BERLIN — German police have arrested a former Nazi medic who served at the Auschwitz death camp on multiple charges of aiding and abetting murder, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The 93-year-old, who was arrested at his home near Neubrandenburg north of Berlin, underwent a medical checkup before he faced a judge and was then taken into pre-trial detention.
The former SS member allegedly assisted in the mass murder of prisoners who arrived on eight transports from Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia in September 1944.
Of the arrivals, 1,721 were killed in gas chambers after they were deemed unfit for forced labor at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp located in Oswiecim, southern Poland, prosecutors said.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder praised German authorities for “not relenting in the pursuit of those who murdered, or aided in murdering, thousands of people during World War II”.
“The prosecution of those who participated in terrible crimes sends a clear message that justice must be done, no matter how late the hour,” he said in an emailed statement.
The pensioner’s arrest followed a tip-off from the German office investigating Nazi war crimes with a recommendation to bring charges but prosecutors did not specify when it took place.
It was the latest in a series of arrests since Germany launched a renewed drive to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust.
For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.
But in 2011 a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.
“There cannot be a statute of limitation for crimes against humanity, and mass murderers must continue to live in fear of the long arm of the law,” Lauder said.
Auschwitz has become an enduring symbol of Nazi Germany’s genocide of European Jews, of whom one million were killed there from 1940 to 1945.
More than 100,000 non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals and anti-Nazi partisans also died at the camp in occupied Poland before it was liberated by Russian forces on January 27, 1945.