100-year-old Nazi concentration camp guard examines: “Do you have a soul?”
Even at a young age, Josef Sch. wanted to join the Schutzstaffel (SS), the organization under Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP in National Socialist Germany. During the Second World War he worked in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the Holocaust and is currently on trial.
He has been charged with complicity in murder in at least 3,500 cases, while around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population have been murdered.
During his trial, Chief Public Prosecutor Cyrill Klement read out the accused’s charges.
He spoke of the thousands of human lives that the prisoners in Sachsenhausen camp had lost in various ways.
This included complicity in the murder of at least 3,518 cases and insidious shootings in a neck-gun range.
A gate at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial
In addition, the indictment included starving people and dying of untreated diseases.
Prosecutor Cyrill Klement described the events in which thousands of people died between 1941 and 1945 when he read the indictment.
He emphasized that Josef Sch. in his position as a guard he became part of the “killing system”.
The investigator said: “The accused knowingly and willingly supported this at least through the conscientious exercise of the guard duty, which was seamlessly integrated into the killing system.”
In the process that has been going on since last Thursday, the former security guard has to answer to the Neuruppin district court because of his work in the concentration camp.
In a gym on the outskirts of the city of Brandenburg / Havel, a badly converted courtroom has been built so that a jury meets as close as possible to the defendant’s place of residence.
READ MORE: Nazi Concentration Camp Secretary Charged
A control tower in the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp
When the indictment was read out, the public prosecutor reported on the Soviet prisoners of war, hundreds of whom were murdered every month, and Josef Sch. showed that he was not indifferent to the horrors discussed.
The former security guard is said to have looked at the floor, looked to the side, fiddled with his sleeves and moved his hands.
For several decades, Josef Sch. has remained silent about his time in the SS and his role as guardian of the people to be murdered in the concentration camp.
During the trial, the 100-year-old Leon Schwarzbaum, a former inmate of the Sachsenhausen camp, sat in a wheelchair in the converted gym and reported to the court about the life and death of his family in concentration camps.
Mr. Schwarzbaum came from Berlin and survived several concentration camps, including the Auschwitz extermination camp, and was also detained in Sachsenhausen, albeit after the defendant’s service.
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The Holocaust survivor Leon Schwarzbaum took part in the trial
Before the trial he said: “It is the last trial for my murdered friends, acquaintances and relatives, in which hopefully the last perpetrator will be convicted.”
Later in the trial, the former guard claimed he was innocent and had “done nothing at all.”
He also claimed that he had never entered the camp, but according to files received by the German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag, his claim was “unfounded”.
According to investigations by the public prosecutor’s office, Josef Sch. joined the SS voluntarily and was part of the guard from December 1941.
In the files acquired from the Germany-based news agency, it was found that Josef Sch. began his service at a time when the brutality in the camp was increasing.
The former SS guard remained silent about the allegations and used his brief introduction on Friday to reflect on his life story without mentioning his time in the camp.
The entrance to the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp
When he was introduced he called himself “Josi”, reported on his imprisonment in Siberia from 1945 to 1947 and talked about his wedding in 1956 and his “pretty girls” – his two daughters.
Statements were heard from the sons of two murdered prisoners, and co-prosecutor Mehmet Daimagüler said the statements showed how traumatized the families were after the war after the loss of their fathers.
One of them is the 84-year-old Chris Heijer, son of a Dutch resistance fighter who was shot in Sachsenhausen, and at the end of his testimony, Mr. Heijer turned to Josef Sch with the question: “How can you sleep peacefully after the war when there is so much burden your conscience
“Have you never felt how much wrong you have done? Do you have a soul and feelings?”
The accused remained motionless, whereupon Mr. Heijer answered the question himself by saying, “I don’t think so.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg