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Did 93-Year-Old Auschwitz Guard Pick Out ‘Weak’ for Death?

A 93-year-old man has been charged in Germany as an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people, most Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The district court of Detmold must now decide whether to allow the prosecution of the so-far unnamed man, one of several former guards who have been investigated and charged in recent months.

The former SS-member reportedly has admitted being stationed at the camp from early 1942, but he denies having any involvement in murder, according to the state prosecutor of Dortmund, where the charges were filed Monday.

As reported by the German broadcasting agency WDR, investigators say the accused was involved in murders from January 1943 to June 1944, involving Jews deported from Hungary, mass shooting operations, and “selection” of ill and weak deportees on the arrival ramp, for extermination. He also allegedly knew that the systematic murder could not have taken place without assistants like him, according to the charge.

The accused allegedly was responsible for guarding the main camp, as well as the selection on the arrival ramp of new deportees from the newly arrived cattle cars. According to WDR, in May and June 1944 alone, 92 transports arrived with Jews from Hungary, from which those deemed unable to work were sent to the gas chambers.

It is possible that the accused will not be tried due to his extreme age; similar cases were dropped in 2014 for that reason, WDR reported.

Recently, an investigation was opened against a 93-year-old woman in Hamburg, Hilde Michnia, for her role as an SS guard during a death march. She has denied participating in any atrocities.

In the city of Lüneburg, former Waffen-SS member Oskar Groening, also 93, has admitted to being a guard in Auschwitz and has expressed shame for having been “a cog in the killing machine that eliminated millions of innocent people.” Allegedly, he was involved with removing luggage from the arrival platform, so that new arrivals would not see evidence of the murder of those who had preceded them.

Clues leading to about 30 suspects in late 2013 came from the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg, which made a major push to identify former death camp guards after the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011 for his role in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

That case set the precedent that being a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder.

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