An undated image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland.
An undated image of the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland. Writing over the gate reads: 'Arbeit macht frei' (Work Sets You Free). Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

A former Auschwitz death camp guard, Hans Lipschis, has been indicted as an accessory to 10,500 Nazi-era murders, prosecutors in Germany said Thursday.

Lithuanian-born Lipschis, 93, who was expelled from the United States in 1982 for not declaring his wartime activities to immigration authorities, was arrested in May near Stuttgart.

Germany has lowered the bar for such prosecutions since the conviction in 2011 of the late Ukraine-born John Demjanjuk for being an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp.

No one remembered seeing him there but a Munich court ruled his presence, proved by personnel documents, sufficed to convict him.

Germany's national prosecutor for Nazi war crimes said that the more accommodating attitude from the courts meant about 30 former guards living in Germany, most over 90, could now be put on trial.

Prosecutors said he had made no statement to them in response to the allegations.
Lipschis has told newspaper reporters he was only a cook at the death camp.

The next step is for a state court at Ellwangen, where Lipschis has his home, to accept the case and if it does, to set a trial date.

This month, a court at Hagen, Germany is trying a 92-year-old former member of the Waffen SS, Dutch-born Siert Bruins, as an accomplice to the murder of a member of the Dutch Resistance in 1944.

The indictment said Lipschis did guard duty at Auschwitz, set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland, between 1941 and 1943 and "supported the operations of the camp and thus its extermination activity."

It said 12 trainloads with thousands of Jews arrived at the camp while he worked there, and often those who were too sick to work were immediately separated and sent to gas chambers to be killed.

After the war, Lipschis lived in Germany until 1956, then moved to Chicago. He was stripped of his new U.S. citizenship in the 1980s and flown back to Germany.

Germany's long delay in charging men like Lipschis has been attributed to a 1969 decision by the German supreme court that an Auschwitz accused could only be convicted as an accessory to murder if his individual guilt was proven.

In the Demjanjuk case, that obstacle was avoided by arguing that death camps were kept running by their staff as a whole, regardless of whether individuals worked in gas chambers or the kitchens.