SS medic, 95, goes on trial

SS medic, 95, goes on trial

Hungarian Jews arrive at Auschwitz in 1944. Source: Wikimedia

The trial of a 95-year-old former SS medic has started in Germany, after his mass murder trial was adjourned three times for health reasons.

Hubert Zafke appeared in court in the northeastern city of Neubrandenburg accused of assisting in the killing of 3,681 inmates at Auschwitz. The indictment covers a month, August to September, 1944, a period in which 14 trains arrived filled with prisoners to be killed.

About 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz, most of whom were Jews. On three previous occasions his defence has argued he suffered from high-blood pressure and suicidal thoughts but this time he was cleared to face trial.

Camp survivors and the International Auschwitz Committee had criticised the trial’s delays, calling the process “torturously slow”.

According to the indictment, the SS medic spent the summer of 1944 in the medical department at Auschwitz. Zafke says he treated only wounded soldiers and SS personnel.

Prosecutors argued that, like other SS guards at Auschwitz, Zafke understood the camp’s role as “an industrial-scale mass murder site”. Thousands died while he worked there. Dutch Jewish girl Anne Frank arrived during the period. She died at Bergen-Belsen, shortly before the British liberated it in 1945.

In June, a court sentenced ex-Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning, 94, to five years on charges of being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people.

A state court in Kiel ruled on Friday that Helma M, 92, was unfit to face trial on charges of being accessory to 260,000 murders. She was the SS radio operator for the Auschwitz commandant.

Those convicted rarely go to jail as the cases are delayed by ill health. In 2011 German prosecutors were given the green light to put suspects on trial without evidence of direct involvement in killings.

Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk was given five years in jail for helping in the murder of 28,000 Jews. He died in a nursing home in 2012 while challenging the conviction.

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