For­mer Nazi camp guard weeps at trial

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

A FOR­MER SS guard aged 94 broke down in tears on Tues­day on the first day of his trial in Ger­many charged with com­plic­ity in mass mur­der at a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp dur­ing World War II.

The Ger­man man from the west­ern dis­trict of Borken, North Rhine-West­phalia state, served as a guard from June 1942 to Septem­ber 1944 at the Stut­thof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

Ger­man me­dia iden­ti­fied him as Jo­hann R., a re­tired l a nd­scape a rc hi t e c t and di­vorced fa­ther of three.

Dressed in a wool suit, he en­tered the re­gional court of Muenster in a wheel­chair, with a walk­ing stick in hand, fac­ing charges of be­ing an ac­ces­sory to the mur­ders of sev­eral hun­dred camp pris­on­ers.

These in­cluded more than 100 Pol­ish pris­on­ers gassed in June 1944 and “prob­a­bly sev­eral hun­dred” Jews killed from Au­gust to De­cem­ber 1944 as part of the Nazis’ so-called “Fi­nal So­lu­tion”.

I n i t i a l l y com­posed, t he de­fenda nt sta r ted weep­ing when the court heard writ­ten test i mony f rom Holo­caust sur­vivors who now live in the US or Is­rael, read out by their law yers.

Marga Gries­bach re­called, ac­cord­ing to na­tional news agency DPA, how she saw her six-year-old brother for the last time in the camp be­fore he was sent to Auschwitz where he died in the gas cham­bers.

An­other sur­vivor and coplain­tiff, a woman from the US state of In­di­anapo­lis, charged that the de­fen­dant “helped to mur­der my beloved mother, whom I have missed my en­tire life”.

‘Gassed, shot, left to die’

Aged 18 to 20 at the time, and there­fore now be­ing tried un­der ju­ve­nile law, the de­fen­dant is “ac­cused in his ca­pac­ity as a guard of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the killing op­er­a­tions,” Dort­mund pros­e­cu­tor An­dreas Bren­del said.

“Many peo­ple were gassed, shot or left to die of hunger,” he added, stress­ing that the guards “knew about the killing meth­ods”.

But when in­ter­ro­gated by po­lice in Au­gust last year, the ac­cused in­sisted he knew noth­ing about the atroc­i­ties in the camp, Die Welt daily re­ported.

Asked why the camp de­tainees were so thin, he re­port­edly said that food was so scarce for ever yone that, fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing, two soldiers could fit into one uni­form.

Stut­thof was set up in 1939 and would end up hold­ing 110,000 de­tainees, 65,000 of whom per­ished, ac­cord­ing to the Mu­seum Stut­thof.

Each court hear­ing will likely last for a max­i­mum of two hours due to the de­fen­dant’s ad­vanced age – even though, pros­e­cu­tor Bren­del said, “men­tally, he is still fit”.

The de­fen­dant was plan­ning to make a state­ment dur­ing the course of the trial, his lawyer told DPA.

If found guilty, he faces a sen­tence of up to 15 years in prison – even though, given his age and the pos­si­bil­ity of an ap­peal, he is con­sid­ered un­likely to serve any time be­hind bars.

Bren­del noted that Ger­man law has no statute of lim­i­ta­tions on mur­der and pointed to the moral im­per­a­tive to pur­sue the case.

“Ger­many owes it to the fam­i­lies and vic­tims to pros­e­cute these Nazi crimes even to­day,” he said.

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