100-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard told German court he was “innocent”
A 100-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person accused of aiding and abetting thousands of detainees, told a German court on Friday that he was not guilty.
“I am innocent,” said Josef Schuetz, who is accused of “knowingly and willfully” aiding in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.
The Sachsenhausen camp detained more than 200,000 people between 1936 and 1945, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and homosexuals.
Tens of thousands of detainees died from forced labor, murder, medical experiments, hunger or illness before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.
When asked about his work at the camp, Schuetz insisted that he knew nothing about what had happened there and that he had “absolutely nothing”.
Allegations against Schuetz include aiding and abetting “the execution by a firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using poison gas Zyklon B”.
His claims of innocence sparked an uproar from the co-plaintiffs.
Pointing the finger at the accused, co-plaintiff Christoffel Heijer, 84, told the court: “To Mr Schuetz I would like to say – I can understand that fear of the Nazis made you not quit your job, but how did you sleep peacefully for so long? Didn’t you think about it? Did you never feel guilty?
Christoph Heubner, vice-president of the International Auschwitz Committee lamented that “the silence continues”.
“This trial has great significance but it would serve society more if the accused participated more in it,” he said.
“No man like you”
Schuetz’s defense said at the opening of the case on Thursday that he would not talk about his time at the camp, but would only provide details about his personal life.
Arriving alone on the second day of the hearing with his walking aid, Schuetz recounted in detail his past, including his work on the family farm in Lithuania with his seven siblings before he enlisted in the military in 1938.
After the war he was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before being sent to the state of Brandenburg in Germany where he worked as a farmer and then as a locksmith.
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Speaking in a clear voice, he spoke of his past birthdays with his daughters and grandchildren, or his late wife.
“My wife always said that there is no other man in the world like you”, says the widower since 1986.
Schuetz remains free during the test. Even if he is found guilty, it is highly unlikely that he will be put behind bars given his age.
More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are rushing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.
The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk on the grounds that he was part of Hitler’s killing machine set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight court cases.
Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on these grounds rather than murders or atrocities directly related to the accused individual. Auschwitz.
Both were sentenced at the age of 94 for aiding and abetting mass murder, but died before they could be jailed.
Most recently, former SS guard Bruno Dey was convicted at the age of 93 last year and received a two-year suspended prison sentence.
Separately, in the town of Itzehoe, in northern Germany, a 96-year-old former secretary in a Nazi extermination camp is on trial for complicity in murder.
She fled in a dramatic fashion before her trial began, but was caught several hours later. His trial resumed on October 19.