committed what the Polish ambassador to Israel described as “abominable crimes.”

Israel and Poland have seen diplomatic tensions over Polish officials’ rejection of any culpability by the nation for anti-Semitic atrocities of the past. Last year, the government introduced a controversial law that forbids blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes (though the legislation was softened following Israeli pressure to remove punitive measures).

The ruling Law and Justice Party has also campaigned heavily against Jewish Holocaust restitution claims, leading Jewish leaders to warn the debate had turned anti-Semitic. In May, thousands of Polish nationalists marched to the US Embassy to protest US pressure on Poland to compensate Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust. It appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times.

Holocaust denial not a human right, European court rules

Judges rule against German neo-Nazi politician Udo Pastoers, say his statements run counter to European Convention on Human Rights itself

Far-right paraphernalia is on sale at the "Schild und Schwert" (Shield and Sword) neo-nazi festival, in the small eastern German town of Ostritz on April 20, 2018 / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

Far-right paraphernalia is on sale at the “Schild und Schwert” (Shield and Sword) neo-nazi festival, in the small eastern German town of Ostritz on April 20, 2018 / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

STRASBOURG, France — Denial of the Holocaust is not a human right, a European court ruled on Thursday, throwing out a complaint by a German neo-Nazi politician.

Udo Pastoers, who served in the local parliament of the northeastern region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, was convicted in Germany in 2012 after giving a speech in 2010 in which he appeared to cast doubt on whether the Holocaust really happened.

He argued his freedom of expression was violated and his right to a fair trial infringed because the judge at his appeal could not have been impartial as he was the husband of a judge who had convicted him in a lower court.

Udo Pastoers of the extreme right National Democratic Party party attends a news conference after the party’s convention in Berlin on April 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Its judges also ruled by four votes to three that there had been no violation of the right to a fair trial.

It added an independent court of appeal panel with no links to either married judge had ultimately decided on the bias claim and had rejected it.

According to the ECHR, Pastoers in 2010 gave a speech to the local parliament where he stated that “the so-called Holocaust is being used for political and commercial purposes.”

The court said his speech “was a qualified Holocaust denial showing disdain to its victims and running counter to established historical facts.”

Building of the European Court of Human Rights in in Strasbourg, France seen on March 13, 2012. (CC BY-SA Wikimedia commons)

He “intentionally stated untruths in order to defame Jews and the persecution that they had suffered.”

Such statements “could not attract the protection for freedom of speech” offered by the European Convention on Human Rights “as they ran counter to the values of the Convention itself,” it said.

The ECHR is part of the Council of Europe, the pan-European rights body, and can be approached by citizens of its 47 member states once all legal recourse in their own country have been exhausted.

Convicted Nazi who escaped justice dies in Germany at 96

Karl Muenter, who was part of SS unit that massacred 86 Frenchmen in Ascq, denied killing anyone, but defended the shooting; was charged earlier this year for disputing Holocaust

Former Nazi SS soldier Karl Muenter, convicted of killing 86 civilians in France during World War II, is interviewed by the German broadcaster ARD. (YouTube screenshot)

Former Nazi SS soldier Karl Muenter, convicted of killing 86 civilians in France during World War II, is interviewed by the German broadcaster ARD. (YouTube screenshot)

BERLIN, Germany (AP) — Karl Muenter, a former SS soldier who was convicted in France of a wartime massacre but who never served any time for his crimes, has died in northwestern Germany. He was 96.

Marcus Tischbier, a representative of the district mayor’s office in Nordstemmen, the village where Muenter lived, confirmed Monday that the man had died on Friday. He had no further details.

After partisans blew up a railroad line being used to shuttle German troops to Normandy, Muenter and other members of the division were ordered to arrest all males in the town. The victims, ranging from teenagers to the elderly, were lined up and shot.

But by the time he was tracked down in 2013 in the Lower Saxony village where he lived at the home of one of the great-grandson of one of the Ascq victims, the statute of limitations had passed.

A commemorative plaque in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, northern France, commemorating the April 2, 1944, World War II massacre of 86 civilians by a Nazi Germany regiment, as seen on November 13, 2017. (Denis Charlet/AFP)

In a strange twist, prosecutors in Hildesheim charged Muenter earlier this year with incitement, after he appeared on a television documentary in which he defended the shooting of the prisoners in Ascq and disputed the Nazi Holocaust.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and prosecutors opened their investigation after Muenter appeared on the ARD public television show in 2018.

In the documentary, he said he had not shot anyone personally in Ascq, but maintained that the killings were justified because the prisoners had tried to escape.

“If I arrest the men, then I have the responsibility for them and if they run away, I have a right to shoot them,” he said.

He also disputed the fact that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying “we didn’t have that many Jews here at that time, that’s already been disproved.”

ARD also reported that Muenter had close ties to neo-Nazi groups in recent years, talking to them about his experiences in the SS.

His incitement case was still pending trial when he died.

Upon learning of his death, today’s mayor of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, Gerard Caudron, told the local La Voix Du Nord newspaper: “there’s another reason for me not to end up in hell, so I don’t meet him there.