Former Auschwitz guard faces trial

Barbed wire fence around prisoner barracks at former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp - file pic

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Time is running out for prosecuting the few Auschwitz guards still alive

A 94-year former Nazi SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp is due to go on trial in Germany over the murder of at least 170,000 people.

Prosecutors say Reinhold Hanning met Jewish prisoners as they arrived at the camp in occupied Poland and may have escorted some to the gas chambers.

Mr Hanning has admitted being a guard but denies involvement in mass murder.

He will be tried in the city of Detmold, in what is likely to be one of the last cases of its kind.

Mr Hanning is one of four elderly former Nazi guards – three men and a woman – who are due to go on trial in the coming months.

The Nazis killed about 1.1m people at Auschwitz, most of them Jews.

‘Spewing fire’

Survivors of the World War II death camp are due to testify against Mr Hanning.

“The chimneys were spewing fire … the smell of burning human flesh was so unbelievable that one could hardly bear it,” 94-year-old Leon Schwarzbaum was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

Until recently, prosecutors were required to provide evidence that defendants were directly involved in the killings.

But that changed with the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, when a judge concluded that his activities as a camp worker in Nazi-occupied Poland amounted to complicity in mass murder.

Last year a German court sentenced Oskar Groening, 94, to four years in jail as an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 people at Auschwitz.

Known as the SS “book-keeper of Auschwitz”, he was allegedly responsible for counting banknotes confiscated from prisoners.

Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp

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  • Construction began in 1940 on site that grew to 40sq km (15 sq miles)
  • About one million Jews were killed at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland
  • Other victims included Roma (Gypsies), disabled people, homosexuals, dissidents, non-Jewish Poles and Soviet prisoners

How the Holocaust unfolded, year by year

Why did ordinary people commit atrocities in the Holocaust?

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