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German court rejects charges against 95yo 'guard' at Nazi camp where thousands perished

German court rejects charges against 95yo 'guard' at Nazi camp where thousands perished
A Berlin court has rejected a case against a former Nazi SS guard accused of accessory to the murder of tens of thousands inmates of the Nazi death camp in Mauthausen, where the 95-year-old was said to have served.

In an quite unusual decision, the German court said it does not see evidence to support charges of accessory to murder in the case of a man identified only as Hans Werner H. The suspect was accused of serving as an SS guard at the Mauthausen in Austria between October 1944 and May 1945 – a period when prosecutors say more than 36,000 people were killed there.

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Although the suspect was not accused of any specific killings, he was still charged with accessory to murder as he allegedly knowingly and willingly facilitated the work of the death camp. The man himself admitted being a member of the SS but said he never set foot in the camp. Instead, he said he briefly served as a guard at an armaments factory in the Austrian city of Linz, which was linked to another Nazi camp.

The prosecution “has not presented any verifiable facts” of the suspect’s crimes, the court said, adding that the suspect is “unlikely” to be convicted. The prosecutors already filed an appeal against the court’s decision.

Mauthausen was part of the large network of the Nazi labor and death camps spanning across Austria and southern Germany. Of a total of around 190,000 people imprisoned in the Mauthausen and its subcamps between 1938 and 1945, at least 90,000 died, according to the camp victims’ memorial website.

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Germany witnessed a number of trials of former Nazis and concentration camp guards in recent years. Although most of them ended up with the suspects being found guilty, some of them never made it to jail.

In 2017, a former Nazi concentration camp accountant Oskar Groening dubbed ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ died while still appealing his conviction. In 2016, former Nazi SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning, convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 in Auschwitz, shared the same fate as he died following his conviction without spending a day behind bars.

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