A 96-year-old Nazi medic accused of 3,681 counts of being an accessory to murder at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp has been deemed unfit to stand trial and his case will be thrown out, according to German prosecutors.
Former SS medic Hubert Zafke, diagnosed with dementia in October 2015, is no longer able to “reasonably assess his interests or coherently follow or give testimony,” said a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office.
Independent medical evaluations in March and July this year held that the Zafke was “unfit to stand trial” following a deterioration in his physical and mental condition since his diagnosis.
The spokesman added that prosecutors were required by law to submit a motion requesting the end of the trial following the medical evaluations.
Zafke’s trial over his alleged involvement in the murder of thousands at the notorious Poland camp began in February 2016 in the northeastern German town of Neubrandenburg, but was postponed three times due to concerns over the wheelchair-bound defendant’s health.
Visitors gather on the grounds of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (Reuters)Visitors gather on the grounds of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (Reuters)
Proceedings were also suspended in October 2016 when prosecutors accused judge Klaus Kabisch of showing bias and attempting to deliberately delay the trial. Kabisch and his co-judges were dismissed from the case.
The case has only seen four days in court since it began.
During police questioning, Zafke initially denied having been present at Auschwitz but later admitted that he had been there. He asserted that his only work was to treat wounded soldiers and SS guards, denying that he had any knowledge of gas chambers or crematoria at the camp until after the war had reached its conclusion.
The presiding judges are expected to approve the prosecution’s request to throw out the case “in the short term,” a court spokesman told AFP.
The charges relate to a period of several weeks in the summer of 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the arrival of 14 trains to the death camp, including the train carrying Anne Frank which arrived on September 5, 1944. Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.
In 1948, Zafke was convicted and sentenced by a Polish court to a four-year term of imprisonment. He was released in 1951.
96-year-old Zafke is likely to be one of the last alleged Nazi criminals to be brought to trial by German authorities.
In June 2017, 95-year-old Reinhold Hanning, a former SS Auschwitz guard convicted by a German court in June 2016 of being an accessory to the murder of over 170,000 people, died before entering prison for his five-year sentence. Hanning had appealed the ruling and, at the time of his death, the conviction was not legally binding as his appeal was still pending.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, over 1.1 million Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma Gypsies and 15,000 prisoners of war were killed.