German prosecutors on Monday said they were investigating a 95-year-old man for complicity in murder over his role as a Nazi guard at a prisoner of war camp where many Soviet soldiers died during World War II.
“I can confirm that a probe is ongoing,” Bernd Kolkmeier, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the northern city of Celle, told AFP.
TAZ newspaper had reported that the suspect was stationed at Stalag VI C Bathorn in northwestern Germany from October 1943 until Polish troops liberated the camp in April 1945.
German authorities say thousands of the prisoners held at the camp were Soviet soldiers, many of whom died from illness, mistreatment, overwork or starvation.
Prosecution spokesman Kolkmeier did not give an exact toll, but told TAZ that Soviet prisoners of war died “in large numbers” at the camp.
The investigation is the result of two years of preliminary inquiries by Germany’s Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, according to TAZ.
German prosecutors are in a race against time to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes. Only a dozen cases are still open, according to German media.
In March, Celle prosecutors closed their case against a 95-year-old former concentration camp guard for lack of evidence.
The suspect, Friedrich Karl Berger, had been deported from the United States just weeks earlier for taking part in “Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution”.
Germany has been hunting down lower-level former Nazi staff ever since the 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk on the basis he served as part of the Nazi killing machine set a legal precedent.
Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.
Among those who were brought to late justice were Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, an SS guard at the same camp.
Both were convicted of complicity in mass murder at the age of 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.
In February, prosecutors charged a 95-year-old who had been secretary at the Stutthof camp with complicity in the murders of 10,000 people, in the first such case in recent years against a woman.