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Threat stalls testimony in Nazi's trial

An anonymous telephone threat has been made to a Largo couple scheduled to testify Wednesday at a hearing on a former Nazi commandant. Stanley and Lusia Igel, of Largo, who both survived the Polish ghetto Przemysl, asked to postpone their appearance at the hearing in Miami's German consulate because of the threat.

The hearing on former Nazi SS officer Josef Schwammberger, now imprisoned and awaiting trial in Stuttgart, Germany, was held before a German judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, and was closed under that nation's law.

Schwammberger, 79, is accused of murdering or helping to murder 3,377 people, including 50 by his own hand, and faces life in prison.

"(The Igels) have received an anonymous threat over the phone," said Klaus Sommer, Germany's consul general here, adding "They asked us to change the time and place" and keep that information secret.

Reached at his Largo home, Stanley Igel declined comment.

In place of the Igels, Joseph Kostman, also one of only 105 survivors of Przemysl's 28,000 Jews, was called at the last minute to tell his story 50 years after witnessing a Nazi commandant shoot to death a pregnant Jewish woman.

Schwammberger hearings also have reportedly been scheduled for Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, but Sommer said he did not know the times or exact locations.

Kostman, 66, of North Bay Village, said the court was most interested in his recounting of an incident he witnessed while hiding out in a ghetto basement, where he stayed from 1941 to 1943.

"At that time it was the death penalty for a Jewish woman to be pregnant," Kostman said before testifying. "I saw him with my own eyes killing a pregnant woman."

He did not know at first why she was killed, but the Jewish gravediggers told him later of her pregnancy.

"They loaded her on the wagon and took her away _ I don't know where they buried her," he said.

Kostman agreed with the Igels and Nazi hunters who said that unlike some Nazi war criminals, Schwammberger seemed to enjoy personally killing and torturing his victims.