A 100-year-old man who allegedly served as a guard in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II will be tried in October in a German court, accused of assisting in the murder of 3,518 people.
Neuruppin’s court, which opened the case in February, received a medical evaluation confirming that the accused is fit enough to face trial, despite his advanced age. But the hearings will have a maximum duration of two and a half hours a day, reported the newspaper Welt am Sonntag on Sunday. His name was not released by the press, following German privacy laws.
The suspect reportedly worked in the Sachsenhausen camp, north of Berlin, between January 1942 and February 1945, as an enlisted member of the Nazi paramilitary wing. “Many of the complainants are of the same age as the accused and they expect justice to be served,” attorney Thomas Walther, who represents victims in this case, told the German newspaper.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of trials in recent years in Germany of elderly people accused of working for Nazism in extermination camps. These cases were opened after legal changes in the country that made it easier to prosecute anyone who helped run a Nazi camp.
In 2011, a trial in Munich paved the way for further war crimes convictions of people who worked as guards or in other roles in these camps. Until then, prosecutors needed to prove that defendants committed specific acts against specific victims, which was becoming increasingly difficult over the decades.
In that 2011 trial, a man was convicted of assisting in the killings in the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland for his role as a guard at the scene.
The Sachsenhausen death camp was opened in 1936 to serve as a prototype for the rest of the Nazi camps, shortly after Adolf Hitler handed over control of the camps to the SS. More than 200,000 people were held at the site until release in April 1945, and tens of thousands died of starvation, disease, forced labor or victims of medical experiments and assassination operations by the Nazi SS squad, by shooting, hanging or camera of gas.
In its early years, the camp especially housed political prisoners as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. The first large group of European Jews sent to Sachsenhausen arrived in 1938, after the anti-Semitic attacks in Germany called the Night of Crystals.
Over the course of the war, the place was home to prisoners of war, thousands of whom were executed. Sachsenhausen was freed by the Soviets, who continued to use the camp for confinement and other brutal acts.
In another case, a 96-year-old woman will be tried in late September in the German city of Itzehoe for allegedly assisting in the deaths of more than 10,000 people while working as a secretary in the wartime Stutthof concentration camp.