In Berlin, a 95-year-old man had been charged as an accessory to the murder of over 36,000 inmates at the Mauthausen death camp in Austria during World War II, according to Channel News Asia. The man is alleged to have served in a Nazi SS company at Mauthausen from 1944 to 1945. Identified only as Hans H. by the Berlin prosecutor’s office, due to legal concerns, the man is accused of working as a guard at the camp and during forced marches of inmates during the war.
The Berlin prosecutor’s office said that it was charging Hans H. under new laws that provide for the prosecution of individuals who operated the Nazi “machinery of death,” even if they didn’t personally kill anyone. Hans H.’s alleged service at Mauthausen during those two years of the war led to his prosecution.
“During the time of the crime, at least 36,223 people were killed at the Mauthausen concentration camp. The killings were mostly carried out through gassing, but also through ‘death bath actions,’ injections and shootings, as well as through starvation and freezing,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The suspect was “aware of all the killing methods as well as the disastrous living conditions of the incarcerated people at the camp” the statement said, and that Hans H. wanted to “support or at least help make easier the many thousands of deaths carried out by the main perpetrator.”
Germany has recently stepped up efforts to bring lower-level Nazi operators to justice after the successful conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011. Demjanjuk, a former guard at the Sobibor death camp, was convicted with no proof of a specific crime, which set a precedent for the successful prosecution of death camp workers. Most of the previous individuals convicted under these circumstances have died before serving any time in prison due to the extreme old age of the individuals involved.
The trials have raised concerns about the due process of law in Germany, where the nation has accepted its culpability in the Holocaust and has taken dramatic measures to ensure that such a thing never happens again. In a related trial, heated legal debate has centered on the defendant, another 95-year-old former death camp guard at Stutthoff, who has protested that he was never a Nazi and was not indifferent to the suffering of the inmates.
The Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex, located about 20 km east of Linz, was one of the largest forced labor camp complexes. An estimated 320,000 inmates died at the complex, which was the last to be liberated by the Allied forces at the end of World War II. Referred to within the Nazi ranks as “the bone grinder,” it is arguably the most brutal of the death camps, and was dedicated to exterminating the political enemies of Hitler’s Third Reich.