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Crime and punishment

Elderly Philadelphia man may be extradited to Germany to face Nazi death camp charges

An 89-year-old Philadelphia man might be extradited to Germany to stand trial for aiding and abetting the murder of thousands of Jews during World War II. If a judge approves, he will be the oldest person sent back from the U.S. for Nazi-related crimes.

Johann Breyer, who came to the United States in 1952, was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday, and this isn't his first brush with extradition; as The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, the Justice Department tried to deport Breyer 10 years ago for his role in the war, but found that because he joined the SS while underage, he could not be held legally responsible.

Breyer has admitted he was a guard at Auschwitz, but said he merely patrolled the perimeter of the camp and had nothing to do with the gas chambers. "Proof doesn't require him to have personally pulled any levers," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Foulkes. "His guarding made it possible for those killings to happen."

Breyer appeared in federal court on Wednesday, and his attorney, Dennis Boyle, said he would fight Germany's extradition request. Breyer is in failing health, and is currently being treated for dementia and a heart condition. "I think it is obvious Mr. Breyer is not a risk to anyone," Boyle said. "He's very old."