Citing the defendant's failing health, on Monday a court in Neubrandenburg suspended the trial of 95-year-old Hubert Z., a former medic at Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Hubert Z. is charged with being an accomplice to the murders of 3,681 people. Prosecutors say the medic's unit was involved in putting Zyklon-B pesticide crytals into Auschwitz's gas chambers, where up to 6,000 Jews were killed per day, and was "supportive of the running of this extermination camp."
"The accused lent support to the organization of the camp and was thereby both involved in and advanced the extermination with these insidious and cruel killings of at least 3,681 people," the prosecutors charge.
'Holding itself accountable'
Psychiatrists who examined Hubert Z. last year considered him mentally fit to stand trial. But defense attorney Peter-Michael Diestel plans to continue to challenge that evaluation. Diestel claims that his client has a form of dementia.
The attorney said Hubert Z. knew that people were being murdered at Auschwitz but never took part in the killings. "It is the bad conscience of the German justice system, which never seriously tried to look into the atrocities and crimes in the past," Diestel told DW. "These trials today are bizarre. Most of the accused on trial today played a marginal role in the past."
Christoph Heubner, deputy president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said Germany's justice system had looked the other way for far too long and failed to seriously examine such atrocities in the past. He believes that prosecutors should pursue cases like Hubert Z.'s as long as suspects are still alive.
"These trials are an important contribution to the dignity of our country," Heubner told DW. "Germany is holding itself accountable. During the war, the accused we see on trial today were young, conscious men that knew what was going on and that didn't do anything against the killings that were happening around them."
Hubert Z. has been imprisoned once before for his activities at Auschwitz. In 1948 a Polish court had sentenced him to three years. He returned home to Neubrandenburg, in northern Germany, after serving his time.
Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.