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30 Auschwitz guards to face criminal probes: Germany
LUDWIGSBURG, Germany / Baden-Württemberg: The German office investigating Nazi war crimes said Tuesday it would send files on 30 former Auschwitz death camp personnel to state prosecutors with a recommendation to pursue charges.
Chief investigator Kurt Schrimm told reporters that the suspects were former Auschwitz guards now aged up to 97 and would face possible charges of accessory to murder. “The cases will be handed over to the respective public prosecutor’s offices,” Schrimm said.
Schrimm’s Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in the southwestern city of Ludwigsburg has carried out more than 7,000 probes but has no powers to charge suspects itself.
Instead it sends case files to regional prosecutors who then decide whether to pursue probes against suspects, who must also be judged fit to stand trial by the courts.
The investigative office, set up in 1958, said it had initially identified 49 former guards at the camp in what was Nazi-occupied Poland who were still alive but nine had since died. Thirty live in Germany and will now be subject to criminal investigation.
Another seven live abroad and the investigation against them in Ludwigsburg is still ongoing. Two people could not be found, the office said, and one had already been under investigation in the southern city of Stuttgart.
More than 6,000 SS personnel served at Auschwitz, where about 1.1 million Jews, Roma and Sinti and members of other persecuted groups died in gas chambers or of forced labour, sickness and starvation.
For more than 60 years German courts only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities, but since a 2011 landmark case all former camp guards can be tried.
In that year a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of more than 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard.
The announcement from Ludwigsburg came a day after the start of a trial in Germany of a 92-year-old former SS officer for the murder of a Dutch resistance fighter nearly 70 years ago.
As the proceedings opened in the western town of Hagen, Dutch-born Siert Bruins, who is a German national, was deemed fit enough for the trial to sit for up to three hours a day. He faces a life sentence if found guilty.
Since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, around 106,000 German or foreign-born Nazi soldiers have been accused of war crimes.
About 13,000 have been found guilty and around half sentenced, according to the Ludwigsburg office. -- AFP