A Philadelphia man suspected of being an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp has died a day before the US government was set to approve his extradition to Germany.
Johann Breyer died on Tuesday night aged 89 at a Philadelphia hospital, his lawyer said on Wednesday. His death came on the same day that Timothy Rice, a magistrate, issued an order granting a request for extradition.
German prosecutors had hoped to try Breyer on charges of aiding in the murder of more than 200,000 Jews at the Auschwitz death camp. Breyer had said he was forced to work there as a guard as a teenager.
Rice had found probable cause that “Breyer is the same person sought for aiding and abetting murder in Germany”, adding that no statute of limitations offers a safe haven for murder”.
Breyer was being held on allegations stemming from his suspected service as an SS guard at Auschwitz during the second world war. US marshals arrested him in June outside his home in northeast Philadelphia.
He was facing charges of aiding in the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children at a Nazi death camp.
Breyer claimed he was unaware of the slaughter at Auschwitz and then that he did not participate in it, but “the German allegations belie his claims”, the judge wrote.
“Given Breyer’s role as an elite SS armed guard at a camp designed and operated almost exclusively as a killing centre for Jews, Germany has established probable cause of Breyer’s complicity in the mass murders at Auschwitz.”
German authorities in the Bavarian town of Weiden issued a warrant for Breyer’s arrest in June 2013.
He was accused of 158 counts of accessory to murder – one count for each trainload of victims brought to the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland from May to October 1944, when Breyer was allegedly a guard there.