An 89-year-old Czechoslovakian immigrant was arrested by federal officials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Wednesday to face charges related to allegations that he worked for the Nazis at concentration camps during World War II.
The New York Times wrote on Wednesday that the case against Johann Breyer of Philly could very well be the last legal battle involving an accused Nazi to ever be held on US soil.
Prosecutors in both the US and Germany believe that Breyer, who immigrated to the US in 1952, was a Nazi SS guard at both Auschwitz and Buchenwald and participated in the murders of “hundreds of thousands” of Jews from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany during WW2.
The octogenarian was in Federal District Court on Wednesday to face charges to coincide with a German indictment unsealed that same day. In that complaint, officials in Germany blamed Breyer with 158 counts of aiding and abetting during the Holocaust, and could stand trial to face those charges there if a request for his extradition is approved in the US.
Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice ordered Breyer to be held without bail due to “the serious nature of the crime,” the Times reported, and according to the Wall Street Journal he will now remain in US custody until his extradition hearing is held on August 21.
Dennis Boyle, an attorney for Breyer, told the Journal that the charges against his client lacked merit.
"There have already been a number of hearings where the allegations made by the German government have been proven false," he told the paper ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. "I don't think this is something that has any merit or should move forward."
Prosecutors believe otherwise, however, and say that Breyer is implicated in the murders of thousands of Jews. According to the Journal, the just unsealed complaint against Breyer charges him with one count for each of the 158 trainloads of Jews who were hauled to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944 while he worked as a guard there.
Breyer was reportedly promoted at least once during his tenure at the camp and, according to the complaint, "Such benefits were not afforded to a guard who failed or refused to perform the full range of duties of an SS Death's Head Battalion guard.”
One year ago this week, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told the Daily Intelligencer that the number of surviving Nazi war criminals in the US could be in the hundreds.