The authorities have announced a last-chance attempt to prosecute 30 suspected former guards at Auschwitz, where more than 1.1 million Jews and others were murdered in the Holocaust.
The justice ministry in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg said it had investigated 49 suspected former guards at the camp in southern Poland and recommended that 30 of them, who are now aged up to 97 and living in Germany, should be prosecuted.
Kurt Schrimm, the head of Germany’s Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, said the 30, as well as a further seven now living abroad, were suspected of being accomplices to murder while in Auschwitz and prosecutors would be asked to formally charge them. The belated effort to bring former death camp guards to justice comes nearly 70 years after the end of the Second World War.
It has been made possible by a legal precedent set by the case of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born guard at the Sobibor death camp, who was convicted by a German court in 2011 of complicity in the murder of 28,000 Jews.
Demjanjuk was found guilty because records showed he worked at the camp. There were no witnesses to identify him. However, judges concluded that although there was no evidence that he directly committed murder, his activities there facilitated genocide. He died in March last year, aged 91, before his appeal could be heard.
Mr Schrimm said it was not clear if the 30 accused would be fit to stand trial if prosecuted. He added there was no certainty that the seven suspects living abroad were still alive.