BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — Germany charged a 93-year-old former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS yesterday with at least 300,000 counts of accessory to murder over his time at the Auschwitz death camp.
The charges relate to the around 425,000 people believed to have been deported to the camp in occupied Poland between May and July 1944, at least 300,000 of whom were killed in the gas chambers.
The accused helped remove the luggage of victims so that it was not seen by new arrivals, said prosecutors in the northern city of Hanover.
“The traces of the mass killing of concentration camp prisoners were thereby supposed to be covered for subsequent inmates,” prosecutors said in a statement.
His main role was to count the banknotes gathered from prisoners’ luggage and pass them on to the SS authorities in Berlin, they added.
Prosecutors said the accused was aware that the predominantly Jewish prisoners deemed unfit to work “were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz”.
A regional court must now decide whether the accused will go on trial.
The German office investigating Nazi war crimes last year sent files on 30 former Auschwitz personnel to state prosecutors with a recommendation to bring charges against them.
The renewed drive to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust follows a 2011 landmark court ruling.
For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.
But in 2011 a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.
More than one million people, mostly European Jews, perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, operated by the Nazis from 1940 until it was liberated by Russian forces on January 27, 1945.