A 101-year-old man was sentenced by a German court on Tuesday to five years in jail on charges of aiding and abetting the murder of thousands of prisoners at the Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
Throughout his trial in Brandenburg an der Havel, which lies to the west of Berlin, the accused denied that he had been a guard at the camp during the period in question, 1942 to 1945.
The prosecution had produced documents identifying a Nazi SS guard with the accused’s name, date of birth and place of birth, among other evidence. It called for a five-year jail sentence. Lawyers acting for co-plaintiffs also called for a prison term.
“The court is convinced that you worked as a guard at the concentration camp for around three years, despite your assertions to the contrary,” the presiding judge, Udo Lechtermann, said in handing down judgement.
The defendant had supported the Nazi murder machinery in this way, Lechtermann added. “Through your work, you supported this mass extermination.”
The defendant claimed to have been working as a farm labourer in Pasewalk, 100 kilometres to the north-east of Sachsenhausen.
The Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, welcomed Tuesday’s conviction and maximum jail sentence. It said in a statement that its Jerusalem office had “assisted the prosecution by finding Holocaust survivors from the camp, as well as first-degree relatives of the victims who can join the prosecution in accordance with German law.”
“The center’s chief Nazi hunter, Holocaust historian Efraim Zuroff, praised the verdict as an unequivocal rejection of [the defendant’s] attempts to deny his service in the SS as a guard at Sachsenhausen,” read a statement.
“He also praised the continued efforts of German lawyers, such as Thomas Walther, who represented the survivors as well as the relatives of the victims, several of whom were located by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.”
More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the concentration camp, located near Berlin, between the summer of 1936, when it was built, until the end of World War II in 1945.
Among them were political opponents of the Nazi regime, as well as members of groups persecuted by the National Socialists such as Jews, Sinti and Roma.
Tens of thousands of prisoners died of hunger, disease, forced labour, medical experiments and mistreatment as part of a systematic extermination plan.
The elderly man was only fit to stand trial in the courtroom for limited periods, and participated for about two and a half hours each day. The trial was moved to a sports hall in the town where he lives out of consideration for his age.
In accordance with Germany’s strict privacy laws, dpa is not naming the individual at this point in the legal process.