Philadelphia Man, 89, Held on Nazi War Crimes

Johann Breyer was a guard at Auschwitz

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 18, 2014 5:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – An 89-year-old Philadelphia man may be headed back to Germany to face charges that he helped the Nazis slaughter Jews at Nazi death camps, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Johann Breyer, a native of the former Czechoslovakia, was arrested yesterday at his home by federal authorities and now faces an extradition hearing. German prosecutors say he worked as a guard at Auschwitz and Buchenwald—and more specifically that he worked in the Birkenau section of Auschwitz where prisoners were killed in gas chambers. He immigrated to the US in 1952 and worked as a tool-maker.

The New York Times says this could be the "last Nazi case on American soil," and both the Times and the Inquirer describe Breyer as appearing confused at times during his initial hearing. Breyer faces 158 counts of aiding and abetting the Nazis, one for each trainload of prisoners killed at Auschwitz between May and October of 1944, reports AP. Breyer, who joined the Nazis at age 17, has previously told the AP that while he worked at Auschwitz, it was not in the Birkenau section.

In this 1944 photo provided by Yad Vashem Photo Archives, Jewish women and children deported from Hungary line up at Auschwitz.
In this 1944 photo provided by Yad Vashem Photo Archives, Jewish women and children deported from Hungary line up at Auschwitz.   (AP Photo/Yad Vashem Photo Archives)
A file photo of Shirley Breyer, wife of Johann Hans Breyer.
A file photo of Shirley Breyer, wife of Johann "Hans" Breyer.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
This undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I in Poland.
This undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I in Poland.   (AP Photo/File)
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