There are more than 3,000 charges against Joseph Schweitz in connection with the killings at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin.
A 100-year-old man on trial for his alleged role as a Nazi SS guard in a concentration camp during World War II told a German court he was innocent.
Defendant, Joseph Schweitz, has been charged with 3, 51818 counts of murder in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He allegedly served as a listed member of the paramilitary branch of the Nazi party in the camp between 1942 and 1945.
On Friday, during the second day of his trial in Newrupin State Court, Schweitz denied the allegations against him and insisted he knew nothing about what happened at the Sachsenhausen camp.
“I am innocent,” he said.
His claim of innocence caused an uproar from the plaintiffs.
Pointing to the accused, co-plaintiff Christophel Heiser told the court: “I want to tell Mr Mr Schweitz – I understand that you were driven not to quit your job for fear of the Nazis, but how did you sleep so peacefully?” Didn’t you think? Never felt guilty? “
Between 1936 and 1945 more than 200,000 people were held at Sachsenhausen.
Fatigue due to starvation, disease, forced labor and other causes, as well as medical examinations and systematic SS eradication campaigns including shooting, hanging and gassing, killed thousands of prisoners.
The exact number of casualties varies with estimates above 100,000, although scholars believe the figures of 40,000 to 50,000 are probably more accurate.
Prosecutor Cyril Clement told the court, “Defendant assisted wisely and voluntarily and, at least sincerely, persuaded him to perform the duty of guard, which was associated with the unscrupulous murder system.”
Two witnesses from France and the Netherlands told the court on Friday that their father had been killed at Sachsenhausen for taking part in resistance against the Nazis.
Authorities believe Schweitz is fit enough to stand trial despite his advanced age, although the number of hours per day in court sessions will be limited.
The next hearing is scheduled for January. Schuetz remains free during the trial.
Germany races for the trial of Nazi criminals
More than 70 years after World War II, German prosecutors are scrambling to bring the last surviving Nazi criminals to justice.
Based on the conviction of former guard John Demjanzuk in 2011, he acted as part of the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several cases of twilight justice.
Since then, the court has handed down several convictions on those grounds, rather than directly to the person accused of murder or atrocity.
Among those brought to trial late were Oscar Groning, an Auschwitz accountant, and Reinhold Hanning, a former Auschwitz SS guard.
Both were convicted of genocide at the age of murder, but died before they could go to prison.
Most recently, former SS guard Bruno Dey was convicted last year at the age of 93 and was given a two-year suspended sentence.
Separately, in the northern German city of Itzoy, a 96-year-old former secretary of a Nazi death camp faces trial for his role in the assassination.
He dramatically escaped before his trial began, but was caught a few hours later. His trial began on October 1.