Former Nazi concentration camp guard, 101, given five years for aiding murder

Josef S hides his face as he arrives at a makeshift courtroom in Brandenburg an der Havel. Credit: AP

A 101-year-old man has been jailed for five years for assisting in the murder of thousands of prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany during the Second World War.

Prosecutors said that 'Josef S', an ex-member of the SS, helped to send 3,518 people to their deaths at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, by regularly standing guard in the watchtower between 1942 and 1945.

The oldest Nazi criminal ever to stand trial in a German court, the 101-year-old was on Tuesday convicted of more than 3,500 counts of accessory to murder.

He was not accused of having actively carried out any of the murders and had always denied being an SS guard at the camp.

A roll call in front of the camp gate of the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg. Credit: AP

In the trial, which opened in October, the centenarian said that he had worked as a farm labourer near Pasewalk in north-eastern Germany during the period in question.

However, the court considered it proven that he worked at the camp on the outskirts of Berlin between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing, according to reports.

“The court has come to the conclusion that, contrary to what you claim, you worked in the concentration camp as a guard for about three years,” presiding Judge Udo Lechtermann was quoted as saying.

“You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity,” Mr Lechtermann added.

“You watched deported people being cruelly tortured and murdered there every day for three years.”

Main Judge Udo Lechtermann at the court room in Brandenburg. Credit: AP

Prosecutors had based their case on documents relating to an SS guard with the man’s name, date and place of birth, as well as other documents.

Tens of thousands of people died at Sachsenhausen during WWII from starvation, forced labour, medical experiments and murder by the SS.

More than 200,000 people, including Jewish people, Roma, political opponents and gay people, were detained at Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945.

The trial took so long as doctors had said Josef S, whose full name was not disclosed due to reporting rules, was not fully fit to stand trial, which took place in Brandenburg an der Havel.

Proceedings were said to have been adjourned several times for health reasons and hospital stays, and sessions were limited to two-and-a-half hours per day.

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The defendant’s lawyer had sought an acquittal, with German news agency dpa reporting that defence attorney Stefan Waterkamp had said he would appeal the verdict.

The country's leading Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, welcomed the ruling. “Even if the defendant will probably not serve the full prison sentence due to his advanced age, the verdict is to be welcomed,” Josef Schuster, the group's head, said. “The thousands of people who worked in the concentration camps kept the murder machinery running. They were part of the system, so they should take responsibility for it.”

“It is bitter that the defendant has denied his activities at that time until the end and has shown no remorse.”