The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters of not just World War II but also recorded human history. Millions of Jewish people were held in extermination camps and systematically massacred by Nazis and their collaborators. While the upper echelons of the party died before they could be brought to justice, efforts have been made for decades to bring surviving conspirators and accessories to the book. Now, a 100-year-old former guard at one such concentration camp is set to face trial after over 76 years.
According to German weekly, Welt am Sonntag reported that the centenarian—whose identity was withheld—served at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as a guard from January 1942 to February 1945. The proceedings are set to commence in October.
Thomas Walther, an attorney who has represented joint plaintiffs in cases against NAZIs in the past, and is now also involved in the current trial, told the outlet, "Sachsenhausen was the setting for the Nazi leadership at the gates of Berlin for their delusion of rule over life and death. Many co-plaintiffs are of the same age as the accused and hope for justice."
Role in Horrific Murders
The district court of Neuruppin is undertaking the trial against the 100-year-old man. Neuruppin is a town in Brandenburg, Germany, around 80 km from Berlin. Literally, at the gates of Berlin, over 200,000 people were killed at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which is located around 35 km from the city. The court told Welt am Sonntag that trial sessions will last for two to two and a half hours a day
Along with the brutal mass murder of detainees, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp also served as a 'training facility' for commanders and guards. They would later be posted to other concentration camps managed under the Nazi regime. According to Deutsche Welle, the district court of Neuruppin has recognized the former guard as an accessory in approximately 3,500 cases of murder.
A Landmark Case
Decades after these horrific state-approved murders, the number of individuals involved in Nazi crimes has gradually dwindled owing to age-related death and fewer witnesses. A landmark decision in 2011 paved the way for more convictions. John Demjanjuk, who was 91-year-old at the time, was convicted of being an accessory to the mass murder of over 28,060 Jews during his time as a guard at the Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland.
Demjanjuk was responsible for not only leading Jews at the camp into gas chambers where they would be exposed to poisonous gases but also help in disposing of their corpses in mass graves. The Munich court ruled that working at a concentration camp was sufficient grounds for conviction even if there was no proof of a specific crime.