Josef Schuetz, a man who worked as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, has died at the age of 102. Last year, he was found guilty of crimes committed during the Holocaust and given a five-year prison sentence in June, but he was allowed to remain free while his case was being appealed.
Between 1942 and 1945, while serving as a prison guard in the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, Josef Schuetz was found responsible for at least 3,500 murders as an accessory. He was the oldest person ever to be found guilty of participating in atrocities during the Holocaust as a result of the verdict.
It had always seemed unlikely that Schuetz would ever go to jail, as he remained free while awaiting the outcome of an appeal.
Schuetz had expressed no regret during his trial and pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing”.
After the war, Schuetz was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.
More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents, and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.
Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger, or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.
Germany has been scrambling to bring former Nazi war criminals to justice since a landmark ruling in 2011 paved the way for several trials.
One former guard, John Demjanjuk, was convicted on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, even though there was no proof he had directly killed anyone.
Since then, several former concentration camp workers have been found guilty of being accessories to murder on the same basis.
However, with time running out, several cases have been abandoned in recent years after the accused died or were physically unable to stand trial.
(With inputs from AFP)