An 89-year-old Nazi war crimes suspect died in Philadelphia Tuesday night, just hours before a U.S. ruling that he should be extradited to Germany to face trial. Johann Breyer died at a Philadelphia hospital where he was transferred Saturday after spending a month in jail.
Breyer’s lawyer and the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed the suspect’s death, which was disclosed Wednesday just as U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice approved the extradition request, reports MSN News. Rice found probable cause that the 89-year-old was the person being sought by German authorities over his suspected service as an SS guard at Auschwitz death camp during World War II.
U.S. marshals arrested Breyer in June outside his home in Philadelphia to face charges of aiding in the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women, and children at the death camp. Rice wrote in the extradition approval:
“As outlined by German, a death camp guard such as Breyer could not have served at Auschwitz during the peak of the Nazi reign of terror in 1944 without knowing that hundreds of thousands of human beings were being brutally slaughtered in gas chambers and then burned on site.”
In his defense, the Nazi war crimes suspect claimed he was not aware of the massive slaughter of Jews at Auschwitz, and that he did not participate in it. Rice cited German allegations that contradicted Johann Breyer’s claims. He added in the ruling, “No statute of limitations offers a safe haven for murder.”
ABC News notes that German authorities in Weiden issued a warrant in 2013 charging Breyer with accessory to murder under the theory that the death camp’s sole purpose was to kill people. The same legal strategy worked to charge and convict former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk on charges that he served as a death camp guard at Sobibor in Poland. Demjanjuk died in a nursing home in Germany two years ago while appealing his conviction.
The 2013 warrant accused Johann Breyer of 158 counts of accessory to murder — one count for each trainload of victims dropped off at Auschwitz from May to October 1944, when he allegedly spent time there as a guard.
Breyer admitted to the Associated Press in 2012 that, while he was a guard at Auschwitz, he was assigned to a part of the camp that was not involved in the slaughter of prisoners. He added, “I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t rape anybody — and I don’t even have a traffic ticket here. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The Nazi war crimes suspect died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, but Boyle did not know the cause of death.
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