Several former Auschwitz guards are facing prosecution in Germany for crimes they allegedly committed during World War II. The 30 guards are expected to be charged as accessory to murder.
The list of 30 names came from an initial pool of 50 former guards, which was drawn up by authorities earlier this year. Their expected trial is part of a larger push to prosecute lower-level perpetrators of the Holocaust.
While it may seem strange to prosecute a person for war crimes decades after the fact, The New York Times reports that a 2011 case ruling set a new legal precedent for possible charges in WWII.
The precedent was set during the trial and conviction of John Demjanjuk, who spent time at the Sobibor death camp as a guard. He was charged and found guilty of accessory to the murder of all 28,060 people who perished there.
However, there was no proof Demjanjuk was linked specifically to the deaths. In light of the ruling, Kurt Schrimm, chief prosecutor for Nazi-era crimes, stated that his office views service as a watchman or sentry at any of the Nazis’ death camps was a punishable crime.
ABC Local notes that charges against the 30 former Auschwitz guards won’t be the only ones of their kind either. It is likely that more cases will be opened against former guards at the Nazis’ other five main death camps.
However, Schrimm cautioned that the health of suspects, who are all in their 80s and 90s, will make it difficult to bring their cases to trial. He added, “I don’t want to raise excessive expectations.”
In the new charges of Auschqitz guards, Schrimm commented that even guards who worked in the kitchens could be charged, since they played a role in the facilities function. The six camps were built specifically to kill people, and Auschwitz succeeded in that respect. An estimated 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, perished there between 1940 and 1945.
Along with Auschwitz, guards who worked at Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka will likely also face charges.
[Image by Pimke via Wikimedia Commons]