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article imageEx-SS guard 'ashamed' but tells German court he's innocent

By AFP     Nov 13, 2018 in World

A former Nazi concentration camp guard Tuesday voiced his shame at having been part of the SS but told a German court he was unaware of the systematic killings there.

Johann Rehbogen, 94, stands accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk, in Poland.

In a statement read out by his lawyer, Rehbogen said: "I'm of course ashamed to have been part of the SS. But I still don't know today if I would have had the courage to do otherwise."

He said he was forced into joining the Schutzstaffel troops, as "there would have been reprisals against my family if I hadn't gone".

"When I saw the detainees I knew that the SS was wrong, but I didn't have a choice," said Rehbogen, who served as a watchman from June 1942 to September 1944 at Stutthof.

He denied knowledge of the gruesome crimes at the camp.

"I knew nothing of the systematic killings, I knew nothing of the gas chambers as well as the crematoria," he told the court.

"I was ashamed of the conditions that the detainees were in, and felt sympathy for them, even if that's probably not the right word as I was not suffering like they were."

He said he "would have liked to leave" but added that "I did not trust myself to speak with anyone and had no-one I could trust".

"I will only say that I am not a Nazi, I never have been one, and never will be."

But lead prosecutor Andreas Brendel said that there were "ways out" of serving at the camp for guards like Rehbogen.

"We believe that the guards knew a lot more than what has been recounted today," he said.

More about Germany, Trial, warcrime, WwII, Shame
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