Former Nazi camp guard, 101, convicted of complicity in murders

A German court has handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Josef Schütz was found guilty on Tuesday of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

Schütz had said he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the crimes being carried out at the camp. “I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of the trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said Schütz “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp in his role as a guard, though he was not accused of having actively carried out any of the murders.

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of inmates were murdered or died from forced labour, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said Schütz aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”. He was 21 years old at the time.

Schütz made several inconsistent statements about his past during the trial, complaining that he was getting “mixed up” and that he had never been a guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Instead, he said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of the war, a claim contradicted by several historical documents identifying an SS guard who bore his name, date and place of birth.

Given his age, the centenarian is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, despite his conviction and sentence. His lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said before the verdict that if found guilty he would appeal. Citing a ruling by the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe, the lawyer said working as a security guard at a concentration camp alone should not suffice for a guilty verdict.

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