Josef S., as the former SS Nazi warden is mentioned, began working in Sachsenhausen near Berlin in January 1942 as a 21-year-old. Coincidentally, the trial, which began and for which 21 days of negotiations are still planned, should end in January 2022, 80 years after the defendant arrived in Sachsenhausen. He worked here until the end of the war.
For the Nazis, Sachsenhausen was a model concentration camp. It was a place of mass executions, hunger and slave labor, with over two hundred thousand prisoners passing through it between 1936 and 1945. Drastic conditions did not survive 60 thousand of them. For example, the painter Josef Čapek or 1,200 Czech students arrested after the protests in 1939 went through the hell of the camp.
The prosecutor’s office accuses Josef S., among other things, of shooting a Soviet prisoner of war, involved in the murder of prisoners by gas and in the death of others who did not survive the cruel treatment and hunger. Several survivors and relatives of the victims also joined the lawsuit. Thomas Walther, who represents some families, said the process was extremely important for the victims. “They will be heard, which has not really happened yet,” he said.
Even if Josef S. did not prove a specific murder, according to German law, as a wheel in the criminal machinery, he helped its functioning. The indictment is: Complicity in the murder in more than three and a half thousand cases.
Authorities have strengthened police protection of the process. For capacity and security reasons, it is not held in the courthouse, but in the gym the prison has not given a place where the 100-year-old defendant lives.
According to RBB television, defendant defendant Stefan Waterkamp believes that the trial is in order, but it is too late. “It would bring more peace and quiet and also justice if it took place in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s,” he said.
However, in recent years, the German judiciary has been prosecuting suspected war criminals, regardless of their advanced age, and advocates the process of seeking justice for the victims of Nazi atrocities. Josef S. was brought to trial by Thomas Will. This is nicknamed the German Nazi hunter No. 1.
The trial of the former warden from the Sobibor extermination camp, John Demjanjuk, who, after long vicissitudes, was brought to justice in 2011, when he was 91, is considered a turning point. Demjanjuk was eventually sentenced to five years in prison for aiding and abetting the murders of more than 28,000 Jews, but did not serve his sentence and died in 2012 before the end of the appeals process.
The ninety-six-year-old former secretary at the Nazi concentration camp Stutthof is now also responsible for aiding in the assassination of more than 11,000 prisoners during World War II. She spent several days in custody because she did not show up for the trial. According to the prosecutor’s office, the woman rewrote the camp commander’s orders for executions or lists deported to Auschwitz.
Last year, the court imposed a two-year suspended sentence on a man who worked as a supervisor in the Stutthof camp during the war. He was 93 years old at the time of the verdict. The prosecutor’s office accused him of aiding and abetting the murders of more than five thousand prisoners.