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German justice officials to recommend charges against suspected Auschwitz guards

German justice officials say they are set to pursue charges against 30 suspected former guards at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. This comes after the precedent-setting case that led to the conviction of John Demjanjuk.

The Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes said on Tuesday that it planned to pass on the cases of 30 alleged former Auschwitz guards to state prosecutors with the recommendation that they charge the suspects with complicity to murder.

The office, which is based in the southern city of Ludwigsburg and is part of the justice ministry of Baden-Württemberg state in Germany's southwest, does not have the power to press charges.

A statement released by the office said prosecutors decided to pursue the cases after investigation 50 alleged former guards.

Precedent-setting case

The officials decided to go after the suspects, who are all thought to be around 90 years old, after the conviction of John Demjanjuk.

In 2011, a Munich court sentenced Demjanjuk, a former guard at the Sobibor concentration camp, to five years in jail after finding him guilty of 20,000 counts of being an accessory to murder. Demjanjuk, who was born in Ukraine and spent much of his adult life in the United States, had faced a series of trials prior to the Munich trial. He died in March 2012 at the age of 91.

The case established that death camp guards could be convicted as accessories to murder if there was no evidence that they personal committed atrocities.

The concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland, which was in operation from 1940 until 1945, was the Nazis' biggest.

An estimated 900,000 people - mostly Jews - were killed in the camp's gas chambers, while 200,000 others died through other means, including executions carried out by members of the SS, hunger, or sickness.

pfd/kms (AP, dpa)