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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz