The former Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz Birkenau is seen partially flooded, in Oswiecim
The former Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz Birkenau is seen partially flooded, in Oswiecim, southern Poland, May 19, 2010. Photo by AP
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Authorities in Germany have launched an investigation against an 87-year-old man living in another country who is suspected of complicity in the murder of 344,000 people in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1944. According to the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, the man, whose name and place of residence have not been released, is suspected of serving as a guard in the camp.

Kurt Schrimm, who heads Germany's Central Office of the State Justice Administration for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, said there is no evidence the suspect took part in actual murders, and there are no witnesses to his actions. However, Schrimm said, documents can prove that he served in Auschwitz-Birkenau and sent Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers. The file on the man, according to the Der Spiegel report, is already several binders thick. At the end of the investigation, which is expected to take a few weeks, it will be decided whether to seek extradition from the country where he is now living.

The late John Demjanjuk, who was a guard at Sobibor extermination camp and was extradited from the United States to Germany to stand trial, was convicted last year in Germany as an accessory to the murder of tens of thousands of Jews. Although he died before his appeal could be submitted, his conviction set a precedent: It made a conviction of complicity in mass murder during the Holocaust possible even if there was no concrete evidence that the suspect had murdered a specific person, so long as it could be proven that he served in an extermination camp where Jews were murdered. Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, who had been in touch with Schrimm after Demjanjuk's conviction, told Haaretz: "A new situation has been created in Germany," in that whoever served as a guard in a camp "whose entire purpose was the murder of Jews, will be indicted and convicted automatically."