Eight suspected Nazi concentration camp workers have been captured in Germany, and could now face justice for their alleged actions more than 70 years ago.
According to the AP, citing German-language news agency dpa, the four men and four women were believed to have been assigned to Germany’s Stutthof concentration camp during World War II. The Nazi camp suspects — who are thought to have worked in various positions within the concentration camp — are now being assessed by German prosecutors as to whether or not they could be found culpable as accessories to murder.
Jens Rommel, the head of Germany’s special prosecutor’s office investigating potential Nazi war crimes, led the charge against the suspects, and has now handed the individuals over to prosecutors.
“The investigations concern four men and four women who worked at the German concentration camp in Danzig,” said Rommel to Germany’s the Local. “The men worked as guards, while the women were employed as secretaries or telephone operators, and all were born between 1918 and 1923.”
Rommel’s office, it should be noted, acts only in an investigative manner and does not bring charges against any possible Nazi war criminals that it finds.
While charges are likely to be filed against the Nazi concentration camp suspects, the legal thought process in Germany has often prevented such action from being taken in the past.
As noted by the Local, Germany’s authorities had been severely handcuffed “for decades” in their abilities to bring suspected Nazi-era criminals to justice following a federal court ruling in 1969. Per the news source, this stance asserted a belief that “simply working in one of the camps did not constitute being an accomplice to murder.”
More recently, however, individuals can be prosecuted — even in the absence of any specific evidence — if it can be proven that they contributed in any way toward helping any of Germany’s concentration camps operate.
The legal basis for more easily making convictions more easily did not come until the 2011 conviction of believed Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, who, the Local noted, was sentenced “not for atrocities he was known to have committed, but on the basis that he served at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland — for having been a cog in the Nazis’ killing machine.”
Other noteworthy sentences — per the Local — since that time have included the following.
- 2015 – Oskar Groning, a.k.a. “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” (four years).
- 2016 – Reinhold Hanning, a former German S.S. guard (five years).
Despite having made some headway in recent years, Rommel believes that there is still a lot more that can be accomplished before the last of the Nazi regime dies off.
“We are hoping for a clarification from the federal court on what the current legal view is on affiliation with a concentration camp,” said Rommel, again via the Local. In particular, Rommel is hoping that Germany’s high court will ultimately overturn its 1969 ruling that still limits his agency from prosecuting Nazi concentration camp suspects.
The names of the new crop of eight Nazi concentration camp suspects have not been released to the public.
What is known, however, is that more than 65,000 people, primarily of Jewish origin, are believed to have died at the Stutthof concentration camp alone.
[Photo by Horace Abrahams / Keystone / Getty Images]