Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, a neo-Nazi known for holding lifelike war games with tanks and men in SS uniforms, was sentenced today to nine years in prison for weapons violations and torturing people.
The court acquitted Hoffmann on charges of murdering a Jewish publisher, Shlomo Lewin, 69, and Lewin’s female companion, Frida Poeschke, 57, at their home in December, 1980.
Hoffmann, 48, was convicted of possession of weapons and explosives, torturing and holding against their will members of his neo-Nazi organization who tried to break away, and forging $2 million in Lebanon to finance his operations.
His female companion, Franziska Birkmann, 39, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for complicity in the forgery operation.
The court concluded a 21-month-old trial by saying there was considerable suspicion that Hoffmann killed Lewin and Poeschke with a Beretta submachine gun equipped with a silencer, but it ruled the suspicions could not be proven. Lewin, a Nuremberg Jewish leader, had written an article comparing Hoffmann to Adolf Hitler.
As the head of a 600-member organization modeled after the Nazi SS, Hoffman attracted attention because of the Nazi war games he conducted with tanks and armored personnel carriers at his castle near Nuremberg.
His followers wore uniforms similar to those of the SS, Heinrich Himmler’s elite force, and were given SS ranks.
Hoffman operated out of Lebanon after his organization was banned in West Germany in 1980. He had planned to set up a neo-Nazi weapons factory there. His plans were frustrated by his arrest in 1981 at Frankfurt airport on a secret trip back to Germany.