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Ex-Nazi camp guard tells German court he is innocent, insists he ‘knows nothing’

Josef Schuetz, 100, says he did ‘absolutely nothing’ when accused of ‘knowingly and willingly’ assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen camp

Defendant Josef S (L) sits next to his lawyer Stefan Waterkamp and hides his face behind a folder as he waits for the start of his trial in Brandenburg an der Havel, northeastern Germany, on October 7, 2021 (Tobias Schwarz / AFP)
Defendant Josef S (L) sits next to his lawyer Stefan Waterkamp and hides his face behind a folder as he waits for the start of his trial in Brandenburg an der Havel, northeastern Germany, on October 7, 2021 (Tobias Schwarz / AFP)

BRANDENBURG AN DER HAVEL, Germany — A 100-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person charged with complicity in the murder of thousands of detainees, told a German court on Friday that he was not guilty.

“I am innocent,” said Josef Schuetz, who stands accused of “knowingly and willingly” assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

When asked about his work at the camp, he insisted that he “knows nothing” about what happened there and that he did “absolutely nothing.”

Allegations against Schuetz include aiding and abetting the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B.”

The Sachsenhausen camp detained more than 200,000 people between 1936 and 1945, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labor, murder, medical experiments, hunger, or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Illustrative: A man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work sets you free) in Oranienburg, Germany, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice, and have in recent years increasingly focused attention on lower-ranking staff.

The case comes a week after a 96-year-old German woman, who was a secretary in a Nazi death camp, dramatically fled before the start of her trial, but was caught several hours later.

Holocaust survivor Leon Schwarzbaum shows a family picture as he arrives to observe a trial against defendant Josef S in Brandenburg an der Havel, northeastern Germany, on October 7, 2021 (Tobias Schwarz / AFP)

She, too, has been charged with complicity in murder. Her trial resumes on October 19.

Schuetz remains free during the trial. Even if convicted, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars given his age.

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