Heinrich Boere is wheelchair-bound and lives in a nursing home in Aachen
A former member of the Nazi SS being tried for murder has admitted in court that he killed three Dutch civilians in 1944, but said he was following orders.
Heinrich Boere told the state court in Aachen he had killed a bicycle-shop owner, a pharmacist and a resistance member as part of an SS death squad.
"I knew that if I didn't carry out my orders I would be breaking my oath and would be shot myself," Mr Boere said.
The 88-year-old faces life in prison if convicted of three counts of murder.
He admitted the killings to the Dutch authorities when he was in captivity after World War II, but managed to escape from his POW camp and returned to Germany, where he has since lived.
In 1949, a tribunal in Amsterdam sentenced him to death in absentia - later commuted to life in prison. A Dutch extradition request was turned down by the West German government in the early 1980s.
In a statement read out by his lawyer on Tuesday, Mr Boere admitted he had shot Fritz Bicknese, a chemist and father of 12; bicycle seller Teun de Groot, who helped Jews go into hiding; and Dutch resistance member Frans Kusters.
He told the court that he and fellow members of the SS Silbertanne (Silver Pine) death squad had been informed by their superiors that the men were to be killed in retaliation for attacks by the resistance.
Anti-Nazi protesters gathered by the court when the trial began in October
"At no time in 1944 did I act with the feeling that I was committing a crime," he said. "Today, after 65 years, I naturally see things from a different perspective."
Mr Boere, who was born near Aachen to a Dutch father and German mother, moved to the Netherlands when he was an infant.
He was 18 when he joined the Waffen SS, shortly after the Germans overran his hometown of Maastricht in 1940. After fighting on the Russian front, he ended up back in the Netherlands as part of the Silbertanne squad.
In another development on Tuesday, the court rejected a defence motion arguing that the trial should be halted because it was not possible to be tried for the same crime twice in countries signed up to the European Schengen Agreement.
The trial was later adjourned until Friday.
Even if Mr Boere, who is wheelchair-bound and lives in a nursing home, is convicted of the murders there remains some doubt over whether he will actually go to jail.
A 90-year-old former German infantry commander, Josef Scheungraber, was given a life sentence by a German court in August, but remains free while his appeal is heard.