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Joseph Schütz, former Nazi camp guard on trial in Germany, claims “to be innocent”

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Clear voice, assured despite his 100 years, Josef Schütz, the oldest accused of Nazi crimes claimed to be “innocent” of any involvement in the murders committed at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which earned him a late trial in Germany.

After remaining silent until then, Josef Schütz spoke on Friday, October 8, on the second day of his trial in Germany, before the Brandenburg-sur-Havel court. The oldest Nazi accused of crimes argued that he was “innocent” of any involvement in the murders at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Asked to speak out on the facts, this 100-year-old man did not dismantle: “This is unknown to me because I know nothing about it”, said Josef Schütz, saying he was “innocent”. “Everything is torn [dans ma tête]”, added the centenarian, complaining of being” alone here “, in the box of the defendants where he must appear until the beginning of January. He was quickly interrupted by his lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, ​​who the day before had made known that the accused would not comment on the charges.

Josef Schütz, former non-commissioned officer of the “Totenkopf” (Skull) division of the Waffen-SS, is being prosecuted for “complicity” in the “murder” of 3,518 prisoners while operating in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, between 1942 and 1945. The second hearing was devoted to his biography, and in particular to his life before and after the Second World War.

Precise memories

Arrived alone, moving with the help of a walker, but the walk relatively assured, Josef Schütz shared with the judges precise memories, none of which, however, relate to his activities in the Nazi camp.

He recounted in particular his work on the family farm in Lithuania, where he was born, with his seven siblings, then his enlistment in the German army in 1938.

After the war, he was transferred to a prison camp in Russia and then settled in Germany, in Brandenburg, a region neighboring Berlin. He was successively a peasant, then a locksmith. White hair, glasses, of medium height, the accused precisely recounted the birthdays spent with his daughters and grandchildren, or even affirmed how much his wife admired him. “She kept telling me: ‘there is not a man like you in the world'”.

However, he aroused amazement in the audience when he assured that he “only learned to speak German. [son] return from Russia “, in 1947. Called to the witness stand, Christoffel Heijer, 84, who lost his father in the camp, pointed his finger at the accused, questioning him with emotion:” I can understand that , driven by the fear of reprisals, you did not desert. But how were you able to sleep peacefully for so long? “

“He pretends not to know”

Twenty hearings, each limited to two hours due to his age, are still scheduled. The accused was 21 years old at the beginning of the events. He is particularly suspected of having shot Soviet prisoners, but also of “aid and complicity in systematic murders” by Zyklon B-type gas and “by detention of prisoners in hostile conditions”.

Between its opening in 1936 and its liberation by the Soviets on April 22, 1945, the Sachsenhausen camp saw some 200,000 prisoners, mainly political opponents, Jews and homosexuals.

Tens of thousands of them died, victims mainly of exhaustion from forced labor and cruel conditions of detention. Several survivors of the camp, as well as descendants of victims, are civil parties to the trial. Some did not hide their disappointment on Friday at the silence of the accused.

“He pretends not to know while he remembers everything perfectly in detail!”, Storms Antoine Grumbach, a 79-year-old Frenchman, whose father engaged in the Gaullist resistance was assassinated in Sachsenhausen. “It is not bad! It is purely a manipulation of the lawyer who has opted for this strategy of silence,” he added at the end of the hearing.

After having long shown little eagerness to try all the perpetrators of Nazi crimes, Germany has been broadening its investigations for ten years. Camp guards and other operatives of Nazi machinery can be prosecuted on the count of aiding and abetting murder. In recent years, four former SS have been convicted of this.

With AFP

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