Heinrich Boere, 92, who murdered Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi Waffen SS hit squad during World War II but avoided justice for six decades, died Sunday in a prison hospital while serving a life sentence, German justice officials.

Boere died of natural causes in the facility in Froendenberg where he was being treated for dementia, North Rhine-Westphalia Justice Ministry spokesman Detlef Feige said. He had been the state's oldest prisoner.

Boere was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals until his arrest in Germany and conviction in 2010 on three counts of murder.

"Late justice often sends a very powerful message regarding the importance of Nazi and Holocaust crimes," the center's top Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. "It's a comforting thought to know that Boere ended his life in a prison hospital rather than as a free man."

During his six-month trial in Aachen, Boere admitted killing three civilians as a member of the "Silbertanne," or "Silver Fir," hit squad - a unit of largely Dutch SS volunteers responsible for reprisal killings of countrymen who were considered anti-Nazi.

The presiding judge said there was no evidence Boere ever tried to question his orders, and characterized the murders as hit-style slayings, with Boere and his accomplices dressed in civilian clothes and surprising their victims at their homes or places of work late at night or early in the morning.

- AP