A 95-year-old man who once worked as a medic at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz is set to stand trial for allegedly helping to murder 3,681 people.
According to German prosecutors, Hubert Zafke was a sergeant in the Nazi SS stationed at Auschwitz from October 1943 to January 1944, and he later worked as a paramedic at the death camp from August 15 to September 15, 1944. During that month, at least 14 trains carrying prisoners arrived at the concentration camp, including one that held the teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family, most of whom later perished in the camp's gas chambers.
In December, a court in the northern German city of Rostock deemed Zafke fit for trial, and on Monday it was announced that the proceedings would begin on February 29 in the northeastern town of Neubrandenburg. The first hearing is expected to again look at Zafke's health and whether he is fit for trial. Two additional hearings are planned for March.
The former paramedic is not accused of having been directly involved in any killings, but the prosecution holds that he was aware of the camp's function as a facility for mass murder. By joining its organizational structure, he consciously participated and even accelerated the deaths of thousands of people, the prosecutors say.
German court rulings have established a precedent for the conviction of Nazi concentration camp employees for being guilty of accessory to murder. In July, 94-year-old Oskar Gröning, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people in Auschwitz. Historians estimate that at least 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz from May 1940 to January 1945.
Two other cases involving death camp employees are pending trial in German courts. In the town of Detmold, a man identified as Reinhold H. is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people in Auschwitz and has been deemed fit for trial.
In the northern city of Kiel, a 91-year-old woman is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 260,000 people. Her defense maintains that she is unfit for trial. A final court ruling on her whether her case can proceed is expected in early 2016.
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