search

German court suspends trial of sick Auschwitz medic, 95

Hubert Zafke faces 3,681 counts of accessory to murder; served at death camp when teenage diarist Anne Frank arrived

An activist with the Inernational Auschwitz Committee rolls up a poster featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank outside the regional court of Neubrandenburg during the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, accused of aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz in 1944, on February 29, 2016. (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)
An activist with the Inernational Auschwitz Committee rolls up a poster featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank outside the regional court of Neubrandenburg during the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, accused of aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz in 1944, on February 29, 2016. (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)

NEUBRANDENBURG, Germany (AFP) — A German court Monday suspended the trial of former SS medic Hubert Zafke for aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz after the 95-year-old failed to attend over health problems.

Chief judge Klaus Kabisch put the proceedings on hold shortly after they opened, saying a doctor who examined the defendant on Sunday found that he had “suicidal thoughts and was suffering from stress reaction and hypertension.”

He was therefore “not in a state” to be transported to the court or to be heard, the judge said.

Zafke was working at the Nazi death camp from August 15 to September 14, 1944, a period when teenage diarist Anne Frank was imprisoned there.

The undated photo provided by the Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau shows SS Oberscharfuehrer Hubert Zafke. Zafke, now 95, is scheduled to go on trial at the end of February 2016 in Neubrandenburg, north of Berlin, on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder on accusations he served as a medic at an SS hospital in Auschwitz in 1944. (The Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau via AP)
The undated photo provided by the Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau shows SS Oberscharfuehrer Hubert Zafke. Zafke, now 95, is scheduled to go on trial at the end of February 2016 in Neubrandenburg, north of Berlin, on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder on accusations he served as a medic at an SS hospital in Auschwitz in 1944. (The Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau via AP)

Prosecutors charge that by serving at Auschwitz, the former medical orderly “knew of and willingly supported the industrially organized mass killing people in an insidious and cruel manner.”

Zafke’s ability to stand trial had long been a key contention.

A first court had ruled against a trial, finding that he was suffering from dementia, before an appeals court overturned the decision.

It found that, despite his “cognitive impairments” and diminished physical capacity, the defendant could be granted regular breaks and close medical supervision.

Before Monday’s hearing, the prosecution had also sought, but failed, to have the panel of judges recused on the grounds that they were biased toward declaring Zafke unfit to stand trial.

Prosecutor Cornelius Nestler (R), representing co-plaintiff and Auschwitz survivor Walter Plywaski, on the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, February 29, 2016. (AFP John Macdougall)
Prosecutor Cornelius Nestler (R), representing co-plaintiff and Auschwitz survivor Walter Plywaski, on the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, February 29, 2016. (AFP John Macdougall)

Following Kabisch’s decision, prosecutors filed a motion for a second medical opinion on the condition of Zafke.

The court has only set an initial two further hearing dates, March 14 and 30.

He risks between three and 15 years in prison, but even if convicted, Zafke is unlikely to serve any time behind bars given his advanced age.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed