A 101-year-old former SS guard at a Nazi concentration camp who is on trial for complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners has claimed in court he was just a farmhand who worked nearby.
Josef S., surname not reported due to strict local privacy laws, is on trial at a gym converted into a courtroom in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel in the German state of Brandenburg.
The town, an hour away from the German capital Berlin by car, was one of the first locations in the German Reich where the Nazis experimented with killing their victims with gas.
For 13 days, the judges and claimants have been trying to eke out an admission from the defendant that he was indeed an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
However, the defendant has stubbornly maintained he was always just a civilian, despite documents clearly showing a man with the same name and date and place of birth working at Sachsenhausen, located in the town of Oranienburg, from October 1941 to February 1945.
The elderly defendant told the court yesterday (2nd December): “I worked on a large estate near the Pasewalk resettlement camp.”
He added that as a trained locksmith and blacksmith, he merely shod horses for a farmer.
In the spring of 1945, faced with the advance of the Russian army from the east, the defendant admitted to participating in the German defence effort, but, again, just as a civilian.
Judge Udo Lechtermann, 66, asked him: “Did you only get a uniform and a gun then? For the first time?”
To which the defendant replied: “No, not even that. I got a spade, I helped dig trenches. Shovelled earth and felled trees, until the Russians arrested everyone, hands up! And then to jail.”
However, the judge then read out his East German pension documentation, which stated: “From 1941 to 1945, military service.”
The defendant, however, claimed he signed the forms without properly reading them.
In attendance yesterday was one of the elderly man’s stepdaughters, 70-year-old Gudrun L., who was quoted in German daily Bild as saying: “I haven’t had any contact with him for decades, but I was horrified when I heard what he was supposed to have done. I want to hear that myself in court, that’s why I’m here.”
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Story By: William McGee, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Newsflash
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