Two suspected members of Adolf Hitler’s mobile Einsatzgruppen death squads have been tracked down by German reporters but deny participating in wartime massacres.
The Einsatzgruppen were special units made up of SS and police personnel that followed behind the regular German army troops during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, with the task of killing perceived racial or political enemies of the Nazi regime.
The two suspects located by broadcaster ARD’s Politikmagazin Kontraste programme both appear on Nazi-era lists of an SS unit that was attached to Einsatzgruppe C.
Einsatzgruppe C was responsible for one of the most notorious massacres, the shooting of nearly 34,000 at Babi Yar, a ravine northwest of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, on September 29-30 1941.
The two elderly men were both on a list of 80 former Einsatzgruppen members provided in late 2014 by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to German authorities with the expectation that they could still be alive.
One suspect, 94-year-old Kurt Gosdek, told Kontraste in an interview earlier this month at his home in northwestern Germany that, although he was part of the unit in Ukraine in 1941, he had worked behind the lines repairing vehicles.
He claimed to know nothing of any massacres.
“When I was assigned to the workshop service it was relatively quiet, one had only one’s work,” he said.
“Not the shooting.”
Following the Einsatzgruppen massacres, the Nazis established death camps and in total killed some six million Jews as well as others.
Mr Gosdek said he was “surprised” when he heard about the Holocaust after the war.
“It’s simply unbelievable that something like that happened,” he said.
Herbert Wahler, 95, confirmed his name was on the Einsatzgruppen list but refused other comment.
“If you want to question me, then you’re out of luck,” he said at his home in central Germany.
“I also have nothing to hide and from me you won’t hear anything.”
Jens Rommel, head of the special German prosecutors’ office in Ludwigsburg that investigates Nazi crimes, confirmed that the Justice Ministry had forwarded them the Wiesenthal Centre list.