BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court on Tuesday permitted the trial of a 95-year-old German man accused of being an accessory to the murder of at least 3,681 people at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The higher court of Rostock in northern Germany deemed Hubert Z. fit for trial, overruling a previous decision by a lower court that considered him too fragile for a legal process.
Z., whose last name is confidential due to German privacy laws, was a sergeant in the Nazi SS at Auschwitz from October 1943 to January 1944 and acted as one of the death camp’s paramedics from Aug. 15 to Sept. 14, 1944, the indictment said.
During that month, at least 14 deportation trains reached the extermination camp from places as far as Rhodes, Lyon, Vienna and Westerbork in the Netherlands, the local prosecutor’s office in Schwerin said.
Although Z. is not accused of having been directly involved in any killings, the prosecution’s office holds that he was well aware of the camp’s function as a facility for mass murder and by joining its organizational structure consciously participated and even accelerated the deaths of thousands of people.
German court rulings have established a precedent for the conviction of Nazi concentration camp employees for being guilty of accessory to murder.
In July, 94-year-old Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of the accessory to murder of 300,000 people in Auschwitz.
Two other cases involving death camp employees are pending trial in German courts.
In the town of Detmold, Reinhold H. is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people in Auschwitz, and in the northern city of Kiel, a 91-year-old woman is accused of the same charges in the case of 260,000 people.
In both cases, the defense maintains that the accused are unfit for trial and final court rulings on this are expected later this year and in early 2016.
Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, responsible for Nazi war crime investigations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that all these legal cases were happening very late.
“You would expect that considering the age of the accused every effort would be made to expedite these cases but instead they all follow a lengthy process,” Zuroff told Reuters over the phone from his office in Jerusalem.
“But better late than never.”
Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Paul Carrel and Raissa Kasolowsky