Three elderly men suspected of serving as SS guards at Auschwitz's death camp have been arrested in southwestern Germany, the country’s public prosecutor's office has said.
The men, aged 88, 92 and 94, were taken to a prison hospital on allegations of being accessories to murder after the homes of a total six males were raided in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Wednesday.
The arrests were made using information released to a number of German states last year by the authority in charge of investigating historic crimes perpetrated by the Nazis.
Various documents from the Nazi era were seized during the searches and are being evaluated, prosecutors said. Five of the men made no statements, while the 88-year-old denied committing any crimes but admitted being an Auschwitz guard.
The arrests came five months after federal authorities announced they would begin to investigate former guards at Auschwitz and other Nazi-era death camps as part of a “last chance” hunt for ageing perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Their effort was inspired by the landmark trial of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who was convicted on charges of serving the Sobibor concentration camp.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was the first person convicted in Germany solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in any specific killing.
Munich prosecutors successfully argued that anyone who was involved in operating a death camp was an accessory to murder.
Demjanjuk maintained he never served as a guard but had instead been mistaken for someone else. He died in a Bavarian nursing home in 2012 while appealing the conviction.
Following the verdict, prosecutors announced in September it was recommending charges against around 30 further suspected former Auschwitz guards.
Officials said there was not yet sufficient evidence to arrest the three other Baden-Wuerttemberg suspects aged 94, 91 and 90. The homes of three other suspects in separate German states were also raided last week, without any arrests being made.
Over 1.1 million, primarily Jewish, people perished at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. Roma, Poles and others were also murdered there.
The Nazis built six main concentration camps, all in occupied Poland: Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.
Since handing on the Auschwitz cases to state prosecutors, federal authorities said they are now focused on identifying guards from the other camps, starting with Majdanek. Results of the investigation are expected in the coming months.