The trial has started of a German who had an arsenal of World War II-era weaponry in his cellar including a tank, an anti-aircraft gun and a torpedo.
The retired financial broker, whose identity has not been revealed, is on trial after the military police found the 1943 Panther (Panzer) tank in his villa in the town of Heikendorf in the district of Plon in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein in 2015.
In addition to the 45-ton Panther, a whole arsenal of World War II military equipment was seized including ammunition, a mortar, a 3.5-inch anti-aircraft gun, and a torpedo which were hidden in his basement.
The Panther was a German medium tank deployed on the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war’s end in 1945.
The complicated recovery of the Panther from the owner’s basement took almost 20 soldiers and around nine hours to complete six years ago.
According to local media, the 84-year-old man bought the tank as scrap in Great Britain in 1977, after which the Bundeswehr helped him repair the engine and charged him EUR 28,317 (GBP 24,336) for it.
German media reported in 2015 that residents had seen the man driving the Panther around town about 30 years ago.
Mayor Alexander Orth said: “He was chugging around in it during the snow catastrophe in 1978. I took this to be the eccentricity of an old man, but it looks like there’s more to it than that.”
The trial, in which the elderly man has to answer for violating Germany’s War Weapons Control Act, began at the Kiel District Court on 28th May.
According to the defendant’s lawyer Gerald Goecke, the seized weapons were no longer functional and they should not be restricted.
Goecke said: “There are no legally binding demilitarisation requirements.”
Presiding judge Stephan Worpenberg agreed with Goecke and added that if the tank cannot be used in war operations then it should “no longer be considered a war weapon”.
However, prosecutor Torsten Wolke replied: “All things on the war weapons list are forbidden per se.”
The weapons’ functionality was tested by the Rheinmetall AG which is a company consisting of six divisions in two corporate sectors (automotive and defence) and is headquartered in the city of Dusseldorf.
The Rheinmetall AG spent a total of EUR 216,000 (GBP 185,589) for the tests and confirmed that only the anti-aircraft cannon ‘may’ still be functional.
The 84-year-old man is facing a prison sentence of between one and five years, according to the War Weapons Control Act, if convicted.
The final verdict is expected in July.