Auschwitz guards should be prosecuted for their roles in running death camps, even though they are now in their 80s and 90s, German prosecutors say, the Christian Science Monitor reported on Sept. 3.
Now, nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, some 30 Auschwitz guards who still survive could be prosecuted, according to a special German prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi war crimes.
Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, the head of the war crimes office in Ludwigsburg, Germany, said that an investigation of 49 suspected Auschwitz guards revealed enough evidence to recommend that prosecutors pursue charges of accessory to murder against 30 people in Germany who were stationed at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Of the other accused Auschwitz guards, nine have died since the inquiry was launched in April, and seven live in foreign countries, including Israel, the United States, Austria, Brazil, Croatia and Poland. Another two could not be found, and one has been taken into custody, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It’s not clear how prosecution of the suspected Auschwitz guards will unfold. The oldest of the Auschwitz guards is now 97. And the health of the guards as well as witnesses could be a factor.
The new legal argument that says that anyone involved in the operation of a death camp was an accessory to murder could pave the way for prosecuting guards at other death camps besides Auschwitz, experts say, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Previously, German courts brought charges of accessory to murder only against suspected war criminals in specific killings. That changed in 2011, when a Munich court sentenced former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for serving as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. Now, more guards like the Auschwitz guards could be prosecuted, despite their age and health.
About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz camp complex alone between 1940 and 1945. Overall, about 6 million Jews died in the Nazi Holocaust.