Centenary indictment sheds light on Germany’s past failure to prosecute senior Nazis, researchers and survivors say
Dressed in a sweater and hiding his face behind a blue folder, Shatabdi appeared in court in the northeastern town of Neruppin on Friday, the second day of a trial that is expected to spread early next year.
“I haven’t done anything wrong, I am innocent,” he said.
The court decided that the man, who turns 101 next month, is mentally and physically fit to stand trial for just over two hours at a time.
The suspect’s attorney, Stephen Waterkamp, told reporters that justice would have been better if the trial had taken place earlier, closer to the alleged crimes.
The case is the latest in a series of trials involving people who played junior roles in the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes and were often very young at the time. In 2011, a Munich court found former guard John Demjanzuk guilty of adjudicating the murder of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor death camp, setting a precedent that has since allowed the prosecution of lower-ranking suspects.
Representatives for Holocaust victims said these late trials of junior regime members came after many high-ranking Nazis were left unpunished or given light sentences in the decades following the war. Until the 1990s, German authorities focused on restoration efforts instead, said Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, which took part in the trial this week.
On Thursday, prosecutor Cyril Clement detailed the killings and abuses that were common in Sachsenhausen, a camp established in 1936 that served as a model for the network of facilities that later expanded into occupied Europe.
He told the court how the SS had killed thousands of people in what he described as a neck shot unit, a room where unsuspecting prisoners were shot in the back of the head and then their last The ritual was done. Others were killed with gas, first in a gas chamber using a cyanide-based pesticide, and later, by using a cyanide-based pesticide in vehicles. Before the killings, SS doctors used to examine the victims’ gold teeth which were later pulled out of their corpses.
At the end of the war, most of the victims were Soviet prisoners of war, many of whom were Jews. The prosecutor said the defendant enabled the killings because he saw prisoners from the watchtower, armed and wearing SS uniforms.
Sixteen co-plaintiffs joined the prosecutor’s case against the suspect, including concentration camps in Germany, Israel, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Peru, and their relatives.
Leon Schwarzbaum, a German man who survived Sachsenhausen and other Nazi camps, is also 100 years old and took part in the trial in a wheelchair. “He is old and sick, and I am old and sick, but I have come,” he told reporters.
Antoine Grumbach, whose father, a French soldier, was killed in Sachsenhausen, is one of the co-plaintiffs and had come from France to take part in the trial.
“The world should know how this machinery operates … the SS guards were accomplices to the murderous machinery of the concentration camps,” Mr Grumbach told reporters on Thursday.
Mr Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was very important to prosecute the last remaining Nazi as a lesson to younger generations about the horrors of the Nazi era, at a time when war crimes and crimes against humanity are rampant around the world. are.
“The younger generation will learn a lot about the Holocaust, about war, about justice and about democracy,” he said.
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