14:51 GMT29 January 2020
Listen Live
    Europe
    Get short URL
    1666
    Subscribe

    A court in Germany has suspended the trial of a 95-year old man who worked as an SS medic in Auschwitz.

    A judge in Neubrandenburg, northeast Germany, decided that Hubert Zafke was "not in a state" to stand trial.

    Zafke, a former orderly, had been charged for being complicit in the death of at least 3,681 people in the Nazi extermination camp.

    While he has admitted to have worked in Auschwitz, Zafke denies to have had any knowledge of the mass murder taking place in the camp, let alone playing a role in it.

    Prosecutors contend that claim, arguing that Zafke's office was near a path leading to the gas chambers, and that he would have certainly noticed at least the thick smoke coming out of the crematorium's stacks.

    Charges against Zafke refer to one month he spent working in the camp between August and September 1944. During this time, fourteen trains had arrived to the camp, carrying over three thousands Jews from Poland, Germany, Slovenia, Greece and the Netherlands.

    • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      © AFP 2019 / Yad Vashem Archives
    • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      © AFP 2019 / Yad Vashem Archives
    • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      © AFP 2019 /
    • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      © AFP 2019 /
    • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      Auschwitz Concentration Camp
      © AFP 2019 / Yad Vashem Archives
    1 / 5
    © AFP 2019 / Yad Vashem Archives
    Auschwitz Concentration Camp

    A doctor who examined the defendant opined that he had "suicidal thoughts and was suffering from stress reaction and hypertension" which made it impossible for him to be transported to court or be heard.

    The court has established other possible hearing dates on 14 and 30 March.

    This is not the first time Zafke is deemed unsuitable for trial: a court had initially ruled against it because he had dementia, although the verdict had been changed following an appeal.

    Zafke's trial typifies a recent judicial trend in Germany, which has started charging people with being complicit in the Holocaust if they worked in a Nazi organization, regardless of their role.

    Simply being cogs in the Nazi genocidal machine is now regarded as sufficient basis for prosecution, even if they did not directly take part in mass murder.

    A precedent-setting case is John Demjanjuk, once a guard at Sobibor camp, who in 2011 was sentenced for being an accessory to the Holocaust, although there was no evidence of him actually killing anybody.

    This is a reversal of the legal rationale employed in all trials of Nazis since Nuremberg in 1945 — previously, a judge could sentence somebody only if there was proof of their active participation in the brutality and killings.

    As time goes by, holding former Nazis accountable will become increasingly difficult, as most of them are now in their nineties and reaching the end of their lives.

    The growing scarcity of elderly Holocaust survivors and witnesses is also problematic — they are instrumental to trials involving Nazi crimes.

    Holocaust survivor Mordechai Ronen (C) from the US is comforted by his son as he is overcome by emotion standing next to President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder (2nd R) as he arrives at the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim on January 26, 2015.
    © AFP 2019 / Odd Andersen
    Holocaust survivor Mordechai Ronen (C) from the US is comforted by his son as he is overcome by emotion standing next to President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder (2nd R) as he arrives at the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim on January 26, 2015.

    The judge hearing Zafke's cases had initially decided against having Auschwitz survivors speak in court, but reversed the decision following protests. 

    Related:

    ‘Never Too Late’: 94-Year-Old Former Nazi Guard on Trial in Germany
    70-Year Scandal: Germany Still Paying Pensions to Spanish Nazi Fighters
    Nuremberg Trial Triumph of Justice, Not Revenge for Nazi Germany – Diplomat
    91-Year-Old Woman Charged With 260,000 Counts of Nazi War Crimes
    German Court Postpones Trial of 96-Year-Old Nazi Commander
    Terrible Failure: Top Danish ‘Nazi Murderer’ Dies Without Trial
    Tags:
    trial, concentration camp, war crimes, history, court, Holocaust, Nazis, Waffen SS, Nazi Germany, Auschwitz, Germany
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik