76 years after the end of World War II, a former concentration camp guard has gone for a nazi trial. He assisted in the murder of 3518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen near Berlin. Josef S is accused of complicity in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war. He is also facing trial for the murder of others with Zyklon B gas. The time is now running out for the Nazi-era criminals to face justice.
He is the oldest defendant who is so far standing for the Nazi trial. In recent years the court brought the lower-ranking Nazis to trial.
Ten years ago, the conviction of the former SS guard John Demjanjuk set a precedent. It has enabled the prosecutor to charge people for abetting Nazi crimes in World War II. Until then, direct participation in murder needs proper justification.
As Josef S, the defendant went into an especially adapted sports hall at a prison in Brandenburg an der Havel. The Nazi trial began amid strict security.
He arrived in a wheelchair with his briefcase. Also, he had lived in the Brandenburg area for years as a locksmith. He did not say a word in public about the trial.
His lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, told the court that he would not comment on the trial about the allegations against him. He would speak about his circumstances at the upcoming hearing.
Josef S was 21 when he became the guard at Sachsenhausen in 1942. Now at least 101 will appear in court for up to two and half hours a day. This trial will continue until January.
The trial is important for 17 co-plaintiffs, who include the survivor Christoffel Heijer, who was 6 years old when he saw his father for the last time. His father was shot dead at the camp. Leon Schwarzenbaum said that it was the last trial for his friends and acquaintances and his loved ones.
In the last week, a Nazi secretary at the Stutthof Camp went on trial north of Hamburg. But he escaped from the nursing home.