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Sunday, 20 October 2019

German court drops case against ailing former Nazi camp guard

AFP , Wednesday 3 Apr 2019
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A German court said Wednesday it had dropped a case against a former Nazi concentration camp guard, finding the seriously ill 95-year-old unfit for trial.

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

His trial began on November 6 but was suspended as he suffered from serious heart and kidney problems.

Given the gravity of his ailments, the court in Muenster ended the case, deeming him "permanently unfit for trial".

Rehbogen was aged 18 to 20 when he served as a guard from June 1942 to September 1944 at the Stutthof camp.

The German, from the western district of Borken, North Rhine-Westphalia state, was charged with being an accessory to the murders of several hundred camp prisoners.

These included more than 100 Polish prisoners gassed in June 1944 and "probably several hundred" Jews killed from August to December 1944 as part of the Nazis' so-called "Final Solution".

He broke down in tears at the trial opening and subsequently told the court he was ashamed of having been in the SS.

Rehbogen however insisted that he was unaware of the systematic killings at the camp.

The trial is among a handful of the final such cases involving surviving SS personnel.

The cases have resurfaced since the legal basis for prosecuting former Nazis changed in 2011 with the landmark conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk.

He was sentenced on the grounds that he served as a cog in the Nazi killing machine at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland, rather than for killings or atrocities linked to him personally.

German courts subsequently convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder.

Both men were convicted at age 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.

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