Ex-SS sergeant, 95, stands trial over ‘Auschwitz service’

Hubert Zafke is accused of working as a medic in Auschwitz in an SS hospital. Picture: PA

Hubert Zafke is accused of working as a medic in Auschwitz in an SS hospital. Picture: PA

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A German court said yesterday that a 95-year-old man will go on trial next month on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly serving in the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.

Hubert Zafke is accused of working as a medic in Auschwitz in an SS hospital. Prosecutors argue that in that role, the former SS sergeant helped the death camp function.

An appeals court in December ruled he was fit for trial, though the Neubrandenburg state court said yesterday that when his trial opens on 29 February, judges will have to assess whether he needs special accommodation.

Zafke’s attorney insists his client did nothing criminal at Auschwitz.

Another former SS man, Reinhold Hanning, 94, is going on trial on 11 February on accusations he served as an Auschwitz guard from 1943-44.

Prosecutors yesterday said Zafke was “aware of the purpose of the Birkenau camp as an extermination camp” and accused him of being complicit in the “cruel and insidious killings of at least 3,681 people”.

“Given his awareness, the accused lent support to the organisation of the camp and was thereby both involved in and advanced the extermination,” they said.

The court in Neubrandenburg had acknowledged the elderly man had “cognitive impairments and low physical capacity” and ordered him to be given medical care and regular breaks during the trial.

German media have reported that the 95-year-old is suffering from dementia.

It is estimated that more than 1.1 million people, mostly European Jews, were killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it was liberated by Soviet forces in 1945.

Nearly a dozen trials against former Nazi death camp workers are already under way. Last year, Oskar Groening, 94, was jailed for four months for facilitating the murder of around 4,000 people.

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