BERLIN – A German court says a 95-year-old man will go on trial next month on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly serving in the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.
Hubert Zafke is accused of working as a medic in Auschwitz in an SS hospital. Prosecutors argue that in that role, the former SS sergeant helped the death camp function.
An appeals court in December ruled he was fit for trial, though the Neubrandenburg state court said Monday that when his trial opens Feb. 29, judges will have to assess whether he needs special accommodation.
Zafke’s attorney insists his client did nothing criminal at Auschwitz.
Another former SS man, 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, is going on trial Feb. 11 in Detmold on accusations he served as an Auschwitz guard from 1943-1944.
Zafke was a sergeant in the Nazi SS at Auschwitz from October 1943 to January 1944. He acted as one of the death camp’s medics from Aug. 15 to Sept. 14, 1944.
During that month, at least 14 deportation trains arrived at the extermination camp from places as far away as Lyon, Vienna and Westerbork in the Netherlands.
Among the prisoners on the trains was the teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family, most of whom later perished in the camp’s gas chambers.
The trial of the former medic will begin on Feb. 29 in the northeastern town of Neubrandenburg after a court in Rostock in northern Germany deemed him fit for trial in December.
Because it is uncertain to what extent he is capable of traveling and standing trial, the first session is expected to determine his state of health, the court said.
Two further hearings are planned for March and more will follow once it has been determined under what conditions proceedings can be held, the court added.
Although the former medic is not accused of having been directly involved in any killings, the prosecution’s office holds that he was aware of the camp’s function as a facility for mass murder. By joining its organizational structure, he consciously participated and even accelerated the deaths of thousands of people, the prosecutors say.
German court rulings have established a precedent for the conviction of Nazi concentration camp employees for being guilty of accessory to murder.
In July, 94-year-old Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of being an accessory to murder of 300,000 people in Auschwitz.
Two other cases involving death camp employees are pending trial in German courts. In the town of Detmold, Reinhold Hanning is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people in Auschwitz and has been deemed fit for trial.
In the northern city of Kiel, a 91-year-old woman is accused of the same charges in the case of 260,000 people. In her case, the defense maintains that the accused is unfit for trial and a final court ruling on this is expected in early 2016.