Germany: 92-year-old former SS guard to face trial

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A Hamburg court announced on Wednesday that a 92-year-old former SS guard would go on trial in October accused of helping to kill more than 5,000 prisoners.

The unnamed man will be tried on 5,230 counts of accessory to murder as he contributed to the functioning of the Stutthof concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland towards the end of World War II.

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A court spokesman said the suspect allegedly supported the "treacherous and cruel killing of Jewish inmates in particular."

Experts determined that even though he was frail, his health was good enough for him to stand trial, as long as each session lasted no more than two hours.

Germany's main office for investigating Nazi war crimes estimates that 65,000 were killed at the camp built to the east of what is now the Polish city of Gdansk.

The suspect, who lives in Hamburg, is alleged to have been deployed to the concentration camp between August 1944 and April 1945, just days before the end of World War II in Europe. Stutthof was liberated by Allied forces on May 9, 1945.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutors said the suspect had made a partial confession. German newspaper Die Welt reported that he admitted to working at the camp and was aware of prisoners being pushed into gas chambers. In addition, he said he had seen bodies being burned in the crematorium, but argued this did not mean he was guilty.

"What use would it have been if I had left, they would have found someone else?" Die Welt quoted him as saying.

Prosecutors, however, see it differently. "Surveillance was necessary for the concentration camp to function, and the camp was made to kill people," Hamburg state court spokesman Kai Wantzen said of the prosecution's argument.

More than a dozen survivors from Stutthof are registered as joint plaintiffs.

The accused was 17 and 18 at the time of his service and as a result, he will be tried in a juvenile court. He could face anything from six months to 10 years behind bars if found guilty.

The trial is scheduled to start on October 17.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

jsi/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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