Ex-Nazi Guard Convicted by German Court


"Josef S." at German court. | Image by Reuters

A German court on Tuesday convicted a 101-year-old former concentration camp guard of being an accessory to more than 3,500 murders and sentenced him to five years in prison. It was not apparent, however, whether he will serve time.

In Neuruppin state court in eastern Germany, the centenarian was accused of being an accessory to the murder of thousands of Jews and other minorities victimized by the Nazis at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1942 to 1945. He pled his innocence throughout the trial.

As part of his verdict, a judge told the man, “You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity.”

The judgment was read in a gym in Brandenburg an der Havel, where the man lives.

Widely depicted in the German press as the oldest person to be tried for Nazi crimes, the man, identified only as “Josef S.” because of German privacy laws, denied working at the camp. Prosecutors failed to link him to prisoner deaths directly.

A lawyer for Josef said they would appeal the ruling if authorities attempt to incarcerate him. Trying to do so would require an order by a medical council deeming his health good enough to survive imprisonment.

The head of the German office investigating Nazi-era crimes, Thomas Will, said, “We go by the simple principle that murder does not have a statute of limitations. It is what’s right, and of course, it would have been what was right 70 years ago.”

The office located Josef in 2018 after digging through concentration camp documents that the Soviet army had taken back to Russia.

The German government is eager to bring any remaining cases of Nazi crimes to the bench, as the perpetrators are aging and increasingly difficult to find.

In 2011, a German court convicted John Demjanjuk, a 91-year-old accused of being an accessory to 28,000 murders while he was a guard at Sobibor concentration camp in Poland. The ruling set a precedent for cases like that of Josef.

In the northern German town of Itzehoe near the Polish city of Gdansk, a 97-year-old woman is currently on trial for serving as a camp secretary in the Stutthof concentration camp.

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8 months ago

Ugh leave these old soldiers alone. They followed orders most dont even remember those days now they are so old

8 months ago

No one can dismiss what happened in the concentration camps, but we forget that Nazi Germany was descending into a total police state by 1942, and to defy the power often meant your own death. A lowly guard was not in a position to save anyone.

Give the guy house arrest, he has not long to live.