BERLIN (JTA) — Prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Weiden think they have a good chance of bringing an 87-year-old former Auschwitz guard to trial.
An investigation of the man — whose name has not yet been released by the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes — shows that he volunteered for the Waffen SS in 1942 and was trained as a guard, according to the German news agency dpa.
The alleged Nazi guard, who worked at the arrivals ramp and in a guard tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he has been accused of contributing “significantly” to the murder of at least 344,000 people in the gas chambers in 1944. According to the report, most of the victims were Jews from Hungary.
The man reportedly has lived for decades abroad, but now is a registered resident of a community in the Neustadt / Waldnaab district, which is why the court of Weiden has been chosen for a trial. Permanent residents of Germany are required to register with local police.
Kurt Schrimm, head of the central investigation office, told the Oberfalz.net online newspaper that the case was a direct result of the verdict against former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who died in March after being convicted as an accessory to murder of nearly 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison but the case was on appeal when he died.
Schrimm said the Demjanjuk case “triggered a shift in the interpretation of the law,” expressly allowing courts to go after war criminals who enabled others to commit murder. Since then, the investigative body has aggressively pursued similar cases, starting with those that look most promising, he told Oberfalz.net.