Two elderly men are currently on trial in Germany for complicity in murder in connection with their work in two Nazi concentration camps., processes that 76 years after the end of World War II are still possible because this type of crime does not prescribe.
“The murder in Germany does not prescribe, that is the premise”, explains in an interview the chief prosecutor Thomas Will, head of the Central Office of the Judicial Administrations for the Clarification of the Crimes of National Socialism.
Therefore, he adds, “if a homicide was, for example, heinous or insidious, then this act must be prosecuted according to German criminal law”He adds.
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The penal code decides on the object of a criminal proceeding and a fine, it points out, and specifies that “however, it is not so much about the function of satisfaction with regard to the victims or their descendants.”
“But naturally these processes have an impact beyond, that is clear,” he acknowledges. The Provincial Court of Itzehoe has tried 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner for complicity in the murder of 11,380 prisoners in the Stutthof concentration camp, in Polish territory, where she worked as a stenographer and typist for the command between 1943 and 1945.
A centenary guard of the SS must appear since last October 7 before a court in the city of Brandeburg at the Havel for complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin.
Neither one nor the other are accused of having participated directly in executions, but they are accused of complicity in murder for having carried out work in a camp where the systematic murder of prisoners was practiced.
In the 1960s, the German Supreme Court determined in relation to Auschwitz that the simple fact that a person had performed some function in a concentration or extermination camp was not enough to accuse him of complicity, although there was some conviction in it. this address.
This decision of the Supreme Court led to the fact that for decades the justice could only prosecute a person for complicity in relation to their activity in concentration camps if their participation in “concrete actions” was demonstrated, a practically impossible task in a context of mass murders.
Two ongoing trials
In addition to the two ongoing processes, there are other eight pending a decision by the competent Prosecutor’s Offices and that will also depend on whether the accused is in full possession of his powers to face the trial.
This is a case at the Erfurt Prosecutor’s Office in relation to the Buchenwald concentration camp; three in that of Neuruppin, of about Ravensbrück and an envelope Sachsenhausen; one in the of Hamburg and another in that of cell, upon Neuengamme; and two others in the Prosecutor’s Offices of cell and Berlin, against guards from a prisoner of war camp.
In addition, the Central Office of the Judicial Administrations for the Clarification of the Crimes of National Socialism, based in Ludwigsburg, has yet to decide whether to transfer another six cases to the corresponding Public Prosecutor’s Offices.
The Central Office was created by all the federal states of Germany to close a vacuum in the prosecution of crimes committed during Nazism.
Thus, for example, in the case of the Stutthof concentration camp, being on Polish territory, there was no German Public Prosecutor’s Office that could be held responsible for opening an investigation.
Convicts Demjanjuk in 2011, the defining turn
The sentence against the Ukrainian John Demjanjuk to five years in prison in 2011 for complicity in the murder of almost 30 thousand Jews in the Sobibior death camp in occupied Poland, where he had served as a guard, was the decisive turn to intensify the prosecution of crimes during Nazism.
The Munich Provincial Court determined that Demjanjuk’s mere presence in the Sobibor camp and his knowledge of the murders were sufficient to convict him of complicity.
Demjanjuk died before the Supreme Court ruled on the sentence, but the Court did confirm this new argument after endorsing in 2016 the sentence to four years in prison issued by the Provincial Court of Lüneburg against Oskar Gröning, the “accountant of Auschwitz” , for complicity in 300 thousand murders.
This line states that a person can be considered guilty of complicity in murder whether he performed his service in an extermination camp, where the declared objective was to kill, or in a concentration camp, when there were phases of systematic murder, and these facts were evident to the accused.
This confirmation by the supreme in 2016 was the trigger to re-investigate the activity in the Nazi camps.
11 thousand 380 prisoners killed in the Stutthof concentration camp are attributed in complicity to Irmgard Furchner, 96 years old.
The Central Office is thus in charge of compiling, examining and evaluating all the relevant material worldwide for the investigation of crimes committed during National Socialism and thus conducts a preliminary investigation that, if necessary, is subsequently transferred to the corresponding Prosecutor’s Office.
3 thousand 518 prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, are related in complicity to a former SS guard.