German prosecutors have charged a 93-year-old man who worked at Auschwitz with being an accessory to murder, as part of a final drive aimed at bringing the perpetrators of Nazi war crimes to justice.
The suspect, identified by German media as Hans Lipschis, was arrested by German police in May and ranks fourth on the most wanted list published by the Nazi-hunting group Simon Wiesenthal.
Mr Lipschis has been charged in connection with the killing of around 10,500 people.
He has accepted that he was assigned to an SS guard unit at the death camp, but insists that he only worked as a cook and was not involved in any war crimes.
The case is nonetheless being pursued on the principles which gained a conviction for the former Ohio mechanic John Demjanjuk.
That ruling found that even without definitive proof of participation in a specific crime, a person who served at a death camp can be charged as an accessory to murder on the grounds that the camp existed for the sole purpose of killing people.
Mr Demjanjuk was a guard at the Sobibor death camp, and died last year while appealing a 2011 war crime conviction.
Mr Lipschis has been charged in connection to the deaths of people who were brought to Auschwitz aboard trains from the Netherlands, Berlin, Belgium, France and the Theresienstadt ghetto in the present-day Czech Republic, between October 1941 and September 1943.
The head of the German agency that probes Nazi war crimes, Kurt Schrimm, told Reuters that the accused man was on a list of 30 former Auschwitz guards it wants to prosecute for their role in facilitating mass murder.
State prosecutor for the Stuttgart court Claudia Krauth said: “The investigation was short but intensive. We looked for documents that showed that (the accused) was on duty on particular days when the transports came in.”
“If we have proof that someone has committed a crime, we are required to prosecute that person.”
The Stuttgart prosecutors said the accused had lived in the US for 26 years after the Second World War, but had his citizenship revoked after his involvement with the Nazis came to light. He moved back to Germany in 1982.
Officials are trying to track down low-level collaborators in a “last chance” hunt for ageing perpetrators of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were murdered.
Around 1.5 million people died at Auschwitz, with Roma, Poles and others alongside Jews, between 1940 and 1945.Reuse content