Speed Reads

nazi war crimes

100-year-old accused Nazi camp guard charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder

A 100-year-old German man has been charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder, with prosecutors accusing him of working as a guard at the Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp near Berlin from 1942 to 1945.

The man, whose name has not been released due to German privacy laws, is considered fit to stand trial. Last week, a 95-year-old woman who served as secretary to the commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp was charged with 10,000 counts of being an accessory to murder and complicity in attempted murders.

German prosecutors are racing against time in an attempt to investigate war crimes involving camp guards, secretaries, and other people who had low-level positions with the Nazis. The pace began picking up in 2011, when 91-year-old John Demjanjuk was convicted of assisting in the deaths of 28,000 people at the Sobibor concentration camp, where prosecutors say he worked as a guard.

Prior to his conviction, Nazi guards were not typically put on trial, because it was too difficult to find evidence of direct participation in a specific killing. The Demjanjuk case set a precedent that anyone who worked at a camp was aware of what was happening, and could be prosecuted for accessory to murder. Demjanjuk, who denied being the feared guard "Ivan the Terrible," was sentenced to five years in prison, and died in 2012 with his case under appeal.

Prosecutor Thomas Will told The New York Times that his office is using Nazi records to determine whether any former concentration camp guards are still alive. Some of the people who have been put on trial were teenagers during the time of their alleged crimes, and because of that they are now being seen in juvenile court. "The Demjanjuk ruling was very important because it showed that we had some catching up to do," Will told the Times. "It was an initial spark that led us to examine the guards from all of the camps, not just the death camps, under the idea that what took place there could not be overlooked."