A former guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was brought to trial yesterday at the Landgericht Neuruppin in Brandenburg, Germany.
The 100-year-old defendant Joseph S. was 21 years old when he became a concentration camp guard near Berlin in 1942. On his hands – the blood of 3,518 prisoners, in whose murder he is accused, reports Air force… Retribution caught up with him 76 years after the end of World War II.
The investigation established the participation of the criminal in the mass executions of prisoners of Sachsenhausen and their killing with the help of the Zyklon B gas. To date, this is the oldest of the accused who are brought to trial. With lower-ranking Nazis, this has only begun to happen in recent years.
It was only after the conviction 10 years ago of former SS guard John Demjanjuk that accusations of complicity in Nazi crimes became possible. Prior to that, prosecutors had to prove the direct involvement of the accused in the murders.
Germany has a privacy law. Therefore, the accused Josef S. was taken to a sports hall specially equipped for court sessions in the prison in Brandenburg an der Havel. The process began in the strictest security conditions. The defendant drove into the courtroom in a wheelchair, covering his face from the ubiquitous photo reporters.
Living for many years in the Brandenburg area, the Nazi criminal did not advertise his involvement in the upcoming trial. In court, his lawyer said that Joseph was not going to comment on the charges against him, but would talk about personal circumstances at a hearing on Friday.
The trial is expected to last until January. The defendant, due to his age (almost 101 years old), can take part in hearings for 2.5 hours a day.
Prosecutor Cyril Clement informed the court about the killings in Sachsenhausen in 1941-1945:
“The defendant knowingly and voluntarily supported this – at least conscientiously performing the guard duty, which fit perfectly into the murder regime.”
In the camp in Oranienburg, located in the north of Berlin, tens of thousands of people died – Jews, resistance fighters, prisoners of war, homosexuals. In 1943, a gas chamber appeared in the camp. At the end of the war, 3,000 prisoners were killed. The prosecutor spoke about the murders in the gas chamber, mass shootings, deaths from exhaustion and disease.
The trial was attended by Leon Schwarzbaum, a Holocaust survivor, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Yesterday’s trial was particularly important for the 17 co-plaintiffs who survived the Sachsenhausen death. And Christoffel Heyer was 6 years old when he last saw his father: Johan Hendrik Heyer is one of 71 Dutch resistance fighters killed in the camp. In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, the son of the former prisoner said:
“Murder is not fate, it is a crime that cannot be legally eliminated by time.”
Leon Schwarzenbaum, 100, a Sachsenhausen survivor, said it was “the last trial of my friends, acquaintances and loved ones who were killed,” and hopes a final verdict will be passed on him.
According to public television, the 100-year-old suspect worked as a security guard in Sachsenhausen in the period 1942-1945. The concentration camp, created back in 1936, was located near Berlin and became famous for the experiments carried out on prisoners.
The general disappointment was caused by Joseph S.’s refusal to testify. Christoph Heubner of the International Auschwitz Committee says:
“For the survivors, this is another refusal, just like in the camp. You were a parasite. “
The co-plaintiffs’ lawyer Thomas Walter said he was not surprised, but hoped that the defendant would change his mind. Most of the former Nazi camp guards will not stand trial. There were 3,000 of them in the Stutthof concentration camp alone, and only 50 were convicted. Bruno Dey was convicted of complicity in the massacre last year and received a suspended sentence.
Last week, Irmgard Furchner, the Nazi secretary at the Stutthof camp, was due to stand trial, but fled the nursing home where she lived a few hours before. She was caught in Hamburg, and the trial was postponed to October 19. She was released from custody this week.