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Germany arrests suspected Auschwitz guards

Three accused - aged from 88 to 94 - are suspected of involvement in exterminations at infamous death camp.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2014 07:08
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Some 1.5 million people died in the Auschwitz extermination camp [Reuters]

Three suspected former guards of the Auschwitz death camp run by Nazis during World War Two have been arrested in southwestern Germany, as officials make a final push in their decades-long Nazi hunt.

The three accused, aged 88, 92 and 94 years old, are believed to have been involved in the killing of prisoners at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, the public prosecutor's office in Stuttgart said.

The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers. Old age should not protect those who helped run the largest death camp in human history.

Efraim Zurof, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

They were arrested on Thursday after police searched six homes in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg using information released to several states by the government office investigating Nazi war crimes, the Reuters news agency reported.

Documents from the Nazi era were seized during the search and are being evaluated, prosecutors said.

Some 1.5 million people perished at Auschwitz, mostly Jews but also Roma, Poles and others, between 1940 and 1945, when it was liberated by Russian forces.

German officials are trying to track down other low-level collaborators in a "last chance" search for ageing perpetrators of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were murdered.

Israel's Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre praised the police action and said prosecutions should be expedited "to maximise justice while still possible".

"The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers," said the centre's Efraim Zuroff. "Old age should not protect those who helped run the largest death camp in human history."

The Central Office of the Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes last year sent files on 30 former Auschwitz personnel to state prosecutors with a recommendation to bring  charges against them.

The renewed drive to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust follows a 2011 landmark court ruling.

For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.

But in 2011 a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.

Zuroff said old Nazi camp guards "are the last people on earth who deserve any sympathy since they had no sympathy whatsoever for their innocent victims, some of whom were older than they are today".

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