Former Nazi charged in 3,518 counts of accessory to murder | News | DW | 08.02.2021

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Former Nazi charged in 3,518 counts of accessory to murder

A 100-year-old German man stands accused for his role as a guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. More than 100,000 people were killed at the camp during World War II.

Entrance to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Sachsenhausen was a template for the industrial-scale murder that would take place at the Auschwitz extermination camp

A 100-year-old German man has been charged with accessory to murder in 3,518 counts by prosecutors in the city of Neuruppin, located in the northeastern state of Brandenburg, near Berlin, where he now lives.

The man is accused of "material and intentional" contributions to killings at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he is said to have been a guard during the last years of the Second World War between 1942 and 1945.

Sachsenhausen, which was built outside Berlin in 1936, operated as a labor camp and was notorious for medical experiments carried out there as well as being considered a template for the use of gas chambers that were a precursor to the industrial-scale extermination of millions of individuals later carried out at Auschwitz in what is now Poland.

Prisoners stand in line at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Half of Sachsenhausen's prisoners died of malnutrition and disease or were murdered in experiments or gas chambers

Fit to stand trial

The camp held mainly political prisoners as well as Jews, Roma and gays. It is thought that some 200,000 people were imprisoned in the camp. According to German regional broadcaster NDR, prosecutors in Brandenburg say the man, despite his age, is fit to stand trial.

He is the latest individual to be similarly charged. Last year, Bruno D., a 93-year-old, was convicted of 5,230 counts of accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp. And last week, prosecutors charged 95-year-old Irmgard F., a secretary at the Stutthof camp, with accessory to murder in 10,000 counts.

Watch video 03:04

Living with the memory of the Holocaust

'The pursuit of SS perpetrators must not end'

For years, Germany's justice system prevented the conviction of low-level guards and workers by insisting upon concrete evidence of individual guilt. That changed with the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011, who had been a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was convicted on 28,000 counts of accessory to murder.

Speaking of Monday's charges in Brandenburg, Christoph Heubner, vice-president of the International Auschwitz Committee said: "This case is an important example to very elderly survivors of German concentration and extermination camps. Justice has no expiration date and the pursuit of SS perpetrators must not end, even in old age."   

js/aw (dpa, Reuters)