Brandenburg on der Howell, Germany:
The 100-year-old former concentration camp guard has become the oldest person not to be prosecuted for Nazi-era crimes in Germany because he was accused of being complicit in the massacre on Thursday.
Between 1942 and 1945, Joseph Soots is accused of “knowingly and intentionally” helping to kill 3,518 prisoners at the Sachenhausen camp in Oranyanburg, north of Berlin.
The charges against him include aiding and abetting the execution of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942 and “killing prisoners using the poisonous gasklon jiglon B”.
For more than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors have come forward to bring the last surviving Nazi criminals to justice, and in recent years there has been little focus on Nazi personnel.
A 96-year-old German woman who was secretary at the Nazi death camp dramatically escaped before her trial could begin, but was caught several hours later.
She is also accused of being complicit in the murder. His trial is set to resume on October 19.
Despite his advanced age, a medical assessment in August found that Surats was eligible for trial, although a court in New York would limit his trial to two hours a day.
Shoots came with the help of walking for activities held in a sports hall where great interest was given in this case. The trial is set to begin in early January.
“He was not specifically charged with shooting anyone, but he served as a guard for these acts and was aware that such killings were taking place in the camp,” a court spokesman said.
Attorney Thomas Walter, who represents the relatives of several camp survivors and victims in the case, said such trials were necessary, even 76 years after the war.
“Justice has no expiration date,” he told the AFP.
One of his clients, Antoine Grumpack, 79, hopes he will shed light on the methods used to kill people in the camp, but the accused will say “I did wrong, I’m ashamed”.
– ‘Symbol’ –
Between 1936 and 1945, a Nazi SS guard served in the Sachsenhasan camp, where more than 200,000 people were detained, including Jews, Roma, dissidents and homosexuals.
Tens of thousands of prisoners died of forced labor, murder, medical examinations, starvation or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachenhausen Memorial and Museum.
Little is known about the culprit, who was released from prison as a prisoner of war in 1947 and went to work as a locker in the Brandenburg region of then-communist East Germany.
The file against him was transferred to the state of Brandenburg, where he resides, in April 2019 by the Central Bureau of Investigation of Nazi crimes, and the charges were finally filed on January 26 this year.
Co-plaintiff Christopher Heiger, 84, told AFP that his father had been shot dead in a camp in May 1942.
“Before he was shot, my mother received a letter from him on May 3, 1942. When she found out he was dead a few days later, she cried a lot and almost turned gray,” he said.
Defendant’s attorney, Stephen Watercomb, said his client had so far been “quiet” about the allegations against him.
Suites is free during the trial. Even if convicted, he is unlikely to be jailed given his advanced age.
– Race against time –
Germany has been hunting down former Nazi workers since the 2011 indictment of former policeman John Demjanjuk on the grounds that he worked as part of Hitler’s assassination machine.
Since then, courts have issued numerous criminal convictions for murders or crimes directly related to the perpetrators.
Those brought to justice late include Auschwitz accountant Oscar Croning and Auschwitz former SS guard Reinhold Honning.
Both were charged with complicity in the mass murder at the age of 94, but died before they could be imprisoned.
Most recently, former SS guard Bruno Day was convicted last year at the age of 93 and sentenced to two years suspended.
According to the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, prosecutors are investigating eight other cases.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from an integrated feed.)