NEURUPPIN, Germany – A former SS guard, now 100 years old, hobbled into a German courtroom on a walker on Thursday to face the charge of killing more than 3,000 people in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II to have.
Prosecutors say that Josef S., a member of the paramilitary SS of the NSDAP, contributed to the deaths of 3,518 people in Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1942 and 1945 through regular guards in the watchtower.
According to doctors, the man, whose full name was not disclosed due to the German procedural reports, is only partially able to negotiate: the sessions are limited to only two and a half hours per day.
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When the trial began, his lawyer held up a blue folder to hide his client’s face when he was taken to the court in Neuruppin near Berlin.
Some of the people interned in Sachsenhausen were murdered with Zyklon-B, the poison gas that was also used in other extermination camps where millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Sachsenhausen mainly housed political prisoners from all over Europe, alongside Soviet prisoners of war and some Jews.
“It’s a lot of emotions … I can’t really speak,” said Antoine Grumbach, 79, before turning abruptly as he was overcome with tears. His father, a French resistance fighter, died in the camp.
100-year-old Leon Schwarzbaum waited quietly in the courtroom for the trial to begin and showed reporters a photo of him with his parents and uncle, all of whom had died in Auschwitz.
The public prosecutor accuses Josef S. of having “contributed to cruel and insidious murders” by having “contributed to the creation and maintenance of life-threatening conditions in the camp”.
In recent years there has been a spate of charges against former concentration camp guards for crimes against humanity in World War II. Last week, a 96-year-old former camp secretary was on the run the day her trial was due to begin, but was caught by police a few hours later.
A 2011 court ruling paved the way for these definitive indictments, stating that even those who contributed indirectly to war killings without pulling a trigger or issuing an order could face criminal charges.
Sachsenhausen, opened in 1936 as one of the earliest Nazi concentration camps, served as a training camp for SS guards, who then did their duty elsewhere, including Auschwitz and Treblinka. In Sachsenhausen, among others, Dutch resistance fighters and domestic political opponents of the Nazis were killed.