Thursday, January 20

‘Justice has no expiration date’: 100-year-old former Nazi death camp guard goes to trial

A 100-year-old former concentration camp guard today becomes the oldest person to be tried for Nazi-era crimes in Germany, 76 years after the end of World War II.

The suspect, identified only as “Josef S” due to German privacy laws, is charged with complicity in the shooting of prisoners of war and is charged with assisting “knowingly and voluntarily” in the murder of 3,518 prisoners between 1942 and 1945. in Sachsenhausen. concentration camp.

The defendant, who has lived in the Brandenburg area for years, has refused to speak publicly about the trial.

Attorney Thomas Walther, representing horror survivors and their families, has spent his retirement years bringing the last surviving Nazis to trial, regardless of their age.

“Justice does not have an ‘expiration date’,” stressed the lawyer. “No one expresses any doubt when charges are brought for a murder after 30 years. But the prosecution of old men and women is seen somehow as problematic after 75 years, even if it is 1,000 or 5,000 murders in which it was committed. active assistance by the accused. “

It was because of a case Walther brought to court in the early 2000s, the conviction of former SS guard John Demjanjuk, that case law was established in 2011, allowing prosecutors to charge people for helping , incite or serve as part of the extermination of Adolf Hitler. machine.

Until then, direct involvement in the murder had to be proven.

“The relatives of the murdered, countless families who have been completely wiped out, are entitled to this belated justice,” Walther said.

Josef S was 21 when he first became corporal in chief at Sachsenhausen in 1942. Now, at almost 101 years old, he is considered to be able to appear in court for up to two and a half hours a day.

The trial will continue until January.

Reluctance to persecute former Nazis after WWII

In the early years after World War II, Germans were reluctant to go after former Nazis, many of whom still worked in key administrative and judicial positions.

Most people were focused on rebuilding a country in ruins, and many continued to deny the crimes committed in the past. Prosecutors and judges from 30 to 40 years ago are likely to abandon proceedings or issue acquittals for Nazi crimes.

“Such practices have nothing to do with law and justice,” Walther said, adding that the trials serve as a valuable deterrent even today. “It is always a reminder of the present: there are places and actions that you cannot be a part of.”

Today’s trial is especially important for 17 co-plaintiffs, relatives of victims and survivors of Sachsenhausen.

Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp

Located about 30 kilometers north of Berlin, the Sachsenhausen camp had 200,000 detainees between 1936 and 1945, mainly resistance fighters, Jews, political opponents, homosexuals and prisoners of war.

100,000 inmates died from forced labor, murder, medical experiments, starvation or disease before Soviet troops liberated the camp, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

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