The Sandberger case is relatively straightforward by comparison. Under the so-called "Transition Agreement" between the occupying powers and Germany, it was sufficient to demonstrate that the SS colonel had already been summarily sentenced by the Americans in 1948 for the crimes the Stuttgart prosecutors were seeking to prove 23 years later. Steinacker succeeded. An indictment for the murder of Jews from Frankfurt and others transferred from the Theresienstadt concentration camp was also unsuccessful when the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office declared, in a letter dated July 13, 1972, that investigations against the defendant Sandberger had been "finally terminated" by the US military tribunal based on the state of affairs.
The phrase was like a deep sigh.
When, in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War and the opening of archives in Eastern Europe, the first historians started to focus on Sandberger again, he kept a low profile. He spoke with no one and stayed put. There were reports from the Estonian capital Tallinn that "the biggest Nazi in Estonia" and "ambassador of death" was still alive. In late 2009, French bloggers speculated that Sandberger had been traced to a retirement home in Bavaria.
In Germany, on the other hand, there was silence until recently. Plenty of documents had come to light containing material for a possible new indictment, but no one wanted to stir up the case.
So does Sandberger feel ashamed, after all those years, with own death imminent?
The old man in the armchair, the last remaining ringleader in the biggest genocide in history, remains silent for a long time, as he seems to wrestle with himself. Then he says: "I don't want to talk about it."
It's his last word.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan