Former SS guard, 98, charged as accessory to murder at Nazi concentration camp

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A 98-year-old man has been charged in Germany with being an accessory to murder as a guard at the Nazis’ Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1943 and 1945, prosecutors said Friday.

The German citizen, a resident of Main-Kinzig county near Frankfurt, is accused of having “supported the cruel and malicious killing of thousands of prisoners as a member of the SS guard detail,” prosecutors in Giessen said in a statement. They did not release the suspect’s name.

He is charged with more than 3,300 counts of being an accessory to murder between July 1943 and February 1945. The indictment was filed at the state court in Hanau, which will now have to decide whether to send the case to trial. If it does, he will be tried under juvenile law, taking account of his age at the time of the alleged crimes.

Prosecutors said that a report by a psychiatric expert last October found that the suspect is fit to stand trial at least on a limited basis.

More than 200,000 people were held at Sachsenhausen, just north of Berlin, between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands died of starvation, disease, forced labor, and other causes, as well as through medical experiments and systematic SS extermination operations including shootings, hangings and gassing.

Germany Nazi Guard
This undated file photo shows a roll call, in the early morning or late evening hours, in front of the camp gate of the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany. 

STR / AP


Exact numbers for those killed vary, with upper estimates of some 100,000, though scholars suggest figures of 40,000 to 50,000 are likely more accurate.

Law enables trials of surviving SS personnel   

German prosecutors have brought several cases under a precedent set in recent years that allows for people who helped a Nazi camp function to be prosecuted as an accessory to the murders there without direct evidence that they participated in a specific killing.

Charges of murder and being an accessory to murder aren’t subject to a statute of limitations under German law.

But given the advanced age of the accused, many trials have had to be cancelled for health reasons.

Convictions also do not lead to actual imprisonment, with some defendants dying before they could even begin to serve their jail terms.

Among those found guilty in these late trials were Oskar Groening — a former Nazi death camp guard dubbed the “Accountant of Auschwitz” — and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp.

Both men were found guilty for complicity in mass murder at age 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.

An 101-year-old ex-Nazi camp guard, Josef Schuetz was convicted last year, becoming the oldest so far to be put on trial for complicity.

He died in April while awaiting the outcome of an appeal against his five-year jail sentence.

And a 97-year-old former concentration camp secretary, Irmgard Furchner, became the first woman to be tried for Nazi crimes in decades in December 2022, the BBC reported. She was found guilty of complicity in the murders of more than 10,500 people at Stutthof camp, near the city of Danzig.

AFP contributed to this report.



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