When the expert from the Defense Technology Department for weapons and ammunition pushed his small camera through the cannon barrel of the tank, there was initially everywhere: rust.

Apparently, as Hendrik Oelerich said when he presented his report to the Kiel regional court on Thursday, the pipe had been stored for a long time without oiling it beforehand.

Now it is evenly rusted.

But that doesn't mean that you can't clean it.

It takes a few days and "in the end a long stick and a round brush", something like that could also be bought on Ebay.

Then Oelerich devotes himself to the question of whether you can still shoot with the barrel.

Matthias Wyssuwa

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

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    Klaus-Dieter F., 84 years old, with golden buttons on his dark blue jacket, sits in the dock and listens to the expert's statements.

    The cannon barrel belongs to the Panther-type tank that investigators found during a search of his villa.

    From 1943 on, "Panthers" were built.

    Each weighs 44 tons, the pipe is a good five meters long.

    The former businessman has had to answer to the regional court since the end of May.

    The public prosecutor's office accuses him of violating the War Weapons Control Act and other provisions of the law on weapons.

    If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

    Mortar, torpedo, anti-aircraft gun, ammunition - and the tank

    It's been six years since investigators entered Klaus-Dieter F.'s property on the Kiel Fjord in 2015. They became aware of the wealthy pensioner while searching for missing Nazi art. But what they found on the property and in the basement surprised them: numerous Nazi devotional items, machine guns, a mortar, torpedo, an 8.8 cm flak, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition - and the Panther-type tank, sand-colored .

    F. had bought the tank in Great Britain at the end of the seventies in a scrap-ripe condition and extensively restored it - his defense attorney spoke of F's "life's work" on the first day of the negotiations. After the search in 2015, it took soldiers many hours to recover him from the cellar. The excitement was great, also abroad there were reports about the pensioner on the Baltic Sea with World War II tanks in the basement. Attempts to reach an understanding between the defense and the prosecution later failed, so it came to trial.

    The trial in the Kiel district court is not about why F. has set up his villa like this and has immersed himself so deeply in these gloomy German times with his passion for collecting.

    At its core, it's all about the weapons - and the question of whether tanks, flak and mortars in particular could still be used and fall under the War Weapons Control Act.

    On the second day of the negotiation on Thursday, Oelerich was the first expert who explicitly looked at: What else can the pipes do?

    And could you still shoot with them?

    Museum piece or weapon of war?

    From the point of view of the public prosecutor, it became clear on Thursday that the matter seems clear. Everything that is on the war weapons list is forbidden. Accordingly, it would even be of secondary importance whether the weapons could really still be used. It doesn't matter whether the old tank is still involved in a current conflict. But the judge has expressed great doubts about this interpretation. With a view to the tank, he said that the yardstick was whether it could be used as a weapon in a conflict between armed states, despite the rusted pipe. From the point of view of the defense, it is sufficient that the tank has been rendered unusable in order to prevent its intended use. In fact, the chamber is welded to a steel plate at the end of the cannon barrel,and the locking wedge is missing. From a defense perspective, the tank is a museum piece, not a weapon of war.

    A lot of attention was paid to Oelerich's remarks on Thursday. For hours he talked about rust and pipes, about propellant charge and gas slip. He considers the mortar to be "permanently unusable" due to a hole in the pipe. With the flak, the barrel looks better, it was closed with a grease plug. However, it is more difficult with the ammunition. If they were to be manufactured according to today's standards, it would cost more than 200,000 euros.

    And the tank with the welded cartridge chamber, the missing locking wedge and the equally missing hydraulic straightening drive? The expert formulates it carefully, restricts and evades, and yet it becomes clear that, from his point of view, the barrel could be fired again. If you only want to and can afford it. The judge wants to know what such a tank could do. “If I can shoot with it, then that also has an effect,” says the expert.