A German court on Tuesday sentenced a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard to five years in prison, the oldest person ever tried for complicity in the case. war crime during the catastrophe.
Josef Schuetz was convicted of having an accomplice to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg in the north. BerlinBetween 1942 and 1945, said presiding judge Udo Lechtermann.
But despite his sentence, given his age, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars to serve a five-year prison sentence.
The Lithuanian-born pensioner, who now lives in the state of Brandenburg, pleaded acquittal, saying he had done “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being committed at the camp.
‘I don’t know why I’m here,’ says Schuetz, oldest person ever to face Nazi trial war crime Committed during the Holocaust, said at the end of his trial on Monday.
But prosecutors told the Neureupin Regional Court, which is being held at a prison sports hall in Brandenburg an der Havel, that Schueltz took part in the killings of 3,518 prisoners at the camp ‘deliberately and voluntarily’ and was sentenced to five years in prison. Called to give behind bars.
Between 1936 and 1945 more than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, anti-regime and homosexuals, were detained in the Sachsenhausen camp.
Josef Schuetz was convicted of an accomplice to murder between 1942 and 1945 while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, said presiding judge Udo Lechtermann.
Prosecutors say Schuetz “deliberately and voluntarily” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking a sentence of five years behind bars. Pictured: Holocaust survivor Leon Schwarzbaum holds a photo in the courtroom during trial at Landgerich Neruppin court in October last year
Schuetz said he did ‘absolutely nothing’ and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being committed at the camp. Pictured: Prisoners in the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen in December 1938
What is the history of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and how many people were killed there?
front gate of sachsenhausen
- Built in the summer of 1936 by trainees from other camps
- First concentration camp built after Himmler was made police chief
- More than 200,000 people were placed under house arrest between 1936 and 1945
- Prisoners included political opponents and those deemed ‘racially inferior’ such as Jews, Sinti and Roma, and those persecuted as homosexuals.
- Prisoners forced to work in factories
- 13,000 Soviet prisoners, including many Jews, were murdered in the autumn of 1941.
- spring . a gas chamber was built in
According to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, tens of thousands of prisoners died of forced labor, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before Soviet troops liberated the camp.
Prosecutors said Schuetz aided in the “firing squad execution of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners using the “toxic gas Zyclone B”.
At that time he was 21 years old.
During the trial, Schuetz made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting ‘mixed up’.
At one point, Shatabdi stated that he had worked as an agricultural laborer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contrary to many historical documents containing his name, date and place of birth.
After the war, Schuetz was transferred to a prison camp in Russia, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith, before returning to Germany.
Schuetz remained independent during the trial, which began in 2021, but has been delayed several times due to his health.
His lawyer, Stephen Waterkamp, told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.
More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi criminals to justice.
The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanczyk, on the grounds that he acted as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for many of these Twilight Justice cases.
Since then, courts have delivered many guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than murders or atrocities directly linked to individual accused.
The 101-year-old former security guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp appears in the courtroom ahead of the verdict of his trial at the Landgerich Neruppin court in Brandenburg on Tuesday.
Late justices included Oscar Groening, an accountant in Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard in Auschwitz.
Both were convicted of involvement in the mass murder at the age of 94, but died before going to prison.
A former SS guard, Bruno Dey, was found guilty in 2020 aged 93 and given a two-year suspended sentence.
Separately, in the northern German city of Itzeho, a 96-year-old former secretary at a Nazi death camp is facing trial for involvement in the murder.
She ran away dramatically before her trial began but was caught several hours later.
While some have questioned the wisdom of chasing convictions related to Nazi crimes so long after the events, Guillaume Mouralis, a research professor at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), said such a trial is an important send signals.
“It is a question of reaffirming the political and moral responsibility of individuals in an authoritarian context (and in a criminal regime) at a time when neo-fascist far-right is becoming stronger everywhere in Europe,” he told AFP. “