German Court Won't Try 97-year-old Suspected of Being Guard at Nazi Death Camp

Suspect was charged in 2017 for serving at the Majdanek death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland between August 1943 and January 1944

A cyclist rides next to burnt barracks of former Nazi death camp Majdanek in Lublin August 10, 2010.

A German court has decided not to try a 97-year-old German former guard at the Nazis' Majdanek death camp, saying Thursday that he is too sick to face court proceedings.

The Frankfurt state court cited a comprehensive medical assessment of the 97-year-old suspect; the assessment was repeatedly delayed by hospital spells.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was charged in 2017 for allegedly serving at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland between August 1943 and January 1944. Specifically, he was accused of participating in Operation Erntefest on November 3, 1943, when at least 17,000 Jewish prisoners from Majdanek and others were shot in ditches outside the camp.

The prosecution claimed that the defendant was aware that the people he guarded would later be murdered. 

The decision not to try the ex-guard signifies another failure in efforts Germany has been undertaking in recent years to bring to justice the last living war criminals who took part in the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II. 

Many of the suspects are now retired elderly men, and most were not convicted due to their health conditions.

In some cases, the prosecution was successful. Such was the case with Reinhold Hanning, a former guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp who had beed dubbed the "bookeeper of Auschwitz" and Oksar Groning, an SS member who was stationed in Auschwitz as well; both have been charged with aiding and abetting genocide.