BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors said Thursday they have charged a 93-year-old man who allegedly served as an Auschwitz death camp guard with being an accessory to murder.
The suspect, Hans Lipschis, was charged in connection with the killing of around 10,500 people who were brought to Auschwitz aboard trains from the Netherlands, Berlin, Belgium, France and the Theresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic between October 1941 and September 1943.
Lipschis, who was taken into custody in May, has acknowledged being assigned to an SS guard unit at Auschwitz. But he maintains he only served as a cook and wasn’t involved in any war crimes.
His lawyer wasn’t immediately reachable for comment. Stuttgart prosecutors said they filed the charges at a court in the southwestern town of Ellwangen, which will have to decide whether to take the case to trial.
Lipschis was deported from the U.S. in the early 1980s for lying about his Nazi past when he immigrated to Chicago in 1956, and has lived in Germany since.
Lack of evidence linking suspects to specific war crimes was long a barrier to prosecution in Germany. However, the case is now being pursued on the same legal theory used to prosecute former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died last year while appealing his 2011 conviction in Germany for accessory to murder on the grounds that he served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp.
Under the new line of thinking, even without proof of participation in a specific crime, a person who served at a death camp can be charged as an accessory to murder because the camp’s sole function was to kill people.
About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz camp complex between 1940 and 1945.