100-Year-Old Former SS Guard Allegedly Helped Kill Thousands

Josef S. hides his face as trial begins in Germany
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2021 11:15 AM CDT
100-Year-Old Former SS Guard Allegedly Helped Kill Thousands
The accused, Josef S., left, covers his face as he sits next to his lawyer in court in Brandenburg, Germany, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

(Newser) – A man about to turn 101 is the oldest defendant yet to stand trial for allegedly aiding in the murder of prisoners at a German concentration camp almost 80 years ago. The former guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, who can only be identified as Josef S. due to German privacy laws, arrived in a wheelchair at a prison in Brandenburg an der Havel on Thursday before making his way to a makeshift courtroom using a walker, per the BBC. Authorities say he's fit to stand trial but can only spend up to 2.5 hours in court per day. He's charged with aiding in the murder of 3,518 prisoners during World War II.

A former member of the Nazis' Schutzstaffel paramilitary group, he's accused of complicity in the executions of Soviet prisoners of war by firing squad and the murder of other prisoners with Zyklon B gas, per the Times of Israel. "He is not accused of having shot anyone in particular," a Neuruppin state court spokesperson tells the paper. Tens of thousands of people—Jews, POWs, homosexuals, political opponents, and others—were killed at the camp, including 3,000 who were slaughtered toward the end of the war as they were deemed "unfit to march," per the BBC.

Josef S. allegedly worked at the camp between 1942 and 1945, meaning he may have seen the installation of a gas chamber in 1943. The AP notes Leon Schwarzbaum, a 100-year-old survivor of Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald, was in attendance Thursday as public prosecutor Cyrill Klement stated the defendant had "knowingly and willingly" supported the systematic killings "at least by conscientiously performing guard duty, which was seamlessly integrated into the killing system."

Josef S. remained silent and used a folder to hide his face. His lawyer says he won't address the allegations against him but will speak about his personal circumstances on Friday. The trial is expected to stretch into January. It will coincide with the trial of a 96-year-old German woman who served as a secretary at the Stutthof concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Accused of aiding in the murders of more than 10,000 people, Irmgard Furchner fled from a nursing home before the start of her trial last month but was soon captured. The trial will now begin Oct. 19, per the Times. (Read more Nazis stories.)

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