German court jails SS guard aged 101 for role at Nazi death camp

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German court jails SS guard aged 101 for role at Nazi death camp

The unnamed centenarian was convicted of 3,518 counts of accessory to murder

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

A 101-year-old former security guard of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp appears in the courtroom before his trial verdict at the Landgericht Neuruppin court, in Brandenburg (Photo: Reuters/Annegret Hilse)
A 101-year-old former security guard of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp appears in the courtroom before his trial verdict at the Landgericht Neuruppin court, in Brandenburg (Photo: Reuters/Annegret Hilse)

A 101-year-old man has been jailed for five years after being convicted of aiding the murder of thousands of people at a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

The unnamed man had denied working as an SS guard at Sachsenhausen camp, insisting he had been a farm labourer in the latter half of the war.

His lawyers had argued there was no evidence that he had actively assisted in any killings.

But judges agreed that he had been an enlisted member of the Nazi paramilitary wing.

According to the German news agency dpa, presiding Judge Udo Lechtermann said: “The court has come to the conclusion that, contrary to what you claim, you worked in the concentration camp as a guard for about three years.

“You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity.”

The prosecution had based its case using SS documents showing a guard with the man’s name, date and place of birth.

At least 40,000 people were killed in Sachsenhausen in the nine years it operated just north of Berlin in 1936.

Germany has prosecuted several accused accomplices to Nazi war crimes since the 2011 conviction in Munich of former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who had been living in the US before being arrested, deported and tried for his role at Sobibor.

He was found guilty as an accessory in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews there and died in 2012. The Demjanjuk case set a precedent that being a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder.

The number of prosecutions is dwindling, however, as few guards are still alive.

This week’s verdict followed a nine-month trial in which the defendant could only attend sittings for two-and-a-half hours a day because of his advanced age.

It was also interrupted several times for health reasons and hospital visits.

Speaking to Jewish News at the start of the trial in October last year, Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said: “The passage of time is no barrier to justice when it comes to the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust was a unique episode in our history where six million men, women and children were systematically murdered simply because they were Jewish. Many who survived were the only survivors of their families, towns and communities.”

“We hope that this trial will help to ensure that the truth of the past is known, and bring some comfort to the survivors who are still with us.”

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