Ex-Auschwitz SS guard charged in Germany

Auschwitz fence, 12 Jan 05 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of victims were murdered daily at Auschwitz

German prosecutors have charged a 94-year-old former SS guard with aiding and abetting mass murder at the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The case against the German man - not yet named - has gone to a court in Mannheim, western Germany.

He was 19 when, in December 1942-January 1943, he assisted in the murder of some 13,335 people, it is alleged.

He has denied knowing that mass murder was going on. Last month, a convicted Auschwitz guard died in hospital.

Nearly one million Jews were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex. Tens of thousands of others also died, mainly Poles.

A landmark 2011 court ruling, against John Demjanjuk, enabled German prosecutors to charge a few surviving Nazi SS guards as accessories to mass murder.

Previously, German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals proven to have participated directly in atrocities.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Often victims - mainly Jews - were gassed at Auschwitz soon after arrival

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If the new case in Mannheim goes to court, the suspect will be treated as a juvenile, because he was 19 when he worked as an Auschwitz guard.

A press release from the Stuttgart prosecutors says he was born in Ruma, a town in northern Serbia.

He is accused of "supporting camp operations and thus acts of extermination".

During those two months, 15 rail transports brought victims to the camp in Nazi-occupied southern Poland.

"The prosecutor's office assumes that at least 13,335 of these people were classified as unfit to work and murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau," the prosecutors' statement says.

Fewer than 50 of the estimated 6,500 Auschwitz guards who survived the war were ever convicted.

In 2015, former Auschwitz guard Oskar Gröning was jailed for four years, having been convicted as being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews. But appeals meant that he never began his sentence, and he died last month aged 96.

Last June, Reinhold Hanning, another convicted Auschwitz guard, also died before serving his sentence.

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