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Germany arrests 93-yo former Nazi medic over WWII Auschwitz massacres

Published time: March 19, 2014 17:40
Edited time: March 21, 2014 08:59
Former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

Former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

German police have arrested a former Nazi medic on suspicion of "multiple counts" of aiding and abetting murder when he was serving as a medic in the Auschwitz death camp, according to the local prosecutors’ office.

A 93-year-old suspect was arrested on Monday at his home near the town of Neubrandenburg, in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northern Germany.

A doctor examined the man after his arrest and determined that the suspect “was in good enough health to be held in custody while authorities investigate further,” according to Stefan Urbanek, spokesman from the prosecutors' office in Schwerin, the state capital.

The prosecutor refused to reveal the pensioner’s identity due to German privacy rules. The man is now being held in pre-trial detention.

A former member of the SS (Schutzstaffel), a major paramilitary organization under the Nazis from 1925 to 1945, the accused allegedly assisted in massacres of prisoners transported from Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia to the Auschwitz -Birkenau camp in September 1944.

Nearly 1,721 of those who arrived that year in the camp were killed in gas chambers, after they were considered unfit for forced labor, said the prosecution office.

According to Schwerin authorities, the arrest of the Nazi medic came after a tip-off from the German office investigating Nazi war crimes. However, the prosecutors did not specify when exactly the call took place.

The World Jewish Congress immediately praised Germany for "not relenting in the pursuit of those who murdered, or aided in murdering, thousands of people during World War II."

"The prosecution of those who participated in terrible crimes sends a clear message that justice must be done, no matter how late the hour," said Ronald Lauder, World Jewish Congress president, adding that “mass murderers must continue to live in fear of the long arm of the law.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, built and operated by the Third Reich in occupied Poland, was the largest Nazi concentration camp during WWII. It was established as the place of "final solution” in the policy of annihilating the Jewish people in Europe.

About 1.3 million people of various nationalities were killed in the camp, around 90 percent were Jewish, according to data given by the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

In 1958 German authorities founded the center for solving crimes of National Socialism in Ludwigsburg. Since then it has tracked down a total of 7,485 Nazi criminals.

German authorities only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence proved their personal commitment in war crimes. However, the situation changed in 2011 after a Munich court sentenced SS voluntary assistant, Ivan Demjanjuk, to five years in prison when he was found guilty of complicity in some 30,000 Jewish deaths in German-occupied Poland during World War II. He is being cited as an example by the center as a reason for people not to rest on their laurels when it comes to catching remaining war criminals.

After the arrest of Demjanjuk, Germany launched a renewed Nazi-hunting campaign in the summer of 2013, with the aim of bringing to justice surviving suspects involved in World War II hate crimes. Two thousand placards with a tagline that reads “Late, but not too late” have been plastered across German cities, including Berlin, with the intention of trapping the dregs of Germany’s Nazi war criminals.

One of the latest cases was in January 2014, when the country charged an 88-year-old man with involvement in one of the Nazi’s worst massacres in a village in central France in June of 1944, when 642 people were murdered.

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