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The century-old Nazi was on trial. Due to the murders of 3,500 people

He arrived in a wheelchair in front of the courthouse, a briefcase in his hands. He had to use a walker to enter the building. He covered his face with blue boards, preventing photographers from taking the picture.

The image from the trial faithfully illustrates the fact that the time when former Nazi criminals can face a fair trial is slowly coming to an end. Many of them are already dead. Josef S., who supervised the prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, reached almost 101 years of age at the beginning of the trial. He is still the oldest Nazi defendant to stand trial, the BBC points out.

Josef S., as the former SS Nazi supervisor is mentioned, began working in Sachsenhausen near Berlin in January 1942, when he was twenty-one years old. The prosecutor’s office accuses him of, among other things, the shooting of a Soviet prisoner of war, his involvement in the murders of prisoners with gas and the death of others who did not survive the cruel treatment and hunger. He was to assist in the murder of at least 3518 prisoners.

Between 1936 and 1945, more than 200,000 prisoners passed through Sachsenhausen, of which tens of thousands died. The painter and writer Josef Čapek, who died at the end of the war in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, was also imprisoned here for several years.

“The defendant made a conscious and deliberate contribution to this by conscientiously performing his duty as a warden, which was part of the deadly system,” said Prosecutor Cyrill Klement, according to the DPA, as he read the indictment. Josef S.’s lawyer Stefan Waterkamp stated that his client did not want to comment on the accusation and that he would speak on his personal circumstances on Friday.

Several survivors and relatives of the victims also joined the lawsuit. Thomas Walther, who represents some families, told reporters that the process was extremely important for the victims. “They will be heard, which has not really happened yet,” he said. Trials with lower-ranking Nazis have only begun in recent years.

One of the survivors is Christoffel Heijer, who was six years old when he last saw his father. Johan Hendrik Heijer was among 71 Dutch resistance fighters who were shot dead in a concentration camp. “Murder is not fate, it is not a crime that can be legally erased over time,” he told the Berliner Zeitung.

Among the survivors who joined the lawsuit is, for example, Leon Schwarzenbaum, who is also one hundred years old today. The man who passed through the Sachsenhausen camp said that this was “the last trial for my friends, acquaintances and my loved ones who were murdered”, hoping for a final conviction.

Christoph Heubner, vice-president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said he was disappointed with Josef S.’s decision not to comment. “Even so, we hope that when people here testify about the murder of their fathers in Sachsenhausen, it moves the defendants and is willing to look for words, he will be willing to create a bridge between his story and the suffering of others,” Heubner said.

However, according to RBB television, the defendant of the defendant Waterkamp believes that the court is OK, but it came too late. “It would bring more peace and quiet and also justice if it took place in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s,” he said. As part of the trial with Josef S., another 21 hearings are to take place, which should end in January 2022.

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.

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 murder of more than 28,000 Jews, but did not serve his sentence and died in 2012 before the end of the appeals process.

A 96-year-old former secretary at the Nazi concentration camp Stutthof is now responsible for aiding the murder of more than 11,000 prisoners during World War II in Germany. She now 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 5,000 prisoners.

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