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German court stops trial of paramedic who worked at Auschwitz

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German court stops trial of paramedic who worked at Auschwitz

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BERLIN (Reuters) – A 96-year-old former paramedic at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp is no longer fit to stand trial due to his dementia, a spokesman for the court said on Tuesday, bringing to an end one of Germany’s last prosecutions linked to the Holocaust. Hubert Zafke worked as a paramedic in Auschwitz for one month starting on Aug. 15, 1944. He stood accused of being an accessory to the murder of at least 3,681 people at the concentration and extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. During his time at Auschwitz, at least 14 deportation trains arrived there from places as far away as Lyon, Vienna and Westerbork in the Netherlands. Although Zafke was not accused of having been directly involved in any killings, the prosecution’s office said he was aware of the camp’s function as a facility for mass murder. The trial against Zafke began in the northeastern town of Neubrandenburg in 2016 but was repeatedly delayed due to his ill health. Germany had faced criticism for not prosecuting those who were small cogs in the Nazi machine and did not actively take part in the killing of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. That criticism has abated thanks to many recent trials and convictions, such as the 2011 conviction of Sobibor extermination camp guard John Demjanjuk, which gave prosecutors new legal means to investigate suspects under accessory to murder charges. Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning and Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, have also been convicted of complicity in mass murder in recent years. Another case against a woman who worked as a radio operator at Auschwitz was dropped last year after a court in Kiel ruled she was unfit to stand trial.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
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