A former medic in the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp is about to stand trial for being an accomplice to the death of 3,681 people. The 95-year-old German man is suffering from dementia.
A former medic in the Nazi SS will stand trial for the deaths of 3,681 people. A German court has confirmed that the 95-year-old man will go on trial next month on charges of 3,681 counts of accessory to murder. Prosecutors say Hubert Zafke, who was an SS medical orderly at Auschwitz, is being accused of being an active SS sergeant who helped the death camp function and eventually led to the death of almost 4,000 forced occupants under horrific conditions.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 18, 2016
Interestingly, despite reports indicating Zafke suffers from dementia, an appeals court had overturned an earlier ruling that said the accused was not fit to stand trial. While setting the trial date for February 29, the Neubrandenburg state court did, however, note that the judges will have to assess whether he needs special accommodation. The appeals court merely acknowledged his “cognitive impairments and low physical capacity,” but has refused to drop the trial, reported Gawker.
While Zafke’s attorney maintains that the accused did not commit any crimes while he was stationed at Auschwitz, the prosecutors refute the claim and insist he was well aware of his duties and the ill-intentions of the Auschwitz camp.
“Zafke was aware of the purpose of the Birkenau camp as an extermination camp. Given his awareness, the accused lent support to the organization of the camp and was thereby both involved in and advanced the extermination. Given his awareness, the accused lent support to the organization of the camp and was thereby both involved in and advanced the extermination with these cruel and insidious killings of at least 3,681 people.”
Proceedings against Hubert Zafke will begin on February 29 in Neubrandenburg, near Berlin. He was examined by psychiatric doctors last year on the orders of a court in Rostock. According to the doctors, Zafke was “mentally sound enough to answer for his role in the murders of 3,681 people.”
The accused served at the premier Nazi extermination facility in Nazi-occupied Poland as a medic, reported New York Daily News. He insists that he stayed away from the mass murders, mostly of Jews, that Hitler’s Nazi army committed. In Poland itself, the concentration camps and other brutal torture techniques, including invasions, killed as many as 1.2 million people, most of them innocent men, women, and children. Hitler zealously believed that the Aryan race, to which he belonged, was the only genetically superior race worthy of living, and any other race was chalked up for extermination.
The indictment states that the prisoners in the medical block at Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered while Zafke was on active duty. The trial hinges on the argument that Zafke, despite being fully aware of his duties, as well as the fact that he worked in an extermination camp, was “supportive of the running of this extermination camp,” reported the Daily Mail.
Incidentally, Zafke was on active duty as a medic in the Auschwitz concentration camp when Anne Frank came in on a train from Holland’s Westerbork concentration camp. Frank arrived at the camp along with 498 men, 442 women, and 79 children. It is Frank’s accounts during her imprisonment in the camps which is widely considered as one of the most poignant pieces of holocaust literature.
The lawsuit claims that Zafke, who was the son of a farmer, joined the Hitler Youth when he was just a teenager. His recruitment happened in his hometown of Schoenau, which is now part of Poland. Incidentally, during his early days, Zafke was made a junior squad leader. The rank was usually reserved for men who were considered as future officer material.
The prosecutors insist that the medic isn’t being charged for any specific murder. He is being tried for being an accomplice to the murders of the 3,681 victims that took place at Auschwitz between August 14 and September 14, 1944.
[Photo by Birkenau Scott Barbour/Getty Images]