A Bonn court Thursday acquitted a former Nazi Gestapo chief accused in the deportation of 177 French Jews who died in Auschwitz, a court official said.

Several French spectators called out "murder!" and "Nazi court!" after the verdict was read, said court spokeswoman Eva Marie Zakosek-Ruehling.Count Modest Korff, 79, was a Nazi SS captain and served as Gestapo chief in the Chalons-sur-Marne region in northeastern France in 1942 and 1943.

His trial started in September 1987 after an investigation into the deportation and death of 220 Jews from the region under Korff's control. A court spokesman, Freimold Gundlach, said the charges were reduced to cover 177 cases, but he did not know the reason.

Korff worked as a ministerial adviser in the West German Economics Ministry until his retirement in the early 1970s. He was unmasked by French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld.

During the trial, Korff claimed he did not know about the extermination of Jews when he was the Gestapo chief. An estimated 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust during the 1933-45 Nazi rule.

The court based its acquittal on insufficient evidence, Ms. Zakosek-Ruehling said.