German prosecutors arrest suspected Auschwitz guards

BY Saskia de Melker  February 20, 2014 at 6:59 PM EST
The gates of Auschwitz read, "Work will free you." Seventy-four years after the first prisoners were deported to the Nazi-era death camp, prosecutors continue to arrest suspected former guards for their alleged participation in the death of at least 1.1 million people during World War II. Photo by Tulio Bertorini/Flickr

The gates of Auschwitz read, “Work will free you.” Seventy-four years after the first prisoners were deported to the Nazi-era death camp, prosecutors arrest former SS guards for their alleged participation in the death of at least 1.1 million people during World War II. Photo by Tulio Bertorini/Flickr

According to the Associated Press reports, police in southern Germany raided the homes of nine elderly men suspected of serving as Schutzstaffel, or SS for short, guards at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during World War II. Three men were arrested on allegations of being accessories to murder and were taken to a local prison hospital, where they will remain throughout the police’s investigation. Their names have yet to be released.

Stuttgart prosecutors’ spokeswoman Claudia Krauth said authorities seized “diverse papers and documents from the Nazi era” found in the suspects’ homes.

The arrests are part of a larger effort to wrestle with the continuing legacy of the Holocaust. NewsHour Weekend reported on the investigative office in Germany that built some of the original case files against these former guards.

This is not the first time that prosecutors have arrested suspects of Nazi-era crimes. In 2009, retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk was arrested and prosecuted in Munich for accessory to the murders committed while he was a guard at the Nazi’s Sobibor death camp. The prosecutors argued that anyone who was involved in operating a death camp was an accessory to murder.

In 2013, following lengthy investigations, German officials recommended that 30 former Auschwitz guards be prosecuted.

At least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz by SS and police between 1940 and 1945, of which 1.1 million were murdered by camp authorities.