101-year-old accused of working as Nazi death camp guard takes the stand
A German man on trial over his alleged stint as a Nazi death camp guard has told a court he never wore an SS uniform but worked at a farm all through WWII.
Germany’s prosecutor’s office believes Josef S. served as a watchman at the infamous Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1941 and 1945. He spoke on Thursday through his lawyer, pleading not guilty to his alleged complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners from October 1941 through late February 1945. The defendant claimed that after moving from Lithuania he worked in the forestry and agriculture sector in Germany, “clearing and planting trees” for the duration of the second world war.
The prosecutors are, however, not convinced by the elderly man’s story, dismissing it as an attempt to “escape into a fantasy world” and a “denial of his life.” They are relying on historical documents that indicate that a man with the same name and birthplace as the defendant served as a guard at Sachsenhausen. Among the evidence cited by the judge is Josef S.’ application for a pension that he filed with East Germany’s social service back in 1985. On the back of one of the pages are handwritten notes that appear to trace the main stages of the man’s life until then, with the period between 1940 and 1945 marked as “military and war service,” which, if true, runs counter to the defendant’s claims of never having worn a military uniform.
Court sessions in the trial, which began in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel in October this year, have been limited to no more than two and a half hours a day, in light of the defendant’s old age. He turned 101 in mid-November.