US man target of Nazi hunters

2012-09-23 15:57
Auschwitz(Holocaust_museum)

Auschwitz(Holocaust_museum)

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Berlin - Germany has launched a war crimes investigation against an 87-year-old Philadelphia man it accuses of serving as an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, following years of failed US Justice Department efforts to have the man stripped of his American citizenship and deported.

Johann "Hans" Breyer, a retired toolmaker, admits he was a guard at Auschwitz during World War II, but said he had been stationed outside the facility and had nothing to do with the wholesale slaughter of about 1.5 million Jews and others behind the gates.

The special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes has recommended that prosecutors charge him with accessory to murder and extradite him to Germany for trial on suspicion of involvement in the killing of at least 344 000 Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied Poland.

The AP also has obtained documents that raise doubts about Breyer's testimony about the timing of his departure from Auschwitz.

The case is being pursued on the same legal theory used to prosecute late Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in March while appealing his conviction in Germany on charges he served as a guard at the notorious Sobibor death camp, also in occupied Poland.

The conviction was not considered legally binding because Demjanjuk died before his appeals were exhausted, but prosecutors maintain they can still use the same legal argument to pursue Breyer.

Under that line of thinking - even without proof of participation in any specific crime - a person who served as a death camp guard can be charged with accessory to murder because the camp's sole function was to kill people.

Experts estimate that at least 80 former camp guards or others who would fall into the same category are likely still alive today, almost 70 years after the end of the war.

Authorities in the Bavarian town of Weiden, who have jurisdiction, are currently trying to determine if the evidence is sufficient for prosecution.






- AP
Read more on:    germany  |  us  |  nazi crimes
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