Former Nazi Prison Guard, 100, Goes on Trial to Face 3,518 Counts of Accessory to Murder

A 100-year-old Nazi prison guard went on trial Thursday for 3,518 counts of accessory to murder, and one concentration camp survivor in court hopes he is found guilty and sentenced, the Associated Press reported.

Known only as Josef S., the former Nazi prison guard worked from 1942 to 1945 at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where over 200,000 people were held, and an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 were killed.

Leon Schwarzbaum, 100, a survivor of Sachsenhausen, attended the trial on Thursday and voiced his desire for justice for those he lost during World War II.

"This is the last trial for my friends, acquaintances and my loved ones, who were murdered, in which the last guilty person can still be sentenced—hopefully," Schwarzbaum said.

Prosecutor Cyrill Klement said: "The defendant knowingly and willingly aided and abetted this at least by conscientiously performing guard duty, which was seamlessly integrated into the killing system."

Defense attorney Stefan Waterkamp told the court that his client did not want to comment on the allegations.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Former Nazi Prison Guard, 100, on trial
A 100-year-old former Nazi prison guard is on trial on 3,518 counts of accessory to murder. Above, defendant Josef S. covers his face in court on October 7, 2021, in Brandenburg, Germany. Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

The trial of the defendant, who is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder, was held at the Neuruppin state court, which moved the proceedings to a prison sport hall in Brandenburg for organizational reasons.

Authorities say the defendant is considered fit enough to stand trial despite his advanced age, though the number of hours per day the court is in session will be limited.

More than 200,000 people were held at Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of inmates died of starvation, disease, exhaustion from forced labor and other causes, as well as through medical experiments and systematic SS extermination operations including shootings, hangings and gassing.

The executive vice president of the Auschwitz Committee expressed disappointment at the lawyer's announcement that the suspect would not comment on the allegations.

"I found him surprisingly robust and present. He would have the strength to make an apology and he would also have the strength to remember," Christoph Heubner told reporters outside the building.

"Obviously, however, he does not want to muster the strength to remember, and for the survivors of the camps and for the relatives of the murdered who have come here to hear some truth spoken, this means once again a rejection, a disparagement and a confrontation with the continued silence of the SS."

The opening of the trial comes a week after the opening of another elderly concentration camp suspect's trial was disrupted.

A 96-year-old former secretary for the Stutthof camp's SS commander skipped the opening of her trial at the Itzehoe state court in northern Germany. She was tracked down within hours and proceedings are to resume on October 19.

Holocaust Survivor speaks out at Nazi trial
Concentration camp survivor Leon Schwarzbaum, 100, on Thursday attended the trial of a 100-year-old former Nazi prison guard. Above, Schwarzbaum shows a family picture to media prior to the trial on October 7, 2021, in Brandenburg, Germany. Markus Schreiber/Associated Press