A 98-year-old man from Main-Kinzig county near Frankfurt, Germany, has been charged with being an accessory to murder as a guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the Nazi regime. Prosecutors in Giessen announced the charges on Friday, accusing the German citizen of supporting the "cruel and malicious killing of thousands of prisoners" as a member of the SS guard detail. The suspect, whose name was not released, is facing more than 3,300 counts of being an accessory to murder between July 1943 and February 1945.
The indictment has been filed at the state court in Hanau, which will now decide whether to send the case to trial. If the case proceeds, the defendant will be tried under juvenile law, taking into account his age at the time of the alleged crimes. Last October, a psychiatric expert's report concluded that the suspect is fit to stand trial, at least on a limited basis. This recent development is part of a broader effort by German prosecutors to hold surviving SS personnel accountable for their roles in Nazi camps.
Sachsenhausen, located just north of Berlin, held over 200,000 individuals captive between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of prisoners died as a result of starvation, disease, forced labor, medical experiments, and systematic SS extermination operations, including shootings, hangings, and gassing. While the exact number of deaths remains disputed, scholars estimate the figures to be between 40,000 and 50,000, with some upper estimates reaching 100,000.
Germany's legal framework enables the trials of surviving SS personnel, even when there is no direct evidence of their participation in specific killings. Charges of murder and being an accessory to murder are not subject to a statute of limitations under German law. However, due to the advanced age of the accused, many trials have been canceled for health reasons. Additionally, convictions do not result in actual imprisonment, as many defendants die before serving their jail terms.
Notable cases of late trials involving former Nazi camp guards include Oskar Groening, known as the "Accountant of Auschwitz," and Reinhold Hanning, both found guilty of complicity in mass murder at age 94 but died before imprisonment. Another case involved 101-year-old Josef Schuetz, who became the oldest person to be put on trial for complicity last year; he died in April while awaiting the outcome of an appeal against his five-year jail sentence. In December 2022, 97-year-old Irmgard Furchner, a former concentration camp secretary, became the first woman in decades to be tried for Nazi crimes. She was found guilty of complicity in the murders of over 10,500 individuals at the Stutthof camp.
The pursuit of justice for those involved in Nazi crimes continues, with this latest case serving as a reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.