Nazi death camp guard, 100, refuses to make statement as he finally faces trial

A 100-year-old Nazi guard has refused to speak at a trial for heinous crimes he is alleged to have committed during World War Two.

Josef S, a former SS officer, walked slowly into a courtroom in Germany yesterday on charges of helping the killings of 3,000 people in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, just outside Berlin.

His lawyer covered his face with a blue plastic folder.

Prosecutors say Josef held a job of standing guard in the watchtower between 1942 and 1945.

Court sessions have been limited to just two-and-a-half hours a day after assessments by doctors due to his frail condition.

He only spoke to confirm his name and address, saying to the judge that he would "celebrate my 101st birthday on November 16".

Sachsenhausen was used to imprison political prisoners from across occupied areas of Europe, as well as Russian prisoners of war, and a number of Jewish people.

His silent treatment has disappointed friends and family of Holocaust victims, who were hoping to understand more about the circumstances that surrounded the death of their loved ones.

Antoine Grumbach, 79, whose father was a French resistance fighter who died in the camp, responded when asked at the trial: "It's a lot of emotion… I can't really speak."

Also attending was Leon Schwarzbaum, 100, who showed reporters a family photo. It depicted him with his parents and uncle, who were all killed in Auschwitz.

He said: "This is the last trial for my friends, acquaintances and my loved ones, who were murdered, in which the last guilty person can still be sentenced – hopefully".

During the trial, prosecutors claimed Josef had taken part in "creating and maintaining life-threatening conditions in the camp."

Sachsenhausen was used as training camp for SS guards who went on to serve at other camps, including Auschwitz.

It comes after a dramatic incident in Germany last week where a 96-year-old woman — nicknamed the 'secretary of evil' for her role at a Nazi concentration camp — went on the run on the day of her trial.

Witnesses reported seeing Irmgard Furchner fleeing from her retirement home in a taxi and going to a metro station just hours before she was due to appear at Langericht Itzehoe court.

She was caught several hours later and charged with complicity in murder, with her trial taking place from October 19.

Prosecutors have been going after camp administrative staff in recent years, relying on a 2011 ruling that meant former Nazis can be held responsible for deaths in camps where they worked even if it cannot be proved they personally killed anyone.

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