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Hans Lipschis is expected to be the first person brought to court as a result of a series of investigations launched by German officials several weeks ago into 50 alleged Auschwitz guards under suspicion of murder.
Lipschis, who was born in Lithuania in 1919 and was granted "ethnic German" status in 1943, is accused of working at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a member of the S.S. from 1941 to 1945. He is suspected of participating in murder and genocide.
Lipschis’ name was added a few weeks ago to a list of wanted Nazi criminals published by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Israel.
Michael Borgstede, a reporter who interviewed Lipschis for the German newspaper WELT am Sonntag, told Haaretz that “Lipschis denied the charges and claimed that he did not see the horrors committed at Auschwitz; rather he only heard about them.”
When asked if he worked at Auschwitz, Lipschis reportedly said, “Yes, as a cook, the entire time.”
“I didn’t see anything," Lipschis reportedly said of the mass murders carried out at Auschwitz, "but I heard about them.”
Yet the investigation by WELT am Sonntag revealed a story. Documents uncovered by the newspaper from the German national archive, as well as Polish archives, reveal that Lipschis served in the SS–Totenkopf Sturmbann, or Death’s Head Battalion, which guarded the camp.
In 1956, he fled to the United States and lived in Chicago for 26 years, but was deported to Germany in 1983 after he was reportedly identified by the U.S. as a Nazi war criminal. According to a JTA article from 1983, Lipschis was "the first Nazi war criminal to have been deported [by the United States] in more than 30 years for concealing his crimes."
For the next 30 years, Lipschis lived quietly in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
Lipschis is one of 50 elderly Germans under investigation by German officials for allegedly working at Auschwitz as a security guard. “It is almost certain that he will be the first to be brought to court,” stated the German newspaper Die Welt.
Kurt Schrimm, who heads the German office for investigating Nazi crimes, told the German media a few weeks ago that the investigations had already led to information about numerous suspects, all of whom reside in Germany and are about 90 years old.
The legal precedent for the investigation was set in 2011 with the conviction of John Demjanjuk, who was found guilty in Germany of assisting in the murders of 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland. Demjanjuk’s conviction at the time was unprecedented, as there were no witnesses to his offenses. The conviction was based on the fact that he served as a guard at a location where genocide took place, and based on the assumption that he assisted in the murders that were carried out while he was there. Demjanjuk died in Germany a year ago while waiting for an appeal hearing.