A German court on Tuesday sentenced Josef Schuetz, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, to five years in prison for complicity in murder and attempted murder. At 101, he is the oldest person to be tried for Nazi crimes.
Prosecutors accused the retiree of involvement in the murder of at least 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 in World War II. The court found that during those three years Josef S. served as a camp guard and was a member of the Nazi paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel (SS).
Prosecutors claim that he, as a guard at the camp, “knowingly and willingly” participated in crimes, and have asked that he be punished with five years in prison.
Former Nazi guard Josef Schuetz hiding his face as he attends the trial (Photo: Adam Berry/AFP)
Through his work as a guard, he “voluntarily supported mass extermination,” concluded Judge Udo Lechtermann. It was not possible to verify whether Josef S. himself carried out the crimes because there were no more living witnesses.
What were the charges?
The charges against Josef S. include participation in the “execution by shooting of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the use of “Zyklon B poisonous gas” in the gas chambers of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Photo from 2018 shows the gate of the former Nazi concentration camp in Stutthof — Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP
He had been on trial since October at the Neuruppin regional court. Hearings on the case were held in the nearby city of Brandenburg, in eastern Germany.
The man, who lives in the state of Brandenburg, pleaded not guilty throughout the trial and denied having worked as a camp guard. He re-emphasized this on Monday.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” he said again at the end of the process. Under cross-examination, the defendant previously stated that he did “absolutely nothing”. He denied having knowledge of the vast crimes that took place in Sachsenhausen.
What happened in Sachsenhausen?
More than 200,000 people – mostly Jews, but also members of the Roma community, regime opponents and gay men – were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1936 and 1945 for no other reason than their religious and ethnic identity, sexuality or political beliefs. In total, six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
Black and white image features Sachsenhausen concentration camp — Photo: Associated Press
The Sachsenhausen camp was located in a district of the small town of Oranienburg, close to Berlin. Since its completion in 1936, the site has served as a model for other Nazi concentration camps. It also served as a training ground for personnel of the SS paramilitary organization.
Tens of thousands died there as a result of forced labor or as a result of unethical medical experiments, starvation and disease, in addition to the mass murders that took place there.
Soviet troops were the first to arrive to liberate the camp in 1945.