Germany drops probe into former Nazi camp guard deported from USA

Berger admitted to American investigators that he served at Meppen as a guard

Geir Moulson
Thursday 01 April 2021 10:09

German prosecutors have dropped an investigation into a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard after he declined to be questioned following his deportation from the US.

Friedrich Karl Berger arrived in his native Germany in February after being ordered deported by a court in Memphis last year.

Prosecutors in the northern town of Celle said at the time that he had told German police he would be willing in principle to be questioned by investigators with a lawyer present.

A US immigration judge ordered the deportation after finding that his "willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place" constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.

The court found that Berger, who had been living in the US since 1959, had served at a camp in Meppen, Germany, near the border with the Netherlands, a subcamp of the larger Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg.

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It said prisoners at Meppen were held in "atrocious" conditions during the winter of 1945, and exploited for outdoor forced labour, working "to the point of exhaustion and death".

Berger admitted to American investigators that he served at Meppen as a guard for a few weeks near the end of the war but said he did not observe any abuse or killings.

The Memphis court found that he had helped guard prisoners during a forced evacuation that took nearly two weeks and claimed the lives of 70 people.

Celle prosecutors shelved their initial investigation in November, saying they had been unable to refute Berger's account.

They decided to take another look after he arrived in Germany and initially signalled he was opening to questioning, but said on Wednesday they had again closed the investigation on suspicion of accessory to murder.

After Berger arrived in Germany, he was assigned a defence lawyer, who said his client was "not available" for questioning as a suspect, prosecutors said in a statement.

"After exhausting all evidence," they have now "closed the investigation again for lack of sufficient suspicion".

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