Germany Reopens Hundreds of Nazi Investigations

John Demjanjuk's conviction sets new precedent, say prosecutors
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2011 1:14 PM CDT
Germany Could Prosecute Hundreds of Nazi Death Camp Guards
In this May 12. 2011 file picture John Demjanjuk waits in a courtroom in Munich.   (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

Now that John Demjanjuk has been convicted of war crimes, Germany has reopened investigations into hundreds of other former Nazi death camp guards, looking for ones who might share his profile. Demjanjuk's conviction sets a precedent that could allow others to be charged, prosecutors say, although they are waiting until his appeals process finishes to actually file charges. The investigations, however, have already begun, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center's head Nazi hunter will start tracking down war criminals in the next two months, the Guardian reports.

Demjanjuk became the first person to be convicted in a Nazi-era case without direct evidence he took part in a specific murder—prosecutors argued that proving he was a guard at a camp whose sole purpose was killing people was enough. Even the very narrowest scenario—estimating that of about 4,000 possible suspects, 2% are still alive, and 50% of those people are healthy enough to stand trial—still allows for an estimated 40 people to be prosecuted, says the head of the Nazi war crimes division of the German prosecutor's office, "so there is incredible potential." (More death camp stories.)

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