A former guard at the nazi camp of Stutthof, in Poland, is in front of the German justice since Tuesday morning for complicity in hundreds of murders. Today, aged 94 years, this German set and held in Münster, served between June 1942 and September 1944 in this camp, located forty kilometres from Gdansk. Between the ages of 18 and 20 years old at the time of the facts, it is considered as a minor. During the first day of the hearing, the accused was not able to hold back his tears after the first two testimonies of descendants of victims of the camp. A survivor of the camp, Marga Griesbach, has told how she has seen his brother in six years for the last time in Stutthof, before his transfer to the extermination camp of Auschwitz where he died was gassed.
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The prosecutor did not disclose his identity, but according to the German newspaper Die Welt , it is a landscape designer retired named Johann. He arrived before the court in a wheelchair, a bob on the head and a cane in the hand but is not expressed. In front of him, 17 civil parties. 14 scheduled hearings until January will be limited to two hours each in order to accommodate the in his nineties. A second hearing will take place on Thursday. At the origin, a second ex-SS guard 93-year-old would have had to appear in court but his ability is still the subject of expertise. The accused faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, but a sentence as heavy is unlikely. According to the indictment, the accused having knowledge of the atrocities committed in the camp is rendered complicit in hundreds of murders. According to Die Welt , in his nineties, has denied to the police in August 2017 have known that atrocities were committed, claiming, inter alia, that the soldiers were suffering also from lack of food.
“I am very grateful for the holding of this trial, no one in my family has believed that prosecutions were possible. For me, who am of the third generation it is very important,” said Ben Cohen, grandson of a deported, survivor of the camp, Judy Meisel. At Stutthof, the first concentration camp established outside German territory at the end of 1939, 65,000 people on the some 110.000 deportees perished. Guarded by the SS and the auxiliary ukrainians, it was first used for the detention of prisoners of war and opponents of Polish, Norwegian, or Danish before that of the Jews of the baltic countries and Poland, mostly women, were deported from 1944 in the framework of the “final solution” – nazi.
The German justice criticized
The German justice still attracts criticism for his late treatment of the crimes of the Third Reich, because it is only in recent years that Germany has sentenced several former SS for complicity in the murders: John Demjanjuk, Reinhold Hanning and Hubert Zafke. In fact, since 2011, a case law allows prosecution for “complicity in murder” against those who participated in the operation of a camp. Until then, only the suspects directly involved in the killings could be prosecuted. All of the accused, very old at their sentencing, occupied positions subordinate during the war. And none went to prison through appeals, or by reason of their state of health. In march, Oskar Gröning, known as the “accountant of Auschwitz,” died at 96 years old shortly before his incarceration after a conviction to four years of detention.
The trial that began on Tuesday is therefore “a gesture to say ‘never again'”, says the historian, specialist of nazism, Peter Schöttler, “if you could see through this case, we would always have an excuse to pass another”. “For the relatives and victims of the crimes of national socialism, Germany must investigate further today on these facts and prosecute these offences”, says the prosecutor Brendel.