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Net tightens on six Nazi women suspected of death camp crimes
Six female guards from the Auschwitz concentration camp are being investigated for war crimes in a race against time to bring them to trial.
The best chance for a prosecution is if they can be shown to have worked at the Birkenau site that was used for mass murder alongside the forced labour camp at the vast Auschwitz complex, German investigators say.
The women, all now at least 87 years old, are among 50 former Auschwitz guards being researched by Germany's Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. It follows the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011 for aiding and abetting murder at the Sobibor camp. His case showed that a prosecution was possible solely on the basis of having been a guard at a death camp.
Detailed guard rosters from only two Nazi death camps -- Auschwitz and Majdanek, both in German-occupied Poland -- survived the Second World War. These lists and other leads, including immigration records in South American countries, have provided almost 80 names of living Nazi war crime suspects being researched at the Central Office in Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. Its archives contain 1.7 million index cards with information on 700,153 names, 628,093 places and 373,412 military units or actions. It has only six investigators.
"We are carrying our investigations on the grounds of aiding and abetting murder for those who were exercising the duty of a guard," said Thomas Will, an investigator. "The same applies to women if they were guards."
Kurt Schrimm, head of the office, said that the female guards were assigned to women's barracks at Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz, and Ravensbrück in northern Germany. "We do not know of any executions committed by a female guard but some treated prisoners very brutally and have been convicted of war crimes," Mr Schrimm said.
The Central Office would not name the female suspects. The identity of only one of the 50 Auschwitz suspects has been disclosed: Hans Lipschis, 93, was arrested in May for complicity in mass murder at Auschwitz. He said he was a cook.
The scale of the challenge is apparent in the small number of cases that reach a trial. "Over the past 12 months, I have carried out pre-investigation proceedings in 600 cases," Mr Schrimm said. "Our colleagues in South America have looked at about the same number. It is possible that five or ten will remain for further investigation, or nobody."
Of the 2,000 guards at Madjenek, the fate of 200 remains unclear. "Several" have been identified as alive and could face trial.
[Source: By David Charter Ludiwigsburg, The Tims, London, 09Aug13]
Caso SS Totenkopf
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