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New Auschwitz guard trials may revisit Germany

– The German special prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi war crimes said Tuesday it is recommending charges against dozens of alleged former Auschwitz guards, opening the possibility of a new wave of trials almost 70 years after the end of World War II.

Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, the head of the office in Ludwigsburg, said an investigation of 49 people turned up enough evidence to recommend that state prosecutors pursue charges of accessory to murder against 30 people in Germany who were stationed at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Another seven suspects who live outside the country are being investigated, two could not be found, and one further case has already gone to prosecutors, he said. Those living abroad are in Austria, Brazil, Croatia, the U.S., Poland and even one in Israel, Schrimm said.

The names and hometowns of the suspects were not released. The oldest suspect was born in 1916 and the youngest in 1926, meaning they could range in age from 86 to 97.

The cases are being sent to the responsible state prosecutors’ offices in 11 of Germany’s 16 states. It will be up to them to determine whether the suspects – primarily men but also some women – are fit to stand trial and whether to bring official charges.

“The biggest enemy is time,” Schrimm said.

Accessory to murder charges can be filed under the same legal theory that Munich prosecutors used to try former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in a Bavarian nursing home last year while appealing his 2011 conviction on charges he served as a Sobibor death camp guard, Schrimm said.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was the first person convicted in Germany solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing. Under the new legal argument, anyone who was involved in the operation of a death camp was an accessory to murder.

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