A 100-year-old man who allegedly served as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II will stand trial in October for alleged complicity in the killings of more than 3,500 people during the conflict, German media reported Sunday.
A representative for the man could not be reached, and it isn’t clear whether the defendant has retained an attorney.
The prosecution of a centenarian reflects how law enforcement officials are racing against time to bring some closure for elderly Holocaust survivors and their families, as more and more Nazi personnel and their victims die in old age.
Until a landmark court ruling in 2011, German prosecutors were generally required to prove defendants had committed specific acts, against specific victims, to convict them of World War II-era war crimes. The threshold was near impossible to meet due to the general anonymity of camp guards to victims and the decreasing number of witnesses decades after the war.
But that year, a Munich court found John Demjanjuk guilty of being an accessory to murder for having served as a guard at Sobibor concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The court’s decision paved the way for convictions that largely rested on whether the defendant had served at a Nazi death camp. Demjanjuk, who died in 2012, denied he had been a guard.
Now, the 100-year-old man joins scores of elderly suspects recently brought to trial for having allegedly worked for the Nazi regime at concentration camps.
Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old woman who prosecutors say worked as a secretary to the commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland will face trial this year for alleged complicity in the killings of more than 11,000 people, according to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine. (A legal representative for Furchner could not be reached.)
Last year, Bruno Dey, a man in his 90s who served as a guard at the same camp as Furchner, was found guilty by a Hamburg court for complicity in more than 5,200 murders from 1944 to 1945. (He was given a suspended sentence.)
More than 60,000 people perished at Stutthof, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In February, Friedrich Karl Berger, a 95-year-old Tennessee resident with German citizenship was deported to Germany after the Justice Department found him to be a willing participant in the inhumane treatment of prisoners at a concentration camp near the German-Dutch border.
German prosecutors later dropped charges against him due to lack of evidence.
Between 2001 and 2018, at least 105 individuals were convicted, deported, denaturalized or extradited by authorities in North America and Europe for allegedly participating in Nazi war crimes, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group.