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article imageNew charges sought against 30 Nazi guards for role in Holocaust

By Yukio Strachan     Sep 4, 2013 in World
Berlin - Nazi war crimes investigators in Germany said Tuesday that 30 former Auschwitz death camp guards should face charges for their role in facilitating the mass murder of 1.5 million people — primarily Jews — during the Nazi Holocaust.
“This is really an important milestone in the efforts to bring Nazis to justice,” Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said of the announcement on Tuesday, according to the New York Times. “There has never been anything like this in recent years.”
For over 60 years German courts only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed a crime against a specific victim.
But that all changed after the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011.
Landmark case
A Munich court sentenced Demjanjuk, an Ohio autoworker who lived in the U.S. for years after the war, to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of more than 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard.
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 a specific killing, the Associated Press said. For the first time, the German court's landmark ruling made it possible to prosecute those involved in the operation of a death camp as an accessory to murder.
As a result, investigators researched the cases of 50 guards at the World War II Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and decided that 30 of them should be brought to justice, officials in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said Tuesday in a statement.
Jews on a selection ramp at Auschwitz  are shown in this archival photo taken in May 1944
Jews on a selection ramp at Auschwitz, are shown in this archival photo taken in May 1944
Wikicommons
Most of the suspects are aged in their 90s and they live in across Germany including in the formerly communist East, chief investigator Kurt Schrimm told newspaper the Tageszeitung, the local reported.
The cases have now been passed from special investigators to state prosecutors in 11 of Germany's 16 states. It will be up to them to determine whether the elderly suspects — primarily men but also some women — are fit to stand trial and whether to bring official charges, according to the AP.
The news came a day after a 92-year-old former Nazi went on trial 69 years after allegedly shooting a Dutch resistance fighter in the back at the end of World War II.
Siert Bruins, who appeared in court in the western city of Hagen with a walker, served with the Nazi Waffen-SS, according to NBC, and is accused of killing Aldert Klaas Dijkema. He claims that although he was present during the murder, another soldier shot him. That soldier has since died.
The Holocaust
The Nazis believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews— deemed "racially inferior" — were an alien threat to German racial purity. As a result, the Nazis and their collaborators initiated the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews.
In order to "purify" the German race, the Nazi regime, who came to power in Germany in January 1933 , built six main death camps, all in occupied Poland: Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazi Germany's largest concentration and extermination camp, staffed more than 6,000 SchutzStaffel (SS) guards. It was here that 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, but also Roma, Poles and other persecuted groups, were killed between 1940 and 1945.
Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of Nazi war criminals have ever been brought to justice, Zuroff said.
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