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Former Nazi guard, age 100, charged with accessory to murder

David Rising
Associated Press

Berlin – German prosecutors have charged a 100-year-old man with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served during World War II as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, authorities said Tuesday.

The man is alleged to have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing, said Cyrill Klement, who led the investigation of the centenarian for the Neuruppin prosecutors’ office.

The man’s name wasn’t released in line with German privacy laws, Despite his advanced age, the suspect is considered fit enough to stand trial, though accommodations may have to be made to limit how many hours per day the court is in session, Klement told The Associated Press.

In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 file photo a man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase 'Arbeit macht frei' (work sets you free) during International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oranienburg, about 30 kilometers (18 miles), north of Berlin, Germany.

The Neuruppin office was handed the case in 2019 by the special federal prosecutors’ office in Ludwigsburg tasked with investigating Nazi-era war crimes, Klement said.

It comes after prosecutors in the northern town of Itzehoe announced accessory to murder charges last week against a 95-year-old woman who worked during the war as the secretary of the SS commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp. That case and the charges against the 100-year-old man both rely on recent legal precedent in Germany establishing that anyone who helped a Nazi camp function can be prosecuted for accessory to the murders committed there.

That was established in 2011 with the conviction of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk as an accessory to murder on allegations that he served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland. Demjanjuk, who steadfastly denied the allegations, died before his appeal could be heard.

A federal court subsequently upheld the 2015 conviction of former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening achieved with the same line of reasoning, solidifying the precedent.

Before that, German courts had required prosecutors to justify charges by presenting evidence of a former guard’s participation in a specific killing, often a near-impossible task.

“The core of this case follows the decision of Demjanjuk and Groening, that being part of the functioning of this machinery of death is sufficient for an accessory to murder conviction,” Klement said.

The court has not yet set a date for the trial.