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 Posted Sunday, January 28, 2001

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Saturday, January 27, 2001


Polish prison camp commander accused of postwar atrocities


By BEATA PASEK, Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland -- A former prison camp commander charged with committing atrocities against Germans imprisoned after World War II testified at the first day of his trial Friday that he had acted only to stop an escape.

Czeslaw Geborski, 76, from the Silesian city of Katowice, is accused of ordering guards to set fire to a prison barracks and shoot inmates who fled. Prosecutors say at least 48 prisoners died Oct. 4, 1945 in the Lambinowice camp he commanded in southwestern Poland.

Geborski denies the charges. He contends that the prisoners set fire to a barracks themselves during an escape attempt, and only three were killed by guards trying to stop them.

"Prosecutors know that only three people were killed on that day because the archives from the camp were found," he said Friday during testimony at the regional court in Opole.

Geborski, charged with crimes against humanity, faces life in prison if convicted. His testimony is scheduled to continue Feb. 27.

The case of the Lambinowice deaths was closed in the 1950s because of lack of evidence. Prosecutors reopened it in 1998. During the trial, 138 witnesses are expected to testify.

Warsaw only recently has reopened the issue of its postwar treatment of Germans. Hundreds of thousands of them ended up in Soviet-controlled Poland after the victorious Allies shifted Polish borders westward into German territory.

Estimates vary, but Polish historians generally agree that the communist government imprisoned 100,000 Germans, mostly civilians, who were deemed threats to the state. They were often held in former Nazi concentration camps. At least 15,000 died, and the rest were freed by 1950.

In 1998, Poland asked Israel to extradite Solomon Morel, a Polish Jew allegedly responsible for atrocities when he commanded a camp at Swietochlowice in southern Poland. Israel refused, saying that the statute of limitations had run out and that the charges failed to meet the definition of genocide under Israeli law.

© Copyright 2001 Associated Press.

Related item on this website:

CBS "60 Minutes" on John Sack and "The Commandant" (WJC's Steinberg said, "Eye-witnesses lie")

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