Auschwitz medic found unfit to stand trial

During police questioning, Hubert Zafke initially denied having been present at Auschwitz but later admitted that he had been there.

September 2, 2017 10:59
2 minute read.
Auschwitz medic found unfit to stand trial

Former SS medic Hubert Zafke, accused of aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz in 1944, attends his trial on September 12, 2016 at the court in Neubrandenburg.. (photo credit: BERND WÜSTNECK / DPA / AFP)

A former SS medic accused of 3,681 counts of accessory to murder at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp has been deemed unfit to stand trial in Germany and his case will be thrown out.

Hubert Zafke, 96, diagnosed with dementia in October 2015, is no longer able to “reasonably assess his interests or coherently follow or give testimony,” a spokesman for the Neubrandenburg regional prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

Independent medical evaluations in March and July this year found that Zafke was “unfit to stand trial” following a deterioration in his physical and mental condition since his diagnosis.

The spokesman added that prosecutors were required by law to submit a motion requesting the end of the trial following the medical evaluations.

Zafke’s trial over his alleged involvement in the murder of thousands at the death camp began in February 2016 in the northeastern German town of Neubrandenburg, but was postponed three times due to concerns over the wheelchair-bound defendant’s health.

Visitors gather on the grounds of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (Reuters)

Proceedings were also suspended in October 2016 when prosecutors accused Judge Klaus Kabisch of showing bias and attempting to deliberately delay the trial. Kabisch and his co-judges were dismissed from the case.

The case has only seen four days in court since it began.

During police questioning, Zafke initially denied having been present at Auschwitz, but he later admitted that he had been there. He asserted that his only work was to treat wounded soldiers and SS guards, and denied that he had any knowledge until after the war of gas chambers or crematoria at the camp.

The presiding judges are expected to approve the prosecution’s request to throw out the case “in the short term,” a court spokesman told AFP.

The charges relate to a period of several weeks in the summer of 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the arrival of 14 trains to the death camp, including the train carrying Anne Frank, which arrived on September 5, 1944. Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.

In 1948, Zafke was convicted and sentenced by a Polish court to four years’ imprisonment. He was released in 1951.

In June 2017, Reinhold Hanning, 95, a former Auschwitz SS guard convicted by a German court in June 2016 of being an accessory to the murder of more than 170,000 people, died before entering prison for his five-year sentence. Hanning had appealed the ruling and, at the time of his death, the conviction was not legally binding as his appeal was still pending.

In Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German death camp, more than 1.1 million Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma Gypsies and 15,000 prisoners of war were killed.

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