Nazi death camp guard, 100, to stand trial for complicity in murder

A 100-year-old former concentration camp guard will become, Thursday, the oldest person yet to be tried for Nazi-era crimes in Germany When he appears in court for complicity in mass murder.

The defendant, identified only as Joseph S., is accused of “knowingly and willingly” aiding in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north Berlinbetween 1942 and 1945.

The allegations against him include aiding and abetting “the firing of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the killing of prisoners “using the poisonous Zyklon B gas”.

Joseph S., 100, will be the oldest person ever to be tried for Nazi-era crimes when he appears in court today for complicity in murder at the Sachsenhausen death camp (file)

German prosecutors are racing to bring the last of the Nazi perpetrators to justice, and in recent years they have increasingly focused their attention on lower-ranking Nazi officials.

The case comes a week after a 96-year-old German woman, who was a secretary in a Nazi death camp, made a major escape before her trial began but was arrested several hours later.

She was also accused of complicity in the murder. Her trial will resume on October 19.

Despite his advanced age, an August medical evaluation found that Joseph S. He was fit to appear in court, although hearings at Neurobin Court would be limited to two hours a day. The measures are expected to continue until early January.

A court spokeswoman said: “He is not accused of shooting anyone in particular, but that he contributed to these acts through his work as a guard, and was aware that these killings were taking place in the camp.”

Thomas Walther, the attorney representing several camp survivors and victims’ relatives in the case, said that even 76 years after the end of World War II, such trials were essential to holding the perpetrators accountable.

“There is no end date for justice,” he told AFP.

One of his clients is Antoine Grombach, 79, whose father Jean was in the French Resistance and was killed in Sachsenhausen in 1944.

Joseph S. served in Sachsenhausen (pictured) from 1942 until 1945, and is accused of complicity in 3,518 murders that occurred during his time there.

Joseph S. served in Sachsenhausen (pictured) from 1942 until 1945, and is accused of complicity in 3,518 murders that occurred during his time there.

Grumbach told AFP he hoped Joseph S.

The SS arrested more than 200,000 people in the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945, including Jews, Gypsies, regime opponents, and homosexuals.

Tens of thousands of prisoners died of forced labor, murder, medical experiments, starvation or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet forces, according to the Sachsenhausen Monument and Museum.

Little is known about the accused, other than the fact that he was released from captivity as a prisoner of war in 1947 and went to work as a locksmith in the region of Brandenburg in what was then communist East Germany, Bild newspaper reported.

Muammar’s lawyer, Stephan Waterkamp, ​​said his client had so far “remained silent” about the charges against him.

If convicted, Joseph S. could serve several years in prison but Watercamp said the sentences in such cases are “mostly symbolic”, given that the defendants have come to the end of their lives.

Germany has been hunting ex-Nazi staffers since the 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the grounds that he acted as part of Hitler’s killing machine, setting a legal precedent.

Since then, the courts have handed down several convictions on those grounds and not on murders or atrocities directly related to the defendants.

Among those brought to justice late were Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Henning, a former guard in the SS at Auschwitz.

Both were convicted at the age of 94 of complicity in the mass murder but died before they could be imprisoned.

Most recently, former SS guard Bruno Day was convicted at the age of 93 last year and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

The prosecution is investigating eight other cases, according to the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes.

Sachsenhausen: a camp where the Nazis designed gas chambers

Built in 1936 to house high-ranking political prisoners, Sachsenhausen is the camp where the Nazis perfected killing tactics that were expanded and used to kill millions in larger and more famous camps like Auschwitz.

Early executions at Sachsenhausen were carried out by placing prisoners in a room and asking them to stand against a wall to measure their height, before being shot in the back of the neck through a hidden hatch.

This proved effective but time-consuming, so the Nazis began stacking people in a pit where they were either shot or hanged.

While this proved better at killing large numbers of people, it caused panic among the prisoners and made the process more difficult.

Prisoners arriving at the Sachsenhausen camp.  The inverted triangle on the front of the uniform means that these men are not Jews but fall into another category of Nazis

Prisoners arriving at the Sachsenhausen camp. The inverted triangle on the front of the uniform means that these men are not Jews but fall into another category of “undesirable” Nazis – most likely political prisoners, many of whom were housed in this camp

After these experiments, the Nazi executioners came up with the idea of ​​using poison gas with some early experiments conducted in Sachsenhausen using small rooms or pickup trucks.

Like most other camps, Sachsenhausen was used to house and kill Jews, homosexuals, and other “undesirables” – but it also housed a large number of politicians and prominent political figures.

Among his colleagues were Yakov Dzhugashvili, the eldest son of Joseph Stalin, Paul Renaud, the penultimate Prime Minister of France, Francisco Largo Caballero, Prime Minister of the Second Bavaria Republic, and the wife and children of the Bavarian Crown Prince.

It operated as a Nazi camp until 1945 when it was liberated by the Soviets.

During that time, about 200,000 prisoners were sent there, about half of whom died – partly from executions, but also from disease and overwork.

After the war the camp continued to function, this time as a Soviet prison, and continued to house political prisoners.

About 60,000 people were held there by the Red Army, including formed Nazis, Russians who collaborated with them, and anti-communist opponents of Stalin’s new regime.

One of the men who ran the camp during this time was Roman Rudenko, the Soviet prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials.

It is believed that about 12,000 people died in Sachsenhausen under the Soviets before the camp was permanently closed in 1950.

After it closed, excavations were conducted to try to recover the remains of some of those who died there.

In total, the bodies of about 12,500 victims were recovered – mostly children, teenagers and the elderly.

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