A 100-year-old man, the oldest person to stand trial in Germany for Nazi-era crimes, who is accused of aiding and abetting the killing of thousands of prisoners at a concentration camp, insists he is innocent.
On Friday, Josef Schuetz appeared in court for allegedly “knowingly and willingly” assisting in the slaughter of 3,518 inmates at the Sachsenhausen camp situated north of Berlin between 1942 and 1945.
“I am innocent,” Schuetz declared when quizzed about his work as a guard at the camp, bluntly insisting that he “knows nothing” about the atrocities that took place there, and that he did “absolutely nothing.”
“Everything is torn” from his head, he remarked, even complaining that he was the only person appearing before the courts.
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Allegations against the centenarian include complicity in the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942,” as well as utilizing the highly poisonous gas Zyklon B to kill prisoners.
While he is not accused of having shot anyone in particular, according to a court spokeswoman, his knowledge while serving as a guard means he contributed to the deadly activities at the camp.
On Thursday, the pensioner hobbled into the German court with his face covered by his lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, who said that his client “will not speak, but will only provide information about his personal situation” at the trial.
He retold a vivid account of his past to the court, such as how he worked at his family’s farm in Lithuania with his seven siblings before he joined the army in 1938.
After the war, he was moved to a detention camp in Russia. The senior then returned to Brandenburg, Germany, where he worked as a farmer and later as a locksmith.
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More than seven decades after the end of World War II, Berlin has scrambled to serve justice and prosecute the last remaining Nazi perpetrators. Last week, a 96-year-old care home resident who served as a secretary in a death camp went on the run to avoid court before being arrested just hours later.
Tens of thousands of detainees died in Sachsenhausen camp from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, starvation and disease before it was liberated by Soviet troops. Over 200,000 people were imprisoned there, including Jews, regime opponents, Roma and LGBT people.
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