Prosecutors recommend Auschwitz Nazi guard charges

2013-09-03 15:01
Visitors walk under the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign at the entrance gate of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, southern Poland. (File, AP)

Visitors walk under the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign at the entrance gate of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, southern Poland. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ludwigsburg - The special prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi war crimes said on Tuesday it is recommending charges against dozens of alleged former Auschwitz guards, opening the possibility of a new wave of trials almost 70 years after the end of World War II.

Kurt Schrimm, the head of the Ludwigsburg federal prosecutors' office, said an investigation of about 50 alleged former guards turned up enough evidence to recommend that state prosecutors pursue charges of accessory to murder against 30 of them in Germany. Another seven suspects who live outside the country are still being investigated.

The cases are being sent to the responsible state prosecutors' offices in 11 of Germany's 16 states. It will be up to them to determine whether the elderly suspects - primarily men but also some women - are fit to stand trial and whether to bring official charges.

"The biggest enemy is time," Schrimm told reporters.

Accessory to murder charges can be filed under the same legal theory that Munich prosecutors used to try former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in a Bavarian nursing home last year while appealing his 2011 conviction on charges he served as a Sobibor death camp guard, Schrimm said.

More cases

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was the first person convicted in Germany solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing. Under the new legal argument, anyone who was involved in the operation of a death camp was an accessory to murder.

Demjanjuk steadfastly maintained that he had been mistaken for someone else and never served as a camp guard.

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said the decision could mean even more cases will be opened against guards at the other five main death camps established by the Nazis.

"We commend the [prosecutors] for seeking to apply the precedent as widely as possible and hope that they will be able to find as many perpetrators as possible," he said in a telephone interview.

"It's only a shame that this kind of legal reasoning was not applied previously, because it would have led to many, many more cases of people who definitely deserved to be brought to justice."

Schrimm said that even guards who worked in a death camp's kitchens played a role in the facility's function as a site that existed for the purpose of mass murder.

Still he cautioned that the health of the suspects - and of possible witnesses - would make bringing them to trial difficult.

"I don't want to raise excessive expectations," he said.

About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz camp complex alone between 1940 and 1945.

Read more on:    germany  |  war crimes  |  nazis

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.