BERLIN: The German office investigating Nazi war crimes said yesterday it would send files on 30 former Auschwitz death camp personnel to state prosecutors with a recommendation to bring charges.
In a twilight bid for justice nearly 70 years on, chief investigator Kurt Schrimm said the former Auschwitz guards now aged up to 97 should face charges of accessory to murder.
“The cases will be handed over to the respective public prosecutors’ offices,” Schrimm said.
Schrimm’s Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in the southwestern city of Ludwigsburg, set up in 1958, has recommended bringing criminal charges against more than 7,000 people but has no powers to prosecute suspects itself.
Instead it sends case files to regional prosecutors who then decide whether to file charges against suspects, who must also be judged fit to stand trial by the courts.
Schrimm said he could not say how many of the suspects would actually be prosecuted in the end.
“It is possible that very few will remain” of the 30 potential defendants, he said.
Victims’ representatives welcomed the announcement.
“These crimes against humanity must not remain unpunished,” Ulrich Sander of the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime told German news agency DPA.
And the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said the announcement marked “an important milestone”.
“At the same time, today’s positive development underscores the failure to take such measures during the past five decades, a decision which allowed thousands of the worst hands-on killers to elude justice,” said the director of its Jerusalem office, Efraim Zuroff. In an “Operation Last Chance” campaign in several German cities in July, the Simon Wiesenthal Center hung posters seeking information on the last perpetrators of the Holocaust still at large.
The German investigative office said it had initially identified 49 former guards from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in what was then Nazi-occupied Poland who were still alive but nine of the elderly suspects had since died.
Thirty live in Germany and will now be subject to criminal investigation. AFP