In December 2005, after having been on trail in Germany for over a year facing charges of 164 counts
of murder for
his alleged involvement in the killing
of Slovak civilians
at the end of World
War II, 88-year old Nazi commander Ladislav
Niznansky was acquitted of his crimes.
A former Slovak army
captain who at first supported the revolt,
Niznansky changed sides after his capture
and took charge of the Slovak section of
a Nazi unit code-named Edelweiss that hunted
resistance fighters and Jews. In
one attack, Edelweiss, working with a unit
of the elite SS and
another unit that included German soldiers
and ethnic German irregulars, surrounded
the village of Klak to prevent anyone escaping
alive, according to the prosecutor. No effort was even made
to determine whether resistance fighters
were in the village, he said, adding that
men, women and small children were massacred.
was convicted of the shootings and
other killings in a 1962 Czechoslovak trial
and was sentenced
to death in absentia. Several
elderly witnesses invited to testify in the German
trial, however, denied their 1962 testimony
and said there was no firm evidence that Niznansky
himself shot any of the victims. The
court released Niznansky from custody in October
2004, citing contradictory testimony from a former
Edelweiss member whose evidence helped secure his
hinged on evidence from another former
member of the unit, who said at one point
he saw Niznansky shoot 20 civilians. The witness
repeatedly contradicted himself, however,
and appeared confused over dates and places.
Many other potential witnesses had died
since the 1962 trial.
sided with the defendant at the end of
the 15-month trial. “The
accused did not carry out any shootings.
It also could not be proven that the shootings
happened according to his wishes or were
ordered by him,” presiding judge
Manfred Goetzl told the court.
said they would appeal.