Johann Breyer, 89-year-old Nazi living in America and accused of helping kill 200,000 Jews in Auschwitz, facing extradition to Germany

Breyer insists he 'didn't do anything wrong'

A decade after a court ruling allowed him to live out his quiet, middle-class life in the US, an 89-year-old Philadelphia man faces possible extradition to Germany on charges he aided in the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children at a Nazi death camp.

Johann “Hans” Breyer, a retired tool-and-die maker, is being held without bail on allegations stemming from his suspected service as an SS guard at Auschwitz during World War II. He was arrested on Tuesday outside his home in north-east Philadelphia.

Earlier that day, the district court in Weiden, Germany, issued a warrant charging him with 158 counts of complicity in the commission of murder. Each count represents a trainload of Nazi prisoners from Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia who were killed between May 1944 and October 1944, according to US prosecutors.

Attorney Dennis Boyle argued in a federal court in Philadelphia yesterday that Breyer is too infirm to be detained pending his extradition hearing on 21 August.

Breyer, wearing a prison-issued jumpsuit, appeared frail and carried a cane as he was helped to his seat. He has mild dementia and heart issues and has previously suffered strokes, Boyle said.

“Mr Breyer is not a threat to anyone,” said Boyle. “He's not a flight risk.”

At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944, around 90 per cent of them were Jewish At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944, around 90 per cent of them were Jewish But Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice ruled the detention centre was medically equipped to care for Breyer. The elderly defendant appeared to comprehend questions about the nature of the hearing, though one of his grandsons testified Breyer's dementia has worsened recently.

Breyer has been under investigation for years by prosecutors in the Bavarian town of Weiden, near where he last lived in Germany. He has resided in the US since 1952.

Breyer has admitted he was a guard at Auschwitz in occupied Poland, but he told The Associated Press that he was stationed outside of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp part of the complex. He denied having anything to do with the wholesale slaughter of about 1.5 million Jews and others behind the gates.

“I didn't kill anybody, I didn't rape anybody - and I don't even have a traffic ticket here,” he told the AP in a 2012 interview. “I didn't do anything wrong.”

 

Thomas Walther, a former federal prosecutor with the special office that investigates Nazi war crimes in Germany, now represents family members of some of Breyer's alleged victims as co-plaintiffs in the case. He called for a speedy extradition.

“The German court has to find late justice for the crimes of Breyer and for the victims and their sons and daughters as co-plaintiffs,” Walther wrote in an email to the AP. “It is late, but not too late.”

The US government tried to revoke Breyer's citizenship in 1992 after discovering his wartime background. His American citizenship stems from the fact his mother was born in the US; she later moved to Europe, where Breyer was born.

The years-long legal saga appeared to end with a 2003 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found Breyer had joined the SS as a minor and could therefore not be held legally responsible for participation in it.

As he was being arrested Tuesday, Breyer asked law enforcement officers to retrieve papers in his home that document his right to stay in the U.S., according to deputy marshal Daniel Donnelly.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said he hoped there would be no obstacles to Breyer's extradition and trial overseas.

“Germany deserves credit for doing this - for extending and expanding their efforts and, in a sense, making a final attempt to maximize the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators,” he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test